What will you always remember about this past pandemic summer?
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Part 3: This week, I continue to reflect on living in the early months of a pandemic, which just happened to coincide with the first year of my blog. (October 2019 to October 2020) Summer 2020 had Ben and I face two hard decisions: whether or not to let the kids be in their summer day camps and to keep our vacation plans. Ironically, we’d booked both of them in February, right before Covid-19 turned everyone’s world upside down in March. And social media was abuzz about what schools were doing in September, but we’ll save that one for next time…
Our kids both spent almost all of Summer 2019 in day camps. They loved it. We worked full time and it was a good fit. So when the Y announced this year that you could save money if you registered early in February for the summer, we thought why not?
But by mid-June, cases were still high and Governor Hogan’s quest to “flatten the curve” had not happened. Not even close. The number of Covid-19 cases in Maryland and neighboring states continued to zig-zag, or vacillate wildly.
We received emails from the Y saying that they were cancelling the very first week of camps, but planned to open with strong safety measures in place for late June. Social distancing. Mask wearing when not distancing. Regular hand washing. The new normal.
But if there’s one thing that I learned from teaching, it’s kids. You cannot control kids’ actions. Every parent knows that, too! I mean, you have a fighting chance with your own kid or two, but man, once you get 20 or so together, even with small ratios like the Y promised, we weren’t convinced.
Everyone had heard about quarantines. If you were exposed, you should quarantine for 14 days. And if you were exposed and tested positive, you probably were going to end up in the hospital. And that was a scary-sounding proposition. People died from Covid-19 in hospitals. In late Spring, fresh memories of overcrowded hospitals and exhausted medical personnel and maxed-out hospitals were still in our minds.
Had we really worked so hard to stay away from friends and loved ones, not let anyone in our home, not let our kids play with other kids, prevented them from going on playgrounds weekly, and watched as they went through an entire Spring homeschooled to risk them catching Coronavirus now?
Despite what the Y and other facilities reassured us in newsletters about safety precautions, how could they really enforce every child wearing a mask? That kids were not going to be kids and touch others and really “keep their hands and feet to themselves?” Even my own kids?
I reached out to a couple of parents I knew to get a pulse of the situation. They were going to keep their kids out the first week. Sounded good.
So we contacted the Y for a refund and cancelled camps for that week. They were really good about it.
Then, the next week, the case numbers were still high in both Frederick and Maryland. No lines being flattened. So, we decided to cancel the next two weeks. Ask for another refund. And so on and so on.
My daughter was supposed to have her first sleep away camp. Cancelled.
My son was supposed to be at Adventure Camp. Cancelled.
Everything was consolidated for him into his old preschool/daycare/ ELC program.
Finally, in mid-to-late July, we had to decide about my daughter’s coveted horse camp. Every year, she attends a day camp through the Y at Feelgood Farms. We couldn’t be that cruel.
For that, we took a gamble.
And for one week, she went to that, and Louis got to see other kids again, too. He brought home cute summer pictures, on construction paper and unique Pinterest-worthy projects like he always had from the ELC.
Our old routine of the kids being gone until 5pm until Ben picked them up, was back in effect. For one week, we lived the old normal.
But what about vacation?
Would we really go? A lot of people weren’t.
As is always true with friendships, you learn to not judge your friends’ actions sometimes and support them. You may disagree. But its your commonalities, values and love that keep you together.
But like life in normal times (aka, non-pandemic), again, you have to chart your own course. And this was our course— Ben and I— together. We chose to go.
So we knew that something like mini-golf at Chincoteague was out this year. For me, I had to really put things like eating out a couple times and sitting inside a restaurant out of my mind. It was allowed in August, but Ben and I still weren’t comfortable with it.
Before I could be authentic in telling the kids that vacation really was about simple pleasures: the beach, hanging out on our dock and crabbing, bicycling, and refuge drives, I needed to make peace with that fact myself. I had long talks about this focus and finding that peace before I could authentically sell it to them. My sponsor, therapist, and friends and I talked about how getting away from home, where we all lived, worked and played 7 days a week now was of paramount importance. Never had we needed the mental health break like we did now!
We introduced this mindset to the kids, to know that it was about simple pleasures. That’s pretty much our family philosophy anyway. And we went to the beach a lot. And played on a long dock that our duplex rental came with, doing light crabbing and relaxing.
We bought a bike rack and hauled our bikes. We are not traditionally an active family, but we are trying! It was novel, for sure. I loved it more than anyone else, and that is fine.
We had never crabbed, either. But our place provided a fully functioning crab trap. Just add chicken. And we did. By then of the week, all of us had gotten adept at throwing that baby into the creek! It was so peaceful to go out there on the dock and watch the tides.
Our place was called Our Sanctuary after all (always love the cute beach house names), and it was what we needed.