At the beginning of all of this, I was anxiety-ridden about what a global pandemic was going to do to my school-aged children. A lot of what they knew was ripped out from underneath them like a rug, and I found myself so worried about their well-being that I was laser-focused on ensuring they were okay.
I tried to homeschool, I made sure we all went on group walks or bike rides around the neighbourhood. When conservation areas opened up, I arranged day trips, all in the name of their happiness. I bought them little toys and activities I might not have purchased normally because I wanted to bring them some kind of joy in all the bad news.
Now, I am tired.
It has been so many weeks, I’ve lost count. I’m still working a full-time job. When school is done, there will be no summer camps, no activities, no big group playdates. In my sad little backyard (although, thank goodness we have a backyard), there is no pool or trampoline.
Now, my children, it is up to you. I am throwing in the towel.
You’re bored? I understand and I feel for you, but you have to do something about it. I have provided you with books and toys and a nice home. I will make sure you’re fed and covered in sunscreen. I’ll even do your laundry. The rest is up to you.
I’m allowing you to hop on your bikes and ride around the neighbourhood with a friend (at a safe distance, of course) and I won’t be checking up on you to make sure you’re okay. Please come home when the streetlights come on.
I won’t be rushing you off to sports camp and soccer and swimming lessons. We won’t be getting on an airplane and going somewhere amazing. Dad and I will be doing the cleaning and the cooking, the grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, the laundry and everything else we need to get done in a day.
My kids, I’m offering you the gift of no plans. Use it wisely. Get lost in a book. Make up a game. Use your imagination. Explore the little court we live on. Gather bugs. Do none of that and instead whine about how bored you are. (But I won’t be listening to that complaint any longer.)
This has been hard, there’s no doubt about it. And you’ve been doing an amazing job during an unprecedented time. I’m proud of your resilience, and I know now that you’re going to be okay. You are living in a time of Netflix and Roblox and Skip the Dishes. We have options.
Now, while I do my work, while I make the bed or maybe even just take a long uninterrupted shower, I am releasing you to the beautiful outside world we live in. Call on a friend (but again, keep your distance and don’t gather in big groups) and see where the day takes you. Be safe, be careful, don’t talk to strangers, but be wild and carefree. Come home with grass stains on your knees and your necks creased with dirt.
This might be your only summer of unscheduled days. When you can drop your bike on the front lawn and run inside to find me already cutting up watermelon or handing you a popsicle to take outside. When you can get to know the neighbour kid. When you can ask a friend to play without me texting their parents first and finding a couple of hours several days from now when it fits into everyone’s schedule.
I love you very much, but I can no longer sustain entertaining you, and I’m not going to allow you to miss this incredibly short season of sunny days and warm nights and cicadas buzzing.
I’ll be here at the end of the day to feed you, to help you get showered, to tuck you into bed, to read with you. I’ll even lie in your bed with you until you fall asleep (I really love that part of the day.) But the rest is up to you.
When you’re grown, you might look back on this summer as one of your best. This year has been hard and confusing and scary, but for now, the summer is ahead of you and you’re incredibly lucky.
Now get outside and close that screen door behind you.