Someone asked me recently if I was able to commit to an end of May deadline for a work project. I can do the project from home and any work I can drum up right now is work I am saying yes to. Sadly, there was no need to check my calendar, and we both had a good laugh. Who said a pandemic isn’t a hoot?
Everything has been canceled, and anything new is written in faint pencil lines. I feel like Ralphie at the end of A Christmas Story right after the Bumpeses’ dogs ate the turkey. As Ralphie’s dad stands in shock, holding a discarded turkey wing, the voice of adult Ralphie is heard saying, “It was gone. All gone. No turkey, no turkey sandwiches, no turkey salad, no turkey gravy, turkey hash, turkey a la king, or gallons of turkey soup. Gone. All gone!” As I stand in front of the blank family dry erase board in the kitchen, clutching my virtually useless paper calendar, I understand. No birthday parties, baseball practices, dentist appointments, playdates, work dinners, community events, or school functions. Gone.
It’s all gone, and I miss it.
During a February meeting in which a group of us were trying to plan a spring function, I reminded people that May is the worst month of the year for parents with school aged kids. Field trips, spring sports, teacher appreciation events (I am appreciating the hell out of teachers right now), I think Mother’s Day is somewhere in May, and all of the other end-of-the-school-year happenings make it very hard to function with sanity, let alone grace. At the time, the last thing we needed was another event. But now I miss the rat race and long for any and all events.
I keep looking at the mostly white, blank dry erase calendar that is in the kitchen and mourn the events that would normally be color-coded for each person in the house. Of course I sighed and complained about the work that went into keeping everyone organized, fed, on time, and well-rested while juggling my own schedule, plus those of three kids and a co-parent. But I am great at time management, and structured chaos is my wheelhouse.
An empty calendar is not maximizing my multi-tasking, over-planning, detail-oriented skills. Pride while watching my Little Leaguers step up to the plate is not just for them, but also for the fact that their uniforms were clean and their bellies were full of the dinner eaten in the van on the way to the field. We made it on time too, FYI. Let’s just say my kids weren’t the only ones knocking it out of the park each spring.
I miss watching my kids play sports, but I also miss the edge it took off their manic energy. My kids have always been busy and athletic with unlimited stamina. Yes, we can still get outside and find ways to move our bodies. But the focus required at school and during extracurricular activities, plus the physical work to keep up with peers while learning and playing, made for calmer, more content kids. Pandemic equals pandemonium in our house, and without a spring sport to practice, my kids are getting really good at jumping off of furniture, drop-kicking their siblings, and getting bloody noses while doing blindfolded somersaults.
My kids and I are social creatures. We love downtime, but we thrive on activity. We want and need variety. I miss my workout buddies, volunteer work, and speaking engagements. I miss juggling the pieced-together schedule of being self-employed. I am hanging onto some gigs, but most of my work has been canceled, and with it my packed calendar. When I would pick my kids up from school, they always asked what the plan was; more often than not, we would have a sporting event or dinner date with someone. Playdates were weekend staples. Sometimes it felt like more work than it was worth to manage our social calendar, but clearly it was worth every second of group texts, booster seat maneuvering, and cleaning up after mess-making, endless-snack-eating kids.
Being on the go is our jam, and in this new day, finding a routine is hard. Everything has stopped, and we are still trying to sprint.
I try to maintain a sense of normalcy for myself and the kids, but nothing about this is normal. Per the kids’ request, each morning I write out our schedule for the day. It involves plenty of screen time, outside time, and some school work. But in the sense that something has to be done on time, there isn’t an urgency to get to the next task. The urgency comes from wanting to do and go. We are itching to be active, social, and productive. We are craving our busy, multi-sport, far from social distancing life. My kids never knew the effort it took to maintain our hectic, color-coded calendar, because I am organized AF and can multi-task like a boss. They just know they’re missing out on a lot.
There were some days that were overscheduled, and I will undoubtedly be overwhelmed at some point in the future with the need to be in three places at once while deadlines and assignments hang over my head. Some people are appreciating the slower pace and the time to be still, but I will appreciate the rush of life when I am able to speed up again.
When this pandemic is over, we are going to hit every library, park, ball field, birthday party, and community event until our calendars return to their state of beautiful, organized messiness.