There are no screens allowed Monday through Thursday, which doesn’t bother the kids too much because they are tuckered out after a full day at school and the mad rush of homework, dinner, clean-up, showers and bedtime makes the evenings fly by.
Now, in the “Corona Times” — as the kids call it — here’s what our week looks like:
· Tuesday evenings – Mom and Dad work sometimes through dinner. Kids finish school super early and play Roblox or watch TV or both until we have to drag them to bed.
· Friday evenings – Mom and Dad collapse on the sofa or the bed after work, order takeout and the kids finish school even earlier (half-days on Fridays to prevent virtual-learning burnout) and play Roblox or watch TV or both until waaaay past Mom and Dad’s bedtime.
Since quarantine began in March, there has been no basketball, no soccer, no swimming, no piano. No Brownies (except pans and pans of the kind you eat) and no fille parlant français.
There had been some walking in the neighborhood, but then we got tired of that. There had been a flurry of bike-riding, but then the children bored of that.
There had been an attempt to limit the screens, but one day, my fifth-grader sat me down and shared, earnestly, his sadness that he never got to see or talk to his friends during the school day anymore ― and that the online video game they played together for hours on end was his way of staying connected.
The synopsis: The children who I once complained were overscheduled are now outrageously under-scheduled. They are couch potatoes. They’ve all gained weight (their parents might have too, ahem). They are all unabashed screen zombies.
In the beginning, I’ll admit, the slowdown was a relief. We were so used to run, run, running week in and week out that when the Busy Train came to a screeching halt, it seemed like we had been handed a gift.
But now, after the better part of a year, my moderately Type-A personality is kicking in. And my anxiety about their development, mental health and wellbeing is slowly ratcheting up.
Trust me, I have read all the articles about “getting your family moving during quarantine,” and “101 non-screen activities to do with the kids.” I’ve pushed the children out the front door to run in the yard — only to have them sneak back in the side door 12 minutes later. I’ve hinted that the piano was feeling neglected and needed attention. They didn’t take the hint.
In my more rational moments, I tell myself the children will most likely survive this extended time of snacking and slothfulness relatively unscathed.
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And I recognize that, in the scheme of things, our three are more fortunate than many. This is a house of plenty, after all — love being the most plentiful thing of all.
But I confess that I am more worried about them than I have been in many years; since back when I learned that between ages 1 and 2, the cerebral cortex adds more than 2 million new synapses — the connections between brain cells — every second. (And then promptly freaked out.)
These are pivotal years for children, when habits are formed and values take root. This is a time when identities are being shaped.
Will they be busy bees or lazy bones? Will we ever get back to being a family that does things — and does them together? Or will our vibrant, moving-and-shaking family from the Before Times be yet another victim of the Corona Times?
Only time will tell. But for now, I console myself by remembering that — even though we’re not doing much of anything at all — we’re a family who loves, and love is an action verb.