Spring and summer 2020, what an absolute dumpster fire, a complete failure of epic proportions. What is supposed to be a time of rebirth with flowers abloom and milestones to celebrate as communities reemerge from their homes after a long winter, has instead proven to be a one way ticket on the hot mess express with no return trip currently scheduled. Welcome to our pandemic summer!
Our country, and the world, has been grappling with COVID-19 for what feels like 2,763 days and there is really no end in sight. Even as we slowly phase back to some sort of normalcy, we are still a far cry from regaining all that is lost. It is hard not to be sad about it. Real danger lurks in the public spaces we used to once frequent. The prospect of contracting the virus and then spreading it to the ones we love keeps us home, and rightfully so. When our daily lives are consumed with the newest death toll, it is hard to see the enchantment of long summer days.
Thankfully, we have officially survived spring, in spite of the virus. And the term “survived” sadly has now has taken on an entirely new meaning in the face of this brutal pandemic. Summer is now in full swing, a time meant for family vacations, trips to the zoo, evenings at the pool, barbecues with friends, and movie theater trips on scorching afternoons.
But the year is 2020, so scratch all of that!
We must relearn how to be together and what makes the summer days and nights fun. In the face of adversity, we still must trek on for our kids’ sake and for our own sake. We have to give ourselves permission to keep on living, even if it must be in a different manner.
So what are we parents to do? Well, I’m declaring it a throwback summer. As someone who is sandwiched in age between Generation X and the Millennials (I believe they are calling us Xennials now?), I fondly remember the days of being kicked out of the house after breakfast and told not to return until the next meal was served.
As my brothers and I found tadpoles in the creek and tortured each other, I’m pretty sure my mom was inside watching All My Children and talking on our party line to her work friends. And you know what? I loved it. We ate junk, played outside all day, used our imaginations, and had no schedule to keep. It is a far cry from what our kids expect in today’s culture. And maybe it is what we all need right now. A throwback to at time when all we really had to worry about was making sure we turned on ABC’s TGIF special in time to see the newest episode of Boy Meets World.
The stress caused by COVID-19 will probably be felt for decades. We all deserve a slow, joyful summer. We must give ourselves permission to enjoy being alive, especially when the world has shown us just how fragile it all can be. I am imploring us to construct an agenda reminiscent of our own childhood when things seemed simpler. It might be exactly what the doctor ordered!
First item on the docket: “Alexa, order me an extra long hose, a slip-n-slide, a pair of roller blades, some walkie-talkies, and a pogo stick.” I plan on tossing the kids a family size box of Fruit Loops as their snack and letting them come up with fun new ways to injure themselves in the backyard given only those items. It’s like a game of Food Network’s Chopped, Amazon toy edition. “Hey kids, here’s a hose and some water balloons. Now have fun and don’t ask for a snack!”
Second, in case your kids do get hungry, forget the carefully curated picnic lunches. I’m buying Kraft Mac & Cheese in bulk and enough red Kool-Aid to hydrate an army. I’m not talking about the Whole Foods kind, which disguises beet juice as fruit punch. We all know the difference, and it’s fooling a total of zero people. I’m purchasing the kind which requires two full cups of white sugar and stains the plastic jug and wooden spoon you use to stir. Spring was spent making and cleaning up one million meals for our families, and I am quite frankly, done. I’ll throw some cherry and grape Fla-Vor-Ice popsicles in as a side of fruit.
Want to communicate with friends? Get out the sharpened pencil and paper; it’s time for a game of M.A.S.H. Little Mia down the street can yell her answers from a safe social distance. In fact, now might also be a great time to resurrect the landline! Not much is more exhilarating than wondering who might be on the other end of that ring.
Once we are fully baked from the sun, and have worn a hole in the slip-n-slide, we can hop in the car with no real destination in mind. The windows should always be rolled down as to feel the evening breeze, while “Shoop” by Salt n Pepa blares on the speakers. Kids are about to get a real education now. We can finish off the ride with a dipped cone from Dairy Queen, with just enough time to introduce them to the one and only Mariah Carey and a sweet rendition by their mom of “Dreamlover.” To finish out the summer nights, we can choose between watching Now and Then or The Sandlot while a Totino’s pizza crisps in the oven.
In all sincerity, making light of all the gloom we parents have felt for the last several months is perhaps all we can do to keep forging ahead. Seeking joy amongst this pile of hot garbage known as the first half of 2020 will not take away from the serious issues we are continuing to face. Maybe this pandemic summer will remind us happy moments can be found even in the darkest of times. Resurrecting memories from our childhoods and passing them off to our kids could be what we all need. Because really, is there anything that brings you more delight than fully embarrassing your children as you bust out the dance moves and lyrics of “Ice, Ice Baby”? Ugh, as if!!! The answer is no. There is no greater joy.
Regulators, mount up! Let’s do this.