The author's three sons. Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Cameron
I don’t need to state the obvious. This situation is no bed of roses. It’s unsettling, unusual and (what is fast becoming the most overused word in the English language), unprecedented. We are a family of five and although each of us appreciates our alone time, this we are unaccustomed to. As life carries on and we settle into a new reality, I’ve made a few observations as far as my three boys are concerned. I don’t want to jinx things, but I’m cautiously optimistic that this situation may actually have a bright side.
My boys are five, nine and 12 years old. The older two, in particular, do not have a lot in common. One is very sporty and the other is more of a tinkerer. These differences are not generally a source of tension; rather, they tend to just spend time doing their own thing (and insulting one another when the opportunity arises). My five-year-old can go either way but it’s rare that the three of them play together.
Enter social distancing, and we are faced with this odd reality of nobody new, different or exciting. I know we’re only a few weeks in, but I can honestly say, I haven’t seen my boys all get along this well in… well, ever. During normal times they don’t choose to spend a lot of time together but now they have no choice. Is it possible they’re realizing they may actually like each other? One can hope.
Boredom breeds creativity. We all know this. During normal times, kids have a plethora of activities to fill a typical day such that there is barely a free minute. We tend to march from one thing to the next (plus sprinkle in some social media) and suddenly the day vanishes.
Enter social distancing and, boom, boredom is inevitable. Boredom was my life in the 80s and it forced much adventure. Obviously, children cannot travel anywhere during this pandemic to find adventure, but mine have created it within the confines of our new geography (in other words, our house and yard).
They’ve had chilly water balloon fights, created chalk art on our fence, coordinated dance routines and discovered new hiding spots to ‘win’ at hide and seek. The downside is that our house looks like it has internally combusted most of the time but the flip side would be undeniably worse.
We are not home-schoolers by any stretch of the imagination but we have added some structure to our days to help keep us sane, especially as I work from home full-time. From my perspective, the point is not necessarily for our boys to advance in math or science or geography during this time, but rather to keep their minds active and engaged. It has also become an opportunity for them to try new things.
My nine-year-old (the tinkerer) is a technical kid. He spent the better part of last week taking a a free online coding course. He isn’t a typical learner, so it was great to see him in his element, working at his own pace on something that really excites him.
Cooking and baking are other examples. They are all old enough to lead or help in the kitchen. These activities also offer up a multitude of lessons relating to following steps, measuring and math, and patience! Without an end to this in sight, I suspect I'll dust off the sewing machine and knitting needles soon.
My sporty kid is quite social and is not only missing the pleasure of team sports, but is also really missing his buddies. He headed out to the driveway the other day with a stick, pucks and a device. Turns out he and his buddy Sam video-messaged one another during a hockey shot challenge. How cool is that? Not only did he get to nurture his craft, but he also got to spend time with one of his teammates. Fresh air, hockey practice and socialization. Way to go, boys.
Who woulda thunk it? I’m surrounded by a gaggle of elementary-aged boys, on an unlimited hiatus, actually missing school. They miss the routine and structure, their friends, the extracurricular activities, and their teachers, just to name a few things. School keeps them busy and we all appreciate that (including them).
And teachers… If this isn’t the time to miss teachers, then I don’t know when is. My boys have five teachers between them, and we’ve heard from each of them—much to the kids' delight. My 12-year-old’s English teacher is famous for his puns so when his message didn’t include any, he went back to ask for some. Their teachers have offered support and guidance and a multitude of learning resources through this.
I saw a meme the other day that showed a sad Kermit the Frog looking out the window with the following caption: “Me wondering how many students are missing their teachers because their new one is mean.” Ha. Absence can certainly make the heart grow fonder.
Do my guys openly admit to missing school? No. But when it resumes, I suspect they will approach it with a whole new appreciation.
By no means am I dismissing the severity of this situation or suggesting the benefits outweigh the detriments. That is not my position at all. Rather, there may be a silver lining as a bi-product of this bizarre, forced time in isolation and I thought I should take note of them because as time goes on, my glass may very well become less full. Try to stay positive, people.