Remember back, way back in March 2020, when we found out we needed to stay home for a while—a few weeks—they told us, to flatten the curve?
I remember how restless my husband and I felt. How desperate for a place to go. How sad at the things we missed. We lost out on a family vacation. Birthday parties were cancelled. An entire first soccer season for my daughter—one she was thrilled to finally get to join herself—it disappeared in an instant. School was shut down. No First Communion for my son. No travel to see my sister in Chicago. No Boy Scouts. No summer at the pool.
At first, all I could think about was what we lost.
And to be clear, many people, millions of people, have lost so much. From their jobs, to the businesses, to food security, to our cherished freedoms. And now, more than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19; a cherished family member of ours, my children’s great-grandfather, the patriarch of our family, was among them.
The loss is real and profound and will always be a shadow over this time.
I would never wish a pandemic on anyone. And I truly wish it never happened.
But I’ve gotten past the loss stage of grief when it comes to Covid-19 and our current moment of quarantine. In fact, I’ve gotten to acceptance—and meaning.
Because this time has also given our family so much, and taught me so much.
After his Manhattan office was shut down, my husband started working from home. Without so many after school activities to rush to, we started spending more unstructured, low-stress time together. We began going on walks. We got a puppy. We spent Saturday mornings cooking pancakes rather than running to wrestling practice. My husband brought home quarantine chickens (five of them) and started growing a garden. We cleaned out long-neglected closets and enjoyed the feeling of a (for once!) organized house.
With the bustle of our modern family life stolen from us overnight, we had to improvise.
And I was shocked to discover that I like this life a lot better.
This life, this unhurried life, this spacious life, this grounded life, is so much closer to the life I want for our family than always-busy, always-behind, always-late-and-heading-somewhere life we were living before Covid-19.
It’s like the pandemic and quarantine gave us permission to go back to a simpler time for families—one where childhood wasn’t quite so structured, and the pressures on parents not so great. Almost like going back in time.
And I adore this slowed down life.
I love afternoons walking my children to the park, watching my daughter collect leaves.
I love not taking my kids to all the activities that I oh-so-recently thought were essential to a ‘proper childhood.’
I love snuggling my babies in bed and watching Disney+ movies on my laptop.
I love WEEKENDS WITHOUT KID BIRTHDAY PARTIES (there, I said it. And I hope they never return #donthate).
I love not going to the store and not bringing home unnecessary trinkets.
I love the grounded feeling of being in a house we just decluttered and cleaned.
I love evenings spent reading a book all cozied up in my favorite chair.
I love focusing our attention on the tiny magic of nature—watching our tomato plants grow, observing the birds in our backyard, and enjoying walks in our town park.
I love being slowed down enough to marvel at the changing seasons.
I love having the space to be present with my kids, instead of merely spending our time together getting to the next place.
I love this simpler life, and I never want to go back to the way things were before.
My husband and I are privileged that we are able to currently work from home and have access to childcare, so we are doing what we can to support our neighbors in need.
Yet we are also coming to terms with the big changes we want to make going forward—moving to a home with more land for our kids to roam and for our gardens to grow, further out in the country. Shifting into permanent remote jobs. And perhaps most consequentially, to say no to a childhood full of extracurricular activities, in favor of a family life defined by the quality of time we have together and our mental presence in it.
And this is where it gets hard. Because we’ll have to start forming boundaries where ones didn’t exist before. We’ll have to say no to birthday parties and baseball. No to weekend coder classes. No to Boy Scouts. No to all the things the kids don’t even really want to do, but I wanted them to do. (I’m fine with them each having one manageable activity each, but there has to be a limit.) Because while each of those things is wonderful in its own right, collectively this over-scheduled, over-commuting, over-committed life took way more from us than what we got in return.
Hold me to this: I refuse to go back to the over-structured, over-scheduled, over-stressed family life we had before.
Because I want my kids to not feel like they’ve lost something, but to look back on their childhood with all the wonder and presence of family time they will have gained.
And I want my kids to know the taste of a carrot they grew in their own backyard.
I want my kids to have enough free time to activate their imaginations.
I want space and time to make these precious years together last as long as they possibly can.
I want this simpler life that was handed to us—a life that will long outlast the horrors of 2020.
And I know that would make their great-granddad proud.