The Prime Time of Your Life
Well, I can’t not remark upon this year. There won’t be any shortage of commentary in the years to come but 2020 was different for everyone even though the pandemic happened to all of us. So, for for posterity’s sake, this is what it was like for me.
For a while at the start of the year, we were hearing about the coronavirus situation in Asia and Europe and soon it was starting to look like this was not going to be just another SARS or swine flu for Canada. On March 12th I took the kids to the library and that was the last time I’d take them to a public place other than a grocery store for a good long while.
The next day, when Tom’s job began a work from home order, we were surprised and thought it was a huge overreaction but were happy to roll with it while it lasted. Working from home has been Tom’s dream for years! He normally rode the bus downtown so he essentially got two extra hours added to each day. We changed our morning routine to me getting up with the kids (~5am or earlier) and Tom taking over from 7 to 8 while I snatched a little sleep top-up. Knowing that hour was coming made all the early mornings so manageable for me.
“When you find out your normal daily lifestyle is called “quarantine.”
I’m in a quieter life-stage these days, even in normal times. When things started to disappear from the public’s leisure options— international travel, bars, sit-down restaurants, gyms, movie theatres— I had a bit of a dark chuckle and thought, “well, a few years of being a mom has already weaned me off of those things.” I think I’ve seen one movie in theatres since Adam was born.
But not being able to socialize in person was a heavy blow. We stopped our “moms drop-in”. The Time for Ladies brunch was cancelled and everything started to be online only through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and livestream. I got “zoom-fatigue” very quickly because of how impossible video calls are if you have young kids in the room. Some platforms mute the other speaker if there’s noise on your end, and kids need to be making noise devoid of information at all times or else they begin to question their own existence (my theory). So having even a basic conversation is more frustrating than fulfilling.
Winter dragged on and on, but eventually it was warm enough to park our vehicles in a circle in the Hope City parking lot and chat with my TFL friends. I also did a couple parking lot or driveway meet-ups with Kate, Kayla, Cheryl & Shelley. Articles started surfacing that these types of meets were still technically in violation of “social distancing” and I thought that was super stupid. It made me think swear words to the writers of those articles.
Schools were closed. The thought of that was very strange to me. But even worse, community playgrounds were closed. There were signs and caution tape all over them. I didn’t think it would be possible to close playgrounds but there we were.
To pass the weekends and evenings when Tom wasn’t working, we went on long drives around the city. There’s still so much of it that isn’t at all familiar to me and it almost did feel like traveling. Sometimes we’d see a restaurant and say, we’ll go there when everything’s open again. But actually we never did.
With plenty of spare time in the evenings, starting mid-April I decided to convert part of our gravel driveway and a space inside the gate, into a garden. The pebbles gave way to clay and sand a few inches below the surface, and I spend many evenings just sifting rocks, washing them and relocating the clay until I eventually had replaced it all with soil and mulch. This month-long project could have been completed in a few hours with the right machinery. But I had nothing but time anyways, and working outside in the silence converting something ugly into something beautiful was good for my soul.
My friends mentioned sometimes about how their children Adam’s age were missing people a lot and feeling lonely, but I never got the impression from Adam. In fact even now, if you asked him if this has been a strange year I don’t think he’d mention all the closures and masks. He’s really taken it all in stride. But he is an introvert and loves being home, so I’m sure that’s part of it.
By the end of May, things were starting to open again and I got haircuts for the very scruffy boys (Owen’s first!) Once the horrible caution tape was removed from playgrounds near the end of May, life felt nearly normal. Or, as normal as it reasonably is when you have a one-year-old. (Our garbage can is often up on the counter or else a variety of kitchen gadgets wind up in there; all our chairs are on their sides or else young sir will stand on them and rock forwards, laughing maniacally. And pandemic or no, I’m not stepping onto a plane with someone who likes to scream for fun.)
I felt like the age of my kids zippered up with the global situation to make things both easier at times, and more frustrating at others. I mean, when you have young kids, you feel isolated and trapped plenty of the time anyway, so heck, we might as well have a pandemic right now as far as I’m concerned. Even meeting friends at playgrounds, I can exhale a few frenzied sentences before I must leave to chase Owen and redirect him from his much-desired close encounters with moving vehicles in the parking lot or vaulting up a play structure and scruffing him before he walks clean off a seven-foot drop. Children really let you have nothing for yourself at this age unless you hand them off and leave, and that was off the table for parts of this year.
On the positive side though, online church has made it possible for me to “attend” more services this year than I have in the previous three years combined— when it used to be a choice between trying to make Owen nap in the church nursery (multiple times tried, never successful) or leave him screamy and overtired in the hands of volunteers (I never could bear it and usually stayed with him)— now we could put him down at home and “watch church”. Even in the time between lockdowns when we could have gone in person, the Owen-nap situation made online so manageable. So, that aspect I feel has been made, maybe not better, but easier, by the pandemic.
Adam got really into drawing in the spring and it has been one of our primary joys to see his work. We had been looking forward to this stage for so long! It was a bright patch in an uncertain time.
We had Tom’s family over for an outdoor party when Owen turned one in June. It was the first time seeing so many people (ten people!!!) at once for a long time and was like a sigh of relief. My parents came down on a different day and it worked well since the kids weren’t distracted by everything else, they could spend some quality time.
Overall the summer felt normal. We had to wear masks in stores but even that was starting to feel like less of a weirdness. I doubt I would have gone to big festivals and concerts anyways.
Adam started preschool in September and we had no apprehension over it. It’s a small class and I was happy that the kids and the teachers don’t have to wear masks. Just the parents at drop-off and pick-up.
“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”Frodo & Gandalf
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
In March, I had a feeling of waiting. Waiting it out. Killing time and getting it over with so things can “go back to normal”, and wishing all of this had never happened. I don’t know about you, but for me this was a year of deep existential reflection. I kept thinking, I want this to be over so I can “get back” to my life. But what was “my life”? Social events? My friends? Obviously those are things that make life enjoyable and friends are a profound support. But with my children here with me, I ultimately had to admit that the lion’s share of my normal life’s mission right now could still be lived with no imposition whatsoever. I’m not saying that’s easy, and I consider myself lucky to even come to a conclusion like that, but mentally it has turned things around for me compared to March.
Now it’s December, we’re in another lockdown. But this time I have the feeling that this is only just beginning, and I’m not waiting anymore. Lots of the books I read this year were about times a lot harder than this and I think of them sometimes when I need some perspective. With a fresh year on the horizon, I will set goals with the restrictions of our time in mind and try to thrive within them.