I’m not sure exactly when it started, but at some point, my kids and I started our “pandemic walks.” I think it started with my younger son asking to go for a walk one day, and then again a couple days later, and before we knew it, we were taking mid-day walks on an almost daily basis.
Eventually my older son started joining us too, and before long we were walking on a fairly regular basis. Some days my husband will join us if he doesn’t have a Zoom meeting or a conference call, but for the most part, it’s my two sons and me. And it is magical.
Don’t get me wrong, most days, it takes a good amount of nagging to get going, and sometimes we spend more time getting ready to go for a walk than we do actually walking. There’s a fair amount of bickering that goes on, and at some point someone is usually whining that they are hot, thirsty, or tired.
But despite all of that, and even though I sometimes have hard time closing my computer or getting off the couch to go for our walk, our pandemic walks are a definite silver lining in the midst of the gloom that is 2020 for two big reasons.
First, I have two sons (no daughters) and while I have good relationships with both of them, there aren’t a lot of activities we all enjoy doing. Whereas my husband can spend hours playing basketball with them in the driveway or throwing baseballs in the backyard, and legitimately have fun doing those things, I struggle through these things. I’ve never been the “fun parent,” and we don’t enjoy the same sports (I’m an uncoordinated former swimmer who enjoys a long, solitary run, whereas they are all about the popular team sports). I prefer reading; they like video games. I like emotional dramas and biopics; they like action flicks and slapstick humor. I prefer the quiet; they prefer loud, loud, LOUD.
But our walks? Well, once we get going, we all settle in and – dare I say – enjoy it. Or rather, it’s something we enjoy doing together. A few weeks ago, we decided that we would set a goal for ourselves: walk a marathon (26.2 miles) over the course of two weeks. Suddenly there was something the three of us were working toward, we had a common goal, and we had a consistent activity we could do together each day.
But the second (and perhaps more significant) reason I love pandemic walks so much is because of what happens on them – we talk. We talk about anything and everything, from the silly to the serious. We’ve talked about things like systemic racism and body image, along with oddly specific things like how hard it would be to drive a Class A motorhome through the mountains. My kids have asked some really pointed and insightful questions, and we’ve had a lot of impactful conversations.
Given that most of the time when I try to have “serious” conversations with my kids – or just try to talk to them about what’s going on in their lives — I get one-word responses in return. Sure, they can ramble on for hours about Fortnite, Minecraft and Call of Duty, but if I ask them something more substantial, they’ll shrug and mumble with grunts or sighs.
I don’t think this is unique to my family either, especially with tweens and teens. It seems like since the beginning of time, parents have been lamenting the struggle that is getting their teens to engage in meaningful conversations. The one piece of advice that seems to actually work is to seize on the moments when they happen. And for us, these moments happen on our walks, our pandemic walks.
An added bonus? It’s at least 30-60 minutes when the kids aren’t on electronics. Sometimes we walk past a friend’s house and have a socially distanced yard visit for a few minutes. Other times we just wander. Either way, we’re getting a little fresh air and while giving their eyes a break from the screens. Like most parents, we’ve really relaxed our screen time limits during the pandemic, but I still feel guilty. So any activity that can get my kids (and me too!) off the screens is a welcome distraction.
I think we can all agree that just about everything about the coronavirus pandemic – and 2020 in general — sucks. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. People have lost – are will lose – their jobs. The world is a dumpster fire, and it all feels so overwhelming. We have to take our small victories where we can – and by “victories,” I mean moments when things don’t feel quite so awful. And for me that is pandemic walks.