My Family Is Reviving 'Old School' Traditions During Social Isolation

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
My Family Is Doing Long-Forgotten Fun Activities Now That We're In Social Isolation
Rachel Garlinghouse/Instagram

It’s been close to three weeks since my family electively decided to socially isolate due to COVID19. Since that time, the coronavirus has become a global pandemic that’s pushed our state to mandate shelter-in-place. School is out for our four kids, my husband and I are working from home, and we spend all day, every day at our house.

Over these past few weeks, I’ve realized how many things we haven’t been doing in our pre-virus day to day life—things that are fun. We were always too busy for such activities, pushing them aside because we were just “so busy” with work, school, extracurriculars, and appointments. The reality is, we didn’t prioritize the activities we are doing now while socially isolated at home.

Yes, there have been many, many challenges. The six of us aren’t used to spending so much time (and space) together. We’ve had to set some ground rules, create a routine, and figure out how to make sense of our existence. Our previous life, one that wasn’t bathed in fear from a deadly virus, doesn’t exist anymore. We’ve had to recreate our home and family vibe. There have been plenty of meltdowns, outbursts, and arguments. However, there’s one major perk of social isolation with my family: We’ve rediscovered fun that was previously long forgotten or ignored.

We’re Having Family Meals Around the Dining Table

We’ve been having some of our family meals at our dining table. Yes, that table we bought seven years ago in a furniture store with the idea of eating dinner at it every single night. Instead, we reserved the table for holidays and school projects. The other night, we made a dinner that took more than a freezer and an oven, set the table with cloth napkins and non-disposable dishes, and turned on some jazz. Then we sat around the table and enjoyed steak, roasted sweet potato fries, and brussels sprouts for a full thirty minutes. Y’all, for our family of six, this is epic. We usually stand around the kitchen bar, gulp down our food in ten minutes, and move on. The kids were so impressed and asked if we could eat “fancy” dinner again.

We’re Playing Card and Board Games

You read that correctly. As a family, we’re playing Uno, Sorry!, and charades. No controllers, no online invites, no arguing over Minecraft. We’re making too many snacks and sitting on the living room floor around an actual board game like my family did in the 1980s. Yes, it takes some time to adjust to patiently waiting on our three-year-old to put down an Uno card, but we’re managing. Instead of gluing our eyes to a screen that ends in nothing but a total meltdown once we shut the game down, we’re connecting over simplicity. I figure we’re reinforcing some basic social skills, like healthy competition, following rules, taking turns, and offering encouragement.

We’re Watching Movies and Shows from My Childhood

The first 1980s/1990s movie I showed my kids from my own childhood was Richie Rich. Since then, we’ve watched episodes of Family Matters (Urkel is hysterical), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and then Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, and Hook. Next up, Sister Act, because who doesn’t love a bunch of nuns getting down with their bad (er, good) selves? I’m enjoying watching these again as much as my kids are seeing them for the first time.

We’re Playing Outside More Than Inside

Now that the kids are home all day, instead of rolling off the school bus mid-to-late afternoon, we can go outdoors whenever we want. Recess? Anytime. We take every opportunity we can to get out of the house (not too far, of course). The fresh air and sunshine are basically a cure-all for energetic kids who are struggling to figure out how to act in their new normal. Bad attitude? Outside. Tired? Outside. Hyper? Outside. Bored? Outside. Burned out on school work? Outside.

We’re Enjoying Toys and Books That Were Forgotten After the Holidays

We’re well past the holiday season, and it seems like as soon as the kids returned to school in early January, they forgot about all the gifts they received. They were placed on shelves and in closets as soon as we took the Christmas tree down. Now that we’re home, the kids have been rediscovering all the awesome toys and books they received from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I’ve also encouraged them to swap books (treat each other’s book shelves like a library—borrow and return in great condition) and share toys. It’s basically like Christmas all over again.

We’re Exercising Together

The other day, I was stressed out trying to adjust to all of our family time and not enough work time. My husband had taken the kids outside for another “recess.” I quickly finished my breakfast and put on a YouTube yoga video. My tween wandered in and started doing it with me. Like magic, yoga eases our anxiety and stretches out our tense muscles. This wasn’t the first time we worked out together. We’re having running and bike races, obstacle courses, basketball games, and using the elliptical and exercise bike on rainy days. Exercise, much like outdoor play, is magical when it comes to mood and behavior—including for me, the adult in the room.

Our social isolation isn’t a utopia, that’s for sure. However, rediscovering some of the activities that bring us joy—joy that we desperately need right now—is helping us not only cope, but thrive during this difficult time.

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