SALT LAKE CITY — Five months and several days ago, our governor brought forth to this state a "new now," conceived in the unexpected coronavirus pandemic, and dedicated to the proposition that all children would remain home from school indefinitely — or until further notice, which appears to be next week.
The summer of 2020 has literally been the longest summer vacation in my mother-of-school-going-children life, and I think it’s safe to say that this claim to fame can span several generations.
It’s been 164 long days compared to the usual 90 days. And if you’re counting the days of impromptu distance learning as days spent "in" school, you are a better parent than I’ll ever be.
Yet, despite school being dismissed early, and seemingly endless days of nonformal learning in a social-isolating environment, I have learned a lot, and I think my children have, too. Here are some of those things:
1. 'I'm bored' falls in the category of what I call 'fightin' words'
As far as I’m concerned, if a child of mine, regardless of age, lets the words, "I’m bored" exit their lips, they’re asking for a fight. That fight may manifest itself in several forms including, but not limited to:
- A battle over how quickly the offending child can run to the sock basket to fold socks before mom folds the socks over his or her face.
- A debate over whether the books in the offending child’s room should be used as decoration or as a mindfully engaging activity.
- A silent argument where I may or may not play the role of both opponents in my head while spending time in my “safe place” (which is actually several undisclosed places within a 10-mile radius of our home).
- I may be nice, and forgo the fight by escorting the offending child to the backyard so he or she can enjoy his or her boredom with a lawnmower or shovel in tow.
2. 'Mom' can be a swear word depending on frequency of use, tone and decibel reached
"Mom … Mom … Mom … Mom." If you read that in a monotone voice and tuned it out after the first two utterances, you’re not alone. When "Mom" is spoken in this fashion, it’s like a bad word that I’ve become desensitized to, and it literally fades off into the distance to be added to the white noise that is currently my total existence.
Now, "Mauum" with emphasis on the "auu" is something I plain don’t answer to because it usually means that a teenage boy wants me to get him something he can easily get himself.
Basically, at this point in my summer break, if my kids say "Mom" one more time, I’m changing my name and not telling anyone what I changed it to. Probably Deliliah. Delilah is a lovely name.
3. One cannot own enough backyard play equipment
While one trampoline is enough, there is nothing wrong with filling your backyard with play toys — especially if your backyard will serve as your children’s one and only amusement park for eons.
We are now the proud owners of three swings (attached to a very brave and giving cherry tree), one trampoline, a sandbox, two soccer goals, a basketball hoop and two air mats that can double as tumbling mats and the ultimate slip-and-slide experience.
4. 'Learnding' does happen
"Look, Mom, I’m learnding!" I will often hear from the mouths of my children who know that they’re saying it wrong, AND that Ralph from "The Simpsons" is a character worth quoting frequently.
We may not have spent many days studying any formal educational curriculum, but my children have learned. They have learned through constant unstructured play with their siblings, and some neighbors, about how to get along with other humans. My children have learned how to help me cook and clean and how to work together as a family to get things done.
While we may not have opened up any history books, they all know that they are living in a historical time — a pandemic! And when they get older, I hope they will all say that they did their part to hinder the spread, even if it meant experiencing the longest summer vacation the world may ever know.
What have you learned (or learnded) during the summer of COVID? Let us know in the comments.