I never dreamed that it would be harder to navigate summer during a pandemic than homeschooling during a pandemic. Most days, getting my kids to do math and writing felt like pulling teeth. So, I looked forward to summer so that I could ease the agony of my kids' daily schoolwork. I craved the ability to give them a wide-open schedule so that they could no longer worry about the pandemic and just be kids. Sure, the homeschooling part was difficult enough, but summer is bringing more challenges than I anticipated.
Now that my kids don't have school to fill half of their days, they don't really know what to do with their free time. Because they've been home for so long with structured days, it's like they've forgotten how to entertain themselves like they've done in summers past. Instead, my kids are starting to fight more and sing their battle cry, "I'm bored." This is making it increasingly difficult for me to get any work done from home. But this isn't the worst of it.
Our family is easing back into public life as things begin to open up in our state. While some of my kids' friends and neighbors are found running amuck together in the neighborhood, we are cautious. We still want to keep our circles small. However, my 6- and 8-year-old can't quite understand this — so I'm often just the bad guy, telling them "no."
They whine to me about not being able to hang out with their friends, and don't understand why I'm denying them the fun because "Everyone else's mom is letting them do it." Honestly, it's frustrating. Sure, we've gone to a few friends' houses whom we trust, but for the sake of our health and safety (and especially their aging grandparents), I just can't let them run wild in the neighborhood like I normally do.
It feels like each day, I've spent more time putting out emotional fires instead completing of my own work. And as a mother, I understand that that's my job. If I can bring them comfort during this uneasy time, I'm happy to. It's just that it's beginning to wear on me, too.
Just the other day, my son was sitting in our family room and looked out our back window. There were four of his buddies swimming in the neighbor's above-ground pool. He sprinted to his bedroom and put his bathing suit on. But once he came back to the family room, I had to tell him that he couldn't go. Tears immediately raced down his cheeks. I held him tight, told him I was sorry, and then I started crying, too.
I wish I could let him play and be free like in the summers past. I wish I didn't have to worry. I wish my anxiety didn't wake me in the middle of the night thinking about who he plays with — or doesn't. I wish this pandemic would go away with the snap of my fingers, but that's not our reality right now. The reality is that I don't know where all of these families have been or who they hang out with. I hate saying no to my children when they ask for such a simple request, but for the time being, it's all I can do to help keep them safe. So, in the meantime, I'll just have to open my arms more, dry their tears, and comfort them the best I can.