Stuck-at-home pandemic summers can feel pretty boring.
Before anyone mounts their high horse, I know that being bored is an incredible privilege, and essential workers would love a chance to sit home and be bored. I know people would rather be bored than sick with COVID. I get all of that. Being bored is not the worst thing.
But let’s be honest: it is a really annoying thing, especially when young kids are involved.
As if the loneliness and anxiety that can come with so many days in a row stuck at home isn’t enough, there’s also this incredible sense of restlessness and good ol’ fashioned boredom.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, many of us are still choosing to stay at home as much as possible, forgoing our usual summer vacations and activities. We know that legal doesn’t equal safe when it comes to a global pandemic, and we are choosing to follow medical, not political recommendations.
It means a lot of summer activities are off-limits to us.
But if I am being honest, I have to admit that, while our limited options are making things pretty repetitive around here, even if there wasn’t a pandemic, my kids and I would be at home a lot this summer anyway. We always are.
We usually take one vacation, but we share the cost with extended family. Most years, my dad rents a beach house, and we drive down and get away for a week or so. My husband uses most of his accrued time off for that week, and then for the rest of the summer, we stay local. We have to. We can’t afford to take days without pay.
Like millions of other families, we can’t swing multiple vacations or tons of expensive activities even during a normal summer. We are not an outlier or the exception. One survey found that forty-four percent of respondents couldn’t afford their monthly bills and also swing a summer vacation in 2019. I can only imagine that COVID devastation means that number is even higher this summer. We might have even more stuck-at-home friends than usual, but this kind of summer really isn’t new for a lot of families.
Even during non-pandemic times, many of us are not jetting off to Disney or visiting tons of theme parks or traveling the country. Even families who have everything they need and lots of things they want often can’t afford extravagant or frequent trips. Tons of us don’t have the budget to plan exciting activities every single day—or even every single week– of summer break. Ever.
Pandemic or no pandemic, we are kind of used to being stuck at home.
Every single summer, lots of kids spend more time digging in the mud and stacking blocks than they do splashing in the ocean or visiting museums. And somehow every summer– including this one—millions of parents like me find ways to give our kids amazing summer memories.
Summer 2020 doesn’t have to be a total bummer! Ask any parent who is used to making the most of summer vacation without all the bells and whistles of organized (expensive) activities. There are so many ways to make magical childhood memories at home on a budget.
It’s kind of a bummer when I see people acting so bewildered at how their children will ever survive a summer without water parks and Caribbean cruises.
Mine do that every summer. So do a gazillion other kids.
And they don’t suffer.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending the whole summer on the go if you can afford it! But I’m here to remind you that a simple, stay-at-home summer is normal for lots of kids every single year. There’s no reason to feel guilty or worry about the amount of fun you can provide your kids this summer.
Remember the simple joy of running through a sprinkler on a hot day in 1989?
Hot days and sprinklers feel the same in 2020. There’s so much joy to be had at home.
All over this country, kids are building blanket forts on rainy days, watching late night movies with a bowl of popcorn, and figuring out how to stay busy right in their own backyard. They’re not sad about it or begging to get away. Their lives are already happy and fun.
There is no way to work around the fact that none of us can hang with our friends right now. Being mostly alone with just our immediate family members is not like every other summer. That void is pretty noticeable. It’s a disappointment that is unique to this unprecedented summer. But a lot of the good stuff is still available to families like mine because we are pretty used to making the best of a lot of days at home.
If you’re struggling to find joy in this unusual time, I get it. I am having hard days, too. A lot of the time I fake my good attitude, and then have my moment after the kids are in bed. My normal is as screwed up as theirs is, but I am trying my best to be a good example of making the best of it as often as I can.
I’m doing my very best not to fixate so much on what we’re unable to do this summer that I lose sight of what we can.
We can’t eat popsicles on the front porch with our friends, but we can eat popsicles on the front porch.
It’s not a good idea for us to go to a public splash pad, but we can spray each other with the freezing water from the hose and shriek with glee in our own yards.
Vacations aren’t on the table, but we can still take our allotted time off and spend time at home as a family.
We can find creative ways to make everyday things feel special. At our house, the pint-sized ice cream maker is getting a workout turning our usual morning yogurts into delicious frozen treats.
I am basking in the freedom of lowered expectations. My kids are basically Tarzan at this point. I make sure they brush their teeth and bathe once in a while. Other than that, they are wild men, running through the yard in their underwear, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter, and I don’t even care. I’m just like, “Whatever, dude. We are living by pandemic summer rules.”
I think all of our kids are going to look back and love these memories, honestly. I can just hear them as adults, reminiscing at Christmas.
“Remember the summer our parents didn’t care if we ever put on pants?”
This summer probably won’t go down as the most exciting, enriching summer of our children’s entire lives. But for a lot of us, simple, stay-at-home summers are the norm. 2020 feels really different because our choices are so limited by outside forces, but it’s not so different for many of us. Even during a normal summer, lots of kids spend lots of time doing nothing much. And they have a terrific time.