When I was a kid in the ’80s, we lived a very different life. We often left home on our bikes and didn’t return until the street lights came on, or when we could hear my father whistling for us to come back. Whichever came first. His whistle could carry for blocks, which was important because we were usually blocks away from home.
A group of us from the neighborhood would get on our bikes and meet up with other friends. We went everywhere—the corner store, the schoolyard, other people’s houses, or just rode around crossing major streets and intersections. Some of us were school friends, some were just friends from the neighborhood. It didn’t really matter how we knew each other—what mattered was that we had lives that our parents never really knew about.
There have been jokes that those of us from Generation X are handling the pandemic so well, in many ways because of this. There were aspects of our lives that we lived fully on our own.
As a child, I often spent the entire day at the country club by myself. Yes, I understand the optics of a country club, but the point is, when I was as young as 8 years old, I would spend the day away from home and my only real supervision came from the lifeguards on duty and one bartender who happened to be my cousin. It wasn’t until the monthly snack bar bill arrived at home that I was told that ordering 22 Nutty Buddy ice cream cones in one day was not a good thing to do. The point is, I have a lot of experience handling things on my own.
I turned out fine. I didn’t grow up having someone micromanaging my childhood and I turned out absolutely fine. I navigated life, the ups and downs—and learned.
I never thought my kids would have a similar life, but here we are.
I know being on lockdown isn’t all easy and fun. For me, though, on a personal level, it brings me back to my life in the ’80s—I’m doing my own thing and not exactly hating it. In many ways, growing up as a kid in the ’80s has totally prepared me for this and I’m grateful for it.
At the same time, I understand that this isn’t the ’80s and things are not the same. What we are going through poses tons of logistical challenges for working families. The financial uncertainty can be terrifying. I’m a teacher and yet sometimes I hate homeschooling my own children. (There, I said it.)
But each day I continually focus on the positive. Trying to see the good in every day. Finding gratitude in the simple things.
And honestly, under the circumstances, my entire day is made up of simple things, so there’s plenty to be thankful for.
After school is done around 11 a.m., my kids head outside and we don’t hear much from them. There’s a sign on my back door that reads:
Not so fast! Before you head out, did you:
Brush your teeth? Your father and I are not dentists!
Pick up your plates and cups? I’m not the housekeeper.
Turn off the TV? Turn off the lights? We don’t own stock in Louisiana Power and Light.
Be sure and close the door behind you. We don’t want to condition the air outside.
Lastly, be sure and drink plenty of water! But not out of the hose, of course.
I grew up with a lot of unstructured time, and turned out just fine. They will, too.
I was often left to entertain myself, and turned out just fine. They will, too.
Some days I watched a ton of television, and turned out just fine. They will, too.
I learned to navigate collaboration and negotiation among friends on my own, and tuned out just fine. They will, too.
I didn’t have my adults involved in every decision I made or micromanaging my life, and turned out just fine. They will, too.
I’m positive my kids are still learning. I’m positive they are creating in new ways that they wouldn’t have done before. I’m positive that the bottom of my son’s feet may be permanently discolored because he gets so incredibly dirty every day. I’m positive that my daughter is learning a new sense of independence and self-determination.
I’m positive that is exactly what their souls need right now.
I’m positive that the slower pace is good for my husband and me. I’m positive that our house will likely be completely renovated when this is all over. The collaboration and time spent outside is good for us.
I never thought our kids would be living their best life in a similar way I did when I was 10, but here we are.
Have fun out there, kids! The world is your oyster.
Make good decisions, be kind, have fun, and hydrate. I’ll see you at dinner.