The last time you heard from me was the Day 6 recap – the completion of nearly one full week in quarantine. Coming to you a few days later, I can confidently say we’re doing well. We made it through the weekend and as I slammed into Monday morning, I found myself repeating my new mantra: “What day is it?”
This wasn’t the normal groggy Monday morning wake-up where you have to remind yourself that yes, you have to get up with your alarm. No, this was the “will the day be any different than it’s been for the last 10 days?” question.
Admittedly, if I wasn’t keeping a journal to mark days in quarantine and what life looked like for the family at home together, I probably wouldn’t even know what day of the week it is, never mind the number of days in quarantine.
So, in honor of my “what day is it?” mantra (because honestly the last few days have blurred together), I’m going to give you a high-level summary of how things went:
- We went for walks. Apparently, this was a big activity of choice for many in New England as we were given a few very nice, unseasonably warm days. I was outside in a t-shirt with the kids and was NOT cold. That never happens in March!
- We attempted organized activities. Some of them went well (like dot paints) and some of them did not (like a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood).
- We tried changing things up. Normally, I’m very strict about keeping toys in the playroom. That is the room designed for all the playthings, so I encourage my kids to keep the toys – especially the small ones or the millions-of-little-pieces things (i.e. Legos) in there. There’s a less likely chance of losing anything and I don’t need to worry about what the baby and/or pets will try to eat. But we changed it up this past weekend, at least a bit: I told the kids they could take some of those off-limits-outside-of-the-playroom-toys out. Some of it went well, other parts did not.
- Planned meals. I normally create a meal plan for the week to ensure that we aren’t wasting time figuring out what people want to eat and having about 100 different ideas and then no one eating what’s actually made. I was a bit too loose on this over the last week so I implemented the planning again. We saw significantly fewer refusals and the boys ate right away (instead of goofing off or slipping into a hangry spiral that got too far out of control).
- Potty training. Part of me is still not entirely sure adding this level of stress and frustration to the current situation made a ton of sense, but then again, we’re home and we have zero interruptions. Now makes sense. As of this writing, we’re on day 3 and the process has been… what you can expect. I swear, this is the part of parenting I was woefully unprepared for. The patience. The time it takes for this to really sink in. The anger from the independent and stubborn children when you tell them it’s time to go back to the potty to try again. The confusion when they don’t listen and stand up soaking wet…
My Top Lessons
- Make the little decisions – I know there’s a lot of guidance readily available about helping toddlers feel like they can make their own decisions and that by doing so it helps inspire and build independence. Let me tell you something: pick your battles. If you know letting them pick what they want for breakfast could result in a 30-minute discussion that eventually leads to a break down because they’re now starving, just make something for them and put it in front of them. They’ll eat it. Let them exercise those independence muscles elsewhere, like what to watch on TV or what shirt they want to wear.
- Pick your battles – Similar to the process of making little decisions to just make family things go more smoothly, sometimes, you just need to decide when it’s worth arguing about. My rule is that the playroom always needs to be cleaned up when we sit down to eat – whether it’s a snack or a meal. This is something I won’t budge on. Same with wearing shoes in the house; they come off when you walk in the door. But I’m picking my battles about other things, like changing their pajamas a few times before actually getting into bed or letting them eat their yogurt pouch while on the couch (*cringe*). Some things are just ok to turn the other cheek to. Sometimes.
- Be aware of you – I realized mid-disciplining moment that I went from 0 to 60 much faster than was necessary for that specific situation all because I was hungry. I was literally in the middle of reprimanding and my mind said to me, “dude, you’re hungry. This is so not the battle to pick.”Instant guilt and complete frustration with myself. I needed to just take a few minutes to take care of myself when all day it was about everyone else. I realized in that moment I hadn’t eaten anything since 11 a.m. – it was 5:45 p.m.
- Remember to appreciate the moments – Whether big or small, you’re bound to experience some pretty epic moments during this time. Don’t forget to stop and really experience it. For example, in the last 48 hours, my 5-month old started hugging, doing the baby kiss, sitting up nearly on his own and crawling (it’s the early stages of crawling, but he’s getting to where he wants to go pretty efficiently). These are big moments that could easily be overlooked by the stress and bustle associated with everyone being at home. But there have also been some amazing “little” moments too, like when my independent 2-year old told me he just “needed a quick hug” and my 3-year old hugged me after dinner saying, “I just love you so much.” Recognize the big and little moments and remember to appreciate each of them.
- Painter’s Tape – This can be used in so many ways for so many activities. Try putting it on some paper and let your kids paint around it. After the paint dries, slowly remove the tape to see the design or words they made. You can also put it on the floor and create a ladder, a game of hopscotch, “balance beams” or roads. We used it as a ladder at first, then I created numbers to allow for additional games, like number identification, small addition work, and using the squares to do color identification and matching (see image).
- Sidewalk Chalk – We haven’t used sidewalk chalk very much (there always seems to be an injury or the chalk becomes a weapon of some sort), but the boys were excited about something different outside. We set parameters to keep them in the safe part of the driveway (“don’t cross these lines”), which of course became a game and a required starting point for all artwork. I think a lot of people had a similar idea to do something intentional outside, especially after seeing the social engagement idea to write messages to neighbors on your driveway in sidewalk chalk.
- Run it Out – My kids love to run. They run in circles inside the house, they run up and down the hallway and they run forever when they’re outside. So we set up races: “run to the edge of the fence and back to me as fast as you can… go!” “Run to the shed and back to me as fast as you can… go!” It got some pent-up energy out while making it a game and adding a bit of competition.
- Mindful Practices – My 3-year old does some yoga poses at school and his teacher was kind enough to share those with the parents. So, we’ve been doing them together and teaching some to my 2-year old. Let me tell you: “take a yoga breath” has done WONDERS to stop an outburst in its tracks. Do the same for yourself. When you feel a meltdown coming – warranted or not – take a yoga breath. I like saying that much better than “count to 3.”
Share your ideas on what’s working and not working for you. Tell us how you are doing and what you are experiencing. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us. All of us are learning as we go and the more we share, the faster we learn.
Hang in there everyone. We’ve got this.
Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6