It is unsettling. If children thrive in routine and consistency, what, then, to ripping off the cover and schedule of school? What can we do when our young people must suddenly be home? (And what about us, too??)
Here in Tokyo, I am parenting three kids now at home, all day—kids who up until two weeks ago, joyfully attended their respective schools! We are moving into our third week now of full kid-at-home scheduling and every bit of outside data or headline feels like utter disaster.
And yet, we are at home making it cozy, watching movies, finally working more-with longer focus and time on their languages.
We are here looking up recipes and doing all of the spring breaky things without the parties, without the gatherings. This is almost prime cherry blossom picnic season, but this city of more than 13 million, has been asked not to gather.
With two weeks under our belts of (me) fretting about sold-out toilet paper and then finding some, making sanitizer, and limiting nervous media, I feel settled into this loose routine. I am okay with our new kind of days and weeks, even with the nagging thoughts that it may be some time longer.
Here is what is working:
*Tell your most frightened friends, the ones that make you also feel panicky and short of breath, that you will call them back. Only do so when you feel like you have ample calm and plenty of peace. Pray. Make tea. Stare at a flower or watch ten minutes of prime comedy. You cannot quell any young person’s astute worry if you are really battling your own.
*Load up on veg and fruit. Your bodies need to feel strong and even if much of that is mental, be your best. This includes eating. It also means you can eat cookies or popcorn. Find ways to “eat a rainbow”, too, of yellow peppers, cukes, and whatever, in between the creamiest, most comforting bowls of macaroni.
*Make a running list with your family, asking, “What do we want to do during this time?” It can become meaningful. Maybe there is a guitar or a violin that could be learned or played. Maybe your son wants to learn to shuffle cards or do magic. Go for it. Make that unicorn mural your girls have been asking about and forgetting. Your list can include movies you want to watch, the treats you want to bake. Your list can include pillow fights or living room forts. It can definitely include what you need, not just the kids.
It’ll be good.
*Listen to the sciency-brainstorms your kids have. Group items that they can use for a sink or float project. Listen to the big ideas and questions they wonder about. It could be about germs or bread. They might wonder about the temperature in Hawaii or Guam. They might wonder how many teaspoons is enough to make them hyper and run around. How many more until they run out of giggles and wiggles. Record it and wonder along. Google. Open books. Ask smart people things. Talk about space and read some sci-fi, but (not about pandemics or nightmares including rabies, death or vaccines).
Think snowflakes, Star Trek, or ya know, photosynthesis. Think yeast becoming bread or silly martians with green heads. Make it relaxing and full of wonder.
*Ask your children if they want quiet or if they want music or a podcast. Limiting screens is good, but listening is another story. They make want to build with Legos while listening to a kids’ podcast or a soundtrack.
*Think about limiting how much anxiety-producing soundbites and conversation you want your child to hear. Not only are they without the strengthening, consistent support of their friends, classmates, and teachers, they are wide open to taking on a mountain of worry. Facebook alone is a minefield.
*Think about what is soothing. Your child might have mentioned wanting a pedicure on that master family list. Diffusing lavender may help, douse it—whatever (as you pour a glass of wine, perhaps). Maybe they love back rubs or a goodnight-foot massage and a prayer. Maybe it is a time for more hugs, more tender conversations that start with, “Remember when you were two years-old”, more hot chocolates out of a big yellow mug. Embrace the time to be real and loving.
Now is for things you were always/are generally feeling too busy for.
*Give everyone space and grace. Everyone is off of their game. Everyone is trying to reset and manage emotions, especially if you live in a narrow home like us. We miss our friends and our soccer games, our parties, and life without keeping out worry. Be kind and know your kids want to help. They want to see us without frown lines. Grace.
*Have dance parties. Find the sweet ways to enjoy the time. Limbo. Hold a family-wide, hilarious talent show. Play “Eye of the Tiger” while your husband and son punch a soft ball that is tethered and swinging from their heads. Snort a bit while you laugh.
*Look up at the clock and realize that it is only noon, Day One. You can do this.
Now what is for lunch.