We Determine Our New Normal
If there’s any silver lining to a worldwide pandemic it’s that it gave us all more time together at home. I don’t mean to make light of the death, stress, worry, and anxiety it caused. And I’m not dismissing the reality that if there were major problems at home or in a marriage before COVID, then the pressure cooker of being cooped up together in quarantine made those issues even worse.
What I am saying is that the majority of people I’ve talked to have said the extra time at home has been a good thing for their family.
I think it was the second week of quarantine, just about the time the initial shock of schools and workplaces being shut down was wearing off, when I looked at Kelly and said, “When’s the last time we played Uno and laughed like this on a Thursday night?”
Yes, it took a while to balance working from home with NTI schoolwork at home and forcing a routine when ours was blown up. But I got used to zero night meetings and zero work on the weekends pretty quickly and I don’t want to go back to those days if I’m being honest.
I’m hoping my new normal looks more like a slower paced COVID work week than a faster paced 2019 work week is my point. (Again, I could live without the looming threat of death. That’s not what I’m saying here.)
Once we got past the weirdness and awkwardness of this whole thing, just beneath the surface conversation, I noticed most people enjoyed the slower pace of quarantine. And they’ll also admit that it took being forced out of the rat race to see it.
I heard one parent say that even though their kids missed their teammates, what they didn’t miss was three practices a week. But “that’s just what we’ve always done” so to them that was normal.
One of my friends whose wife homeschools their kids said while he was working from home it was amazing to see his wife interact with their kids. He said he’s always at work when she does homeschool lessons, so getting to see her in that role was really cool to see because he had never seen that side of her.
I had another friend say he felt unproductive working at home at first, but then he started to really enjoy being home more and is now wondering why he ever worked such long hours in the first place.
A couple in our Grace Marriage group started a COVID Fun Journal and kept track of board games they’ve played together as a family. I’m kicking myself for not writing down all the funny things our kids have said during quarantine because we could give the Gaffigans a run for their money.
Again, it hasn’t been all fun and games either. This is tough stuff. It’s been big emotions for everybody. But as I’m writing this, I’m noticing that what stands out in my mind are the good things.
And that’s the way this works. Sometimes it takes a step back for the important things to snap in focus.
Somehow our priorities have gotten upside down. It used to be that kids and parents had to check their family calendars to see if they could commit to something. But just before COVID hit, the old normal was squeezing what little bit of family time we could into an overly committed schedule.
I heard that in a webinar I was listening to this week. It was talking about “attachment theory” and it said spending time together laughing, playing, working, and talking as a family is the best thing you can do to help kids develop emotionally healthy and resilient. It went on and on about how family rituals and routines make well-rounded kids who become well-adjusted young adults. There was an example about a family sitting down to fold laundry together at a certain time every week that ended in a five minute no-holds-barred sock ball fight. Things like that.
It made me think that we have a lot to learn about making housework fun. But what I do notice is that we didn’t laugh as much together at home pre-COVID as we do now. Board games and puzzles aren’t just for snow days anymore, and 4-player Mario Parties on the WiiU have become a thing now, too.
I heard somebody commenting back in April or May that we were living like our grandparents did: eating at home every night, rocking on the porch every evening, actually calling people on the phone, checking on neighbors, using up everything in the cabinets.
How many of us started a new hobby, or planted a garden, or baked bread at home for the first time?
At the time of this writing, it still wasn’t decided if schools would be back in the classroom in August or opening virtually. And there is still no timeline on a vaccine or any sense of when this pandemic might be over.
But here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: other than work and school, we are in control of our own schedules and commitments as far as events, activities, sports, and “extra” stuff.
Social “non-essentials” if you will. What I mean is, as things open back up again, I’m going to be extra careful what we fill our calendar back up with. Or IF we fill our calendars back up.
Because I like it open.
Whatever the fall ends up looking like, it will make for some good family discussion figuring out whatever it is our new back to school routine will be.
But what have we learned about our family during this time of quarantine? What do we want to do differently? What things from our old normal would we rather not go back to? What new things do we want to keep on doing? What things can we live just fine without because we don’t really miss them anyway?
Because other than the stress of the uncertainty of this pandemic, which is definitely not fun, I have to say that this summer has not flown by like years past. These actually have been lazy days of summer. The way they’re supposed to be.
And I kind of like living like our grandparents did.