Like everyone, I am struggling with the new reality that is a life of social isolation. I miss going to work. I miss my friends. I miss running to the grocery store just to pick up a couple of things — or going anywhere without fear of bringing something terrible back to my family. I miss feeling safe and normal. And yet, there are moments in these dark days when I feel like I have been given an unexpected gift: the chance to return to the happiest days of my life.
I love the life I have now. My kids are happy in their career and college choices. My youngest is having a great high school experience. I have a fulfilling job. And my husband and I are enjoying all the extra time we have now just for us. But the time in my life when I had small children, when life was more simple and we had day after day of life together stretching out before us –that was, undoubtedly, one of the happiest times in my life. And for all the joys and perks of having big kids, I often long for those precious days.
So when schools started closing and our two college girls came home, I was surprised to find myself too gripped by fear to appreciate our new reality. I worried that one of them had brought COVID-19 back from their college campus. I spent the better part of my days not enjoying my family, but wiping down all the frequently-touched surfaces in our home and reminding the kids to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. I wondered if we should isolate our daughter who came home with a cold, and if we should be practicing social distancing from each other.
But as time has passed and my anxiety has eased up (at least some of the time), I am starting to appreciate the blessing of this time together.
No, it won’t be like it was when they were little. We aren’t likely to do any arts and crafts. Storytime won’t be a thing. I can’t entertain them with a walk down to the creek to catch tadpoles, and I can’t shoo them outside to play when they are underfoot. I know I can’t totally recapture those magical days.
But, as big as they are, my children are here now day after day. And I am getting to experience all over again so much of what I loved about having my children at home all those years ago.
Once again, my days are filled with the sound of my children’s laughter (and sometimes their arguments) ringing through the house. We pass our time playing games and watching movies. We bake cookies and take walks.
Our primary form of communication isn’t texting, and we aren’t meeting each other coming and going between one activity and another. My youngest isn’t an only child anymore (something he was still adjusting to). And although I am not the center of the universe like I was when they were small, they — against all odds — seem pretty content just to be here, safe, and at home with our family.
To be clear, I’m not trying to romanticize life at home with young kids or life under quarantine. Just like when they were small, there is boredom and frustration. The house is messy and I can’t always get things done that I need to do.
They miss their friends and their lives before COVID-19. Worst of all, our eldest isn’t with us because he is really grown, and he has his own home to shelter in. We miss him. Life in a pandemic is, without question, really, really hard, and the truth is, I can’t wait until we can all go back to normal — if we can ever feel normal again after this.
But in the meantime I cannot overlook, nor take for granted, the unexpected gift I have right now. Because at this moment, maybe for the last time ever, I have (most of) my children at home, and we have day after day of a simple life together stretching before us.