What some family advocates have been preaching for years is getting put into practice--although not by choice. In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S. and the world, many parents must stay home by order of their employers and their governors. More important, virtually all American children are staying home as both public and private schools lock their doors and post lessons on line.
So families are forced to spend days together, at home. The insidious stress of "following the program," whether in our fast-paced school institutions or workplaces, is suspended.
With most amusements and activities closed, from ballet lessons to soccer practice, families are finding new ways to entertain themselves and to play. As restaurants close their dining rooms, parents dust off pots and pans and cookie sheets and make more of their own food.
A few days ago I heard about a recent study (sorry, I failed to write down the source) that found--imagine!--that a vast majority of children surveyed enjoyed being home. This has always been true for children, especially the young ones. But it has gotten buried by parents' need or desire to hold down jobs and enrich their children with sports, music, and a host of other scheduled activities.
Consider the relief of the child who, with his preschool closed and his mother working from home, wakes up in the morning to see the sun up, rather than the predawn darkness of the early hour when he is usually woken up to get started. Now he can get up and eat his breakfast slowly, decide on his clothes for the day, change his mind and redress himself, talk to each of his stuffed monkeys in turn and arrange them by size on his bookshelf. Later on his mother makes lunch and, to his wonderment, she sits down and eats with him.
Consider the relief of the middle school student when she realizes that she can wear the outfit that the mean girls made fun of--they won't see her at home. She can do her lessons in her own time and not rush from class to class, trying to work in a few minutes to slip into the girls' restroom when she can't put it off any longer. And she can ask her father for help with geometry because he is home a lot more now.
Indeed, families are finding that there is time to sleep in a little, time to teach children how to make a bed, and time for them to do it each morning. There is time to all go for a bike ride, learn to set the table, look at old family pictures, and read stories.
With all the damage this vicious virus is wreaking upon our country, upon many families, let us learn what it might teach us from our new circumstances. Let's keep our eyes and our minds open to lessons we can take forward when the virus falls behind.