Isolation, oh the insanity
My carbon monoxide alarm went off at 3:15am
I’m now homeschooling two kids while holding down two jobs–one of which is “disaster-relief” related
It was my “weekend” to keep the class guinea pig.
I thought tonight would be a good trial run of keeping the new puppy my neighbors offered.
My ex just texted that his cat died, and I volunteered to tell the kids to spare him the additional trauma
Oh yeah, and the state has closed the liquor stores.
But you know what? I’m a cancer mom.
Hold my coffee– let me show you how isolation is done.
When my daughter was three, she would greet me after a full day of intense daycare shenanigans with the same question every day:
“Where we going?”
If the answer was, “home to make dinner”, she would straight-up run away from me, and go back to playing. She never wanted to be home. “Home” was boring. “Home” wasn’t stimulating. “Home” was, quite simply, the worst.
I guess I had no reason to be surprised. She was the baby that allowed no one to sit while holding her. Nope–you had to get up off your ass and walk her. Oh, and if you tried to pace back and forth, or walk in a circle, she’d call your bluff, and you’d have to take her out for a legit walk or she would caterwaul like a frustrated elephant seal.
And then she got leukemia, and with it, her immune system was destroyed. Which meant no indoor play areas, no crowds, no libraries, no fairs, no Chuck E. Cheese urine ball-pits, and no play-dates with anyone who’d had a runny nose in the last 48 hours. Which was basically anyone under the age of 7.
Few things scare me. I’ve been in a plane, car, and train crashes. I’ve cleaned up the messes of a seriously unbalanced mother for most of my life, and have gotten myself to where I am mostly though sheer force of will. But the idea of not only becoming a stay-at-home mom, but a stay-at-home-mom trapped in a house with the caterwauling elephant seal was second only to the fear I had that my baby would get sick.
So here’s what I learned about keeping active kids home and somewhat content.
- Sign your kids up for google logins and control the crap out of screen time. The use of screens should be saved as a last resort for all of you. If you don’t have that massive carrot, you will never get anything done. So don’t fall into the trap of always having them available to snatch a couple minutes out of every hour. Ration the use of them, and buy yourself a focused 30 minutes to center yourself, or distract the munchkins. In my house, the iPad was saved for the hospital (so it was the holy grail). Cartoons are ok in the morning as we wake up, but then comes breakfast, followed by school work, and outside play time. The added bonus of strict screen time is, when they know what the rules are for it, they don’t whine, wheedle, cajole, and negotiate because they KNOW what the rules are. And rules DON’T CHANGE.
- Figure out the safe places. Collude with your friends and decide what unique fun thing will be at each house. No one likes playing with their own stuff, so decide who’s got a basement big enough for a bounce house, who is going to get the wii fit, and who is going to be the epic train table / race car place and have play dates that shift. It’s not as magnificent as a trampoline park, but it’s a good hook and a change of scenery. Plus it’s a break for you because the cool stuff will be at the house of someone you actually like too, which will stave off your boredom as well. Bring a moisturizing mask; call it a spa day.
- Create spaces at home for different activities and cordon them off. Make a Lego station and only open it at certain hours. For whatever reason, creating the illusion that something isn’t available all the time makes it interesting–so use that. I stockpile clearance craft sets at Michael’s and hide them under my bed so the kids can go shopping at craft time. They pick out what they want, but it’s only available when I have time to supervise them. This gets at the “sense of the forbidden”, between the treasure hunt, the promise to have my attention for a period of time, and generally the ability to make some degree of epic mess in the kitchen.
- Learn the “off” hours. Fortunately, most of the country is warming up, which makes parks accessible. But if you don’t want your child becoming another amoeba on that never-been-cleaned jungle gym, and therefore losing all the benefit of sunshine as a disinfectant. Swing by your local park at weird hours–dusk, over lunch, early in the morning, …etc to see when it’s less used. Side-benefit: you’ll less likely you’ll get lured into conversation with divorced dad with neck tattoo and paunch over basketball shorts (I know that’s not just happening to me).
- Get to know the neighbors! It goes against my Southern California upbringing, but my neighbors have been an absolute godsend. There are no kids nearby, but my children love just going to visit, teaching their dogs tricks, learning about gardening, and going for rides in the four wheeler. It gives them a feeling of autonomy and control to walk somewhere and go visit.
- And finally, stop focusing so much on entertaining your children. Order them to leave you alone. Threaten (and make good on the threat) to assign them chores if they’re bored. And then eavesdrop on what they come up with. Boredom is a good thing, It spawns creativity, inspires play, and helps them develop character neither of you knew they possessed.
And send me pictures, cause frankly, I need the laugh