family fun · Independence · Kids · parenting · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 31: Many hands make lighter work

Today I felt like the entire day was an exercise in living in the present. It was relatively calm (with the exception of K’s school work – that is never calm.) Nothing ambitious got done, but all the necessary things did.

Most shocking today was that R and N decided to do three loads of laundry, including the kitchen towels and their bed linens. R also decided that all of the kids’ rooms needed to be tidied up, and she did it. By herself.

Meanwhile, I swept up what looked like five pounds of matzah crumbs in the  kitchen and dining room. Have I mentioned that our kids (and we, but mostly the kids) have chewed through twelve pounds of Matzah? It’s only been five days! Some friends offered to give us some of their extra matzah, but I declined. It’s not so bad for the kids to understand that food doesn’t always magically get replenished when you scarf it all down right away. Besides, instead of matzah and butter (again), for lunch today they had avocados, raw veggies, roasted almonds, cheese, and oranges. We’re probably much better off this way.

Where was I?

Oh, right. So R and N were cleaning, and so was I. I’ve started listening to podcasts while I wash dishes. Not only does it make me feel like I’m doing something for myself, but it allows me to ignore whatever noise my kids are generating at the time.

This morning I got a call from my frustrated dad. He was trying (and failing) to set up a new wireless printer. Could I help? I asked him to email me the model name and number and I’d see what I could do. Ten minutes later we hopped on Zoom together, Dad shared his computer screen, and I did my best to offer advice and guidance. A month ago I wouldn’t have known how to help him; he would have had to wait until I made time to come over to his house and do it in person. It’s a silver lining, albeit a small one: I’ve become more technologically proficient since this shutdown began.

(And in case you’re wondering, we weren’t able to get the printer up and running today. But we’re closer than ever before!)

Did I tell you that yesterday nobody got any screen time unless it was for school work? Today I relaxed it a little bit: I let them do their touch-typing and play some strategy games; still forbidden was watching shows or videos, from Netflix to YouTube. When they got bored I directed them to the backyard, where they decided it was time to dig a second hole.

IMG_3142They impressed me with their technique: N drew the perimeter of the hole with the edging tool, then E loosened up the earth with her child-sized rake, and R shovelled out the dirt. I said something about how I love that they’re so happy playing outside, and I got schooled by N: “Eema, I’m not playing. This is work.” Serious play always is, isn’t it?

IMG_3146After a while, E wandered away from the dig and started playing by herself, hopping from log to stump and back again. She had such a look of elation on her face when she hoisted herself up onto a tall stump and balanced there. It struck me that the things my kids seem to like most about outdoor play is anything messy, physically difficult, or risky.

Later this afternoon my in-laws came for an appropriately-distanced visit: they stood on our driveway, and we stayed on the front porch (about 17 feet away from them.) It was a relief to talk to someone in person who I don’t already live with. And the whole time they were there, I felt very laid-back; I wasn’t thinking about other things I needed to do, or about how I’d rather spend my time. I just stood there in the moment. It was an unusual feeling, but a good one.

I also made time to sit down on the couch with E and read her two of our favourite children’s books — on in Hebrew and one in English. That’s not usually something I do. I want to, really, but there always seems to be something more urgent that has to be done. It was so nice to sit with her, reading and giggling without that niggling thought in the back of my brain about how unproductive I was being.

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Bedtime was interesting, only because R and N had washed everyone’s sheets but hadn’t yet put new ones on the beds. “Eema, can you help me put this duvet cover back on? Please?” they asked ever so nicely. I won’t lie to you: my initial reaction was “No! It wasn’t my idea to wash the sheets today and I hate putting duvet covers back on!” But I helped, especially after witnessing R’s inefficient method (crawling all the way into the duvet cover.)

Tonight was exciting in a way I could not have imagined six weeks ago: I got a pickup slot at Superstore that is less than a week away! I repeat: there were pickup slots available. Not one, not a couple, but many, many available spaces. I almost wept with joy. There were some tense moments after I pressed “confirm order” and the website spun its wheels (confirming? really? for ten minutes?) but I was rewarded with this in my inbox:

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Of course, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that today was a perfect day, or that I was completely content. There were a few hours this afternoon where I felt unmoored and a little desperate: Is this all there is? Is this all there’s going to be? I understand, truly I do, that I’m not waiting for real life to resume: this is real life. I just don’t really know how to live it like this for very long.

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