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Family Bonding During Covid-19

by Jennifer Bab on May 18, 2020

Keeping positive during quarintine is essential -- despite the death and unknowns.  We’ve sought calm and found strength in newfound family time.

We started our quarantine on March 15th.  Almost exactly two month's ago.

I packed-up my family as best as I could. When leaving the apartment, my daugther turned back before stepping across the threshold into the hallway and snapped photos with my phone, paused at the door looking inside and said “Goodbye apartment -- who knows when we will see you next. I will miss you.”  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I closed the door behind us.

We loaded the car and left the epicenter of the virus in New York City to settle in upstate New York -- 1.5 hours away.  Our mini-van was so jammed with suitcases, supplies and food that we could barely close the trunk.

So many feelings I had on our way up here, among them:

  • Comfort in having someplace to go where social distancing would be a bit easier;
  • Gratitude for all the essential workers who were risking their lives for the rest of us;
  • Fear, in wondering when and whether my friends and family back in NYC (and elsewhere) would be ok;
  • Sadness in thinking about the lives cut short by this tragedy and imagining the NYC I would come back to looking very different than the one I left behind;
  • Frustration that neither I nor the kids would be able to see my brother and parents for a time uncertain; and
  • Anger that our country was not better prepared for this circumstance. . .

Apart from devastating news of friends who have lost loved ones to the virus and others who have had ventilator ICU experiences (but survived), most of those I know have been spared (so far) and are adjusting to the new world.  

But what about the kids? . . .How is all of this affecting them?  

There is no doubt that every household will have its unique answer to this question. Those with essential worker parents must be extremely worried and scared -- but also proud. Others with family and friends who have or have had the virus, must be very sad, frustrated or angry -- or all of these. Those who have lost their jobs due to the imposed quarintine are likely struggling financially and preoccupied with that tough reality. For us, we are fortunate to be together and out of harm’s way (for the moment at least) and are trying to find the beauty in the forced family time. 

Pre-COVID-19 -- with everyone on different, very busy schedules -- we rarely had family dinners, we played family games on weekends only (that is if there was enough time in between soccer tournaments, equestrian competitions and homework) and much of our post-school routines were so extracurricular-heavy and logistic-focused that it was hard to find the time or energy even to discuss daytime highlights and issues.

Now, we have wonderful and laugh-filled family dinners every night, we play family games every night and I actually see the kids’ daily activities and am tuned-in to their strengths and weaknesses in a more focused way.  All this while the kids are engaging in virtual schooling, virtual music and virtual sporting lessons. They’ve been very busy and productive (most of the time) and the big bonus -- space for much invaluable family time.  

If you turn off the news and phones, and if you are lucky enough for at least one member of the house to still have a job -- and can forget why we are all homebound -- it all suddenly becomes an unusual family time that we must appreciate. 

Some of what we’ve done and planned to enjoy our time at home together:

  • We purchased new games like Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit to play together, supplementing family favorites which include Rumeo and Scrabble.
  • We bought a telescope to see the stars and teach the kids about astronomy. 
  • Perhaps ironically, we are in the process of setting up our very own escape room, having been big fans of those we’ve visited in NYC pre-COVID.
  • We are planning a family olympics which will entail all kinds of competitve games, including eating pretzels off your own nose and shooting bows/arrows at a target in the driveway.  
  • The little kids are busy setting up camping tents in the backyard woods -- the ultimate stay-cation for the adventurous set.
  • The bigger kids have introduced us to various shows that we are all enjoying together after the littles go to bed.
  • We’ve seen classic, epic movies together that would otherwise be hard to find time to watch (like the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
  • Baking has become a popular event in the house with Maya experimenting with new recipes almost every day -- it qualifies as a family event because it inevitably entails everyone having to help clean up as well as taste test and enjoy the results of the bake-off.
  • Sleepover parties -- not just for friends or the weekends anymore. The littles organize those with each other mutliple times a week.
  • Breaks during the day while virtual learning have become explorations in creativity beyond baking. The kids have created recyclable product sculptures and ipad-shot movies, for example, for the rest of us to enjoy.

Now, of course there are difficulties juggling work (for those lucky to still have their job), managing younger children and overseeing elementary school aged kids whose online experience requires some oversight. . .not to mention trying to obtain food and supplies (easier said than done). . .

But in a world where kids are largely oversheduled and parents are overworked, this forced slow down has had its benefits.  For those of us lucky enough to be out of harm’s way and with our families, it is a time to take stock, keep close and solidify bonds while creatively finding new ways to stay distracted and engaged and entertained.  And though I pray for brighter days for all of us ahead, I am choosing to focus on and be grateful for the gift and joy of newfound family time. I hope you can do the same, in whatever form that may take in your household.

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