Every morning my son and daughter wake up, make breakfast, and go visit their ducks. That leads to spending a few hours outside filling up their pool, watering their gardens, and looking under rocks for grubs and worms to feed to their new pets.
The other day as I was sitting outside on our deck working, I could hear the murmur of their voices. I tiptoed to the edge of the railing and watched them sit side by side, talking as they threw the ducks lettuce.
I don’t know what they were saying, and there were long, comfortable pauses in their conversation. But I did know this: my kids were happy at that moment.
Since they’ve been staying home and have not seen friends, or much of the outside world, this has been the case more times than not. And I wasn’t expecting it.
All three of my kids are extroverts who are in their teenage years when their friends and social lives are the most important thing to them. They like to get out and away from me. Spending this much time together was nothing they’d ever wish for.
At first, when their school announced it would be closing their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it would be a rough ride for them. Their days consisted of seeing their friends and the weekend time was spent making plans and having at least one get together, or meetup.
With each new announcement on the news, or from school, I’d tense up more, wondering how my kids were going to handle this.
That’s not to say they haven’t served me lots of pushback during the stay at home orders; they have. But they’ve put more energy into making the best of the situation. It was surprising to me, and it’s clear they know that having each other isn’t something that should be taken for granted, ever.
Like so many other kids, mine are spending more time together than they ever have. All this during an age where their social lives would normally be bubbling over.
They get excited about going for a walk down the road together. They love our new Saturday afternoon tradition of going out to lunch and sitting in the parking lot to eat it. They will drive to the grocery store with me now and sit together in the backseat to play Minecraft and help me with the meal planning for the week. Every day it seems they are thinking of a new thing to do, whether it’s to grow algae on the deck, redecorate their rooms, or observe a colony of ants living in the cracks of our driveway.
Pre-pandemic they would have stayed at home with hardly any interaction as they would have had a friend over, or just been on their phone to keep them company. And I’ll tell you, there’s no way in hell my three teens would all be in agreement about where to eat, or want to help me plant my herb garden.
They don’t talk about all that’s going on much, but when they do, I can tell they are sharing the same feelings and thoughts. They are normalizing each other. They are talking about all the things they used to do when they were kids and reaching back to some of those old traditions and activities.
Looking back, I feel a bit embarrassed I didn’t give my kids the credit they deserved. They are sticking together, and the fact they only have each other to see in person and share the same experience with isn’t lost on them.
Our world was on cruise control before we slowed down. My kids were barely noticing each other, much less taking time to see what happens when they help each other with homework. A few months ago, if I’d suggested they stay up and bond together on a Friday night and watched a movie and made snacks, they would have poo-pooed my idea. They were too busy making sure the other was at an arm’s distance while they had friends over.
But now they seem to be enjoying this new life of theirs. They seem to be learning the value of having siblings. They are listening to each other and appreciating each other in a way they never would have had this whole thing never happened.
They aren’t just putting up with each other. They are growing closer, and it’s intentional.
We are all excited for things to go back to normal, but we know it’s going to be a long ride. And when life is normal again, I can only hope they all still live out some of the things they’ve been doing these past few months. They’ve gotten to know one another in an entirely different way, where they could have been taking out their frustrations and uncomfortableness on each other.
If they don’t, at least I’ll be able to look back and remember their relationship and how it gave me so much comfort during this time.
Because really, knowing my kids can come together and love each other in a beautiful way during something hard will be enough.