Coronavirus has taken a lot from us, and it’s only May. It has taken away some freedom, and far too many loved ones. It has taken away hugs and a sense of security. For kids, it has taken away simple pleasures like going out for ice cream or having a go on the swings at the park. But amidst all of the uncertainty and fear, it has given my family something we didn’t know we could get back: time.
Like most families with young children, we were running ragged most days, hair a mess and socks mismatched. We’d be late from the second our alarms went off in the morning to the time we trudged upstairs at night and fell into bed. School, work, pickups, cooking, dishes, cleaning, activities, bath time. Every day was a marathon with no medal, and we’d get up and run it again the next day.
Forced to remain inside, our lives are completely different now. Sure, my husband and I still work from home, but there is no rush in the morning to ship the kids off to school. After work, we’re no longer scrambling to get the kids fed and in the car on the way to skating lessons. The bath and bedtime routine is much more leisurely, without me looking at the clock every 30 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong: This situation is far from ideal. There is the constant worry that someone we know and love will get infected, and that the worst will happen. There is the constant fear that the supply chain will have issues and people will be clamoring for food. There is the constant anxiety that we won’t be able to protect our children when they need us most.
However, we’re trying to use this extra time we’ve been given in a way we couldn’t before: to teach our kids life lessons they would not normally learn at 3 and 5 years old.
It all started with my husband’s hair. It was due for a trim long before quarantine began, so you can imagine what it looked like two weeks in. After a few days of badgering from me and the kids, he agreed to let us help him cut it — all three of us.
The kids were so excited. They were acting like it was their birthday and Christmas morning all at the same time: They were allowed to cut a grown-up’s hair! The five-year-old grabbed her craft scissors and the three-year-old brought the broom. They sat their father down in front of the bathroom mirror and went to work. Their masterpiece was a ridiculous mess of patchwork, but it was theirs.
“Mom, I’m going to be a hairdresser when I get big!” my five-year old shouted with gusto. Never would my husband have agreed to let them cut his hair were it not for COVID-19.
Next, it was time for a cooking lesson. While my kids and I occasionally cook together on the weekends, it’s rare for us to have time to bake on a Wednesday. We decided to make some cookies, and the kids were particularly intrigued by the yolks in the eggs. I showed them how to separate the yolks from the whites, even though the recipe didn’t require it.
“Wait!” the three-year-old shouted. She got down off the step stool and ran to the playroom. We heard her rummaging for something, and then she skipped back with two play aprons and chef’s hats in hand. “Okay, now do it!” she said as she and her sister got suited up. They both separated the yolks on their first try. The cookies had way too many eggs in them at the end, but they were still delicious.
One of the #quarantasks I finally got to, that I had been putting off for what felt like years? Cleaning the baseboards in our house. The precious free time we had before just wasn’t worth spending on washing baseboards, but now, time was fruitful. So, I got a big bucket of soapy water and some rags and got to work. Little feet pitter-pattered over immediately. I showed them what I was doing, and they joined in. We were so productive together, we not only washed the baseboards; we washed all the doors and windowsills, too.
“Mom, we’re professional cleaners like Cinderella,” my five-year-old exclaimed.
Next, they want to be gardeners. When the weather is right, we’ll start planting vegetables and flowers. They also want to learn how to paint walls, so we’re going to do their bedrooms. (They have also requested to learn how to drive, but that will probably have to be put on hold a few years.)
The next few weeks (or months) are not going to be easy. We’re going to lose a lot more from COVID-19 than we already have. The best we can do is take the time it has given us and put it to good use. Not only is this forced time together at home a good way for us to get some extra chores done, but the kids are learning valuable life lessons they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Plus, they are taking part in memorable moments they will talk about for years to come.
I hope that, when my kids are older and they think about their time in quarantine, they won’t remember the fear or anxiety; instead, they’ll remember how they got to cut their father’s hair and paint their bedrooms. My hope is those are the memories that will stick, because those are the things worth remembering.
Do you and your kids also have some free time on your hands? Lucky you. Why not dive into some of these art-worthy jigsaw puzzles kids love?