Not Everything Should Go Back to Normal


“Why haven’t we done this before?” 

It’s a question I’ve been hearing from my kids, my friends, and my own brain almost daily since my phone stopped trying to auto-correct “coronavirus” and life as we knew it in the United States came to a grinding halt. 

The question doesn’t refer to the pandemic itself, or our resulting need to distance ourselves from non-family members, shutter schools and businesses, and nearly come to blows over a roll of toilet paper. Instead, it’s a response to the new activities we’ve been engaging in at home, the creative ways we’ve adapted our behavior in order to stay in contact with loved ones, and the people and professions we’ve finally begun to celebrate and prioritize (hint: none of them have appeared on reality shows). 

I am often anxious, tired, and overwhelmed these days as I worry over the news and figure out how to be a productive remote employee, a home-schooling mom, a semi-decent wife, and also take regular showers. But, to my surprise, I have had so many moments of joy the past month. And most of them have resulted from things I’m experiencing for the first (or nearly the first) time. 

I can’t wait for COVID-19 to die. But there are a few things I hope will live on.

Unstructured Family Time

We don’t set alarms anymore. We don’t hurry the kids through breakfast, bark orders about brushing teeth or putting on socks, or spend our entire morning conversation reminding one another about items on the family to-do list. 

Sadly, we also don’t go to soccer games, birthday parties or our favorite restaurants right now. But while we miss doing those things, it is also a relief to drastically slow the formerly hectic pace of our daily lives. The other day, my two daughters decided to try on nearly every item in our costume collection. There was no rush, no time limit, and nothing else to do but wait for their next insane ensemble. 

Our social calendar will start to fill up again later this year, and it may be even busier as events that were canceled are rescheduled. I need to remember to say no more often and sign up for less, to create space for more spontaneous fashion shows.

Two Words: Teacher Appreciation 

Shonda Rhimes tweeted it at the start of all this, and I can’t say it any better: “Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” 

I never secretly thought, hey, I could be a teacher, how hard can it be? But to be honest I didn’t really have any clue how hard it actually is. And I’m only trying to teach my three kids; imagining a classroom full of them makes me want to hide in my closet in the fetal position. Plus, the online tools and workbooks I’m using at home while our school is closed were created by educators; who knows what I would have come up with on my own? There is new math, for god’s sake! My first grader laughed at me the other day when I tried to solve something the “old” way. I am going to kiss his teachers when it’s no longer a health hazard to do so. 

Frequent Check-Ins

Teenagers have nothing on me these days when it comes to time spent on my phone. I am a texting, video-chatting, WhatsApp-ing machine. The reason I’m celebrating that fact is the substance of those communications: they’re about checking in with people I care about – from my parents who are completely homebound, to fellow moms in need of some cheerleading (see above, re: new math), to friends living in parts of the country where the health situation is worsening. Looking at my record of texts and calls, there is a wider variety of names than I’ve seen in years, maybe ever. I am more caught up with more people I care about than I have been in ages. 

A Sunday-night Zoom-based gathering of 13 of my closest friends from college has been a weekly occurrence in the pandemic era. We sit in our PJs and laugh, sometimes cry, and simply enjoy seeing each other’s faces. I leave the calls feeling lighter and ready to tackle the week ahead. 

Every time, at least one person raises that now common question, “Why haven’t we done this before?” There is no good reason, just as there is no good reason that until recently I hadn’t been fully appreciating relaxed family time, praising my kids’ teachers multiple times a day, or remembering that there isn’t much else I need as long as the people I care about most are healthy.       

This crisis will end, but not without some lasting changes. Let’s make sure some of them are for the better. 


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