Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… How can you let everyone in your family know that things are tightening back up and changing in terms of your family’s quarantine boundaries? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
Like many families, ours slightly loosened our quarantine rules for the summer. We were still practicing social distancing, but we did partake in some outdoor play (distanced) and small, outdoor family gatherings. I have three kids: 5, 7, and 10, and they’ll be doing school fully online at home this year. Other friends and family members have made different decisions (some have no choice, others are pushing for the “return to normal”). Since my husband and I made the choice to keep our children at home (we’re both working from home indefinitely and can make it work), we’re obviously not comfortable being around friends and family who are going to school because it heightens the risk for virus transmission. I don’t think it’s dawned on anyone that things would change once school starts and cold weather brings things back indoors, so it’s definitely up to us to initiate that discussion. How can we do this without hurting feelings or having anyone get defensive?
Many, many families are finding themselves in this position now that summer is coming to an end — you’re far from alone here. But you’re right, you do need to initiate the discussion — avoiding it or putting it off until someone wants to see you and your kids will just result in conflict and passive aggression and everyone assuming things that aren’t true out of defensiveness and…ugh. Let’s find a less “ugh” way to do this.
Here’s how I look at it: your friends and family love you and your kids, right? Of course they do. Then they have to love your family enough to protect your family. This isn’t personal; it’s a damn pandemic. It’s not about cooties and disagreeing on “what’s best for you and your family,” it’s upkeeping our part of the social contract we have as a society to protect one another from spreading this vicious disease. Americans in general are very, very bad (SO BAD) at upkeeping this social contract, but that’s a post for a different day. We can’t control other people’s actions, even during a pandemic, so all we can do is uphold our own boundaries.
Rather than go full-blast into “here’s what’s happening, you won’t like it, but it is what it is,” let’s try a less aggressive approach. Bring your family and friends into the problem-solving circle so they don’t feel attacked, but part of the solution instead. “Okay, Aunt Jillian, I know your kids are going back to school, but we’re keeping ours at home. How can we maintain our relationships in the safest way possible?”
That might be Zoom playdates. It might be properly distanced, outdoor hikes to check out the leaves this fall. It might be lots of FaceTime or driveway chats or everyone taking turns warming their tushies around an outdoor fire and drinking hot chocolate from their own cups. The bottom line here is everyone should get a chance to bring something to the table — it’ll help you all cement your relationships and show that everyone has value.
I hope this helps. Keep me posted.
Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org