My 4-year-old came out of her room wearing a too-small shirt this morning. I was genuinely confused. Did she grow overnight? I was sure it fit just the other day. In fact, I remembered her wearing it to preschool . . . six months ago.
Oh. Right. This is 2020, a strange black hole where it feels like time has stopped, but it’s actually marching on as usual.
We aren’t marching on or carrying on or doing anything as usual, though.
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For a while, it felt like time really had stopped. Most people we knew, except essential workers, were practicing some form of quarantine. Anywhere lacking a drive-thru window was closed. We picked up grocery orders with missing items and learned to live slowly and cautiously. Schools shut their doors, and we moved one portion of our lives online and another portion offline.
We were all in survival mode, and we focused on getting through each day while striving for some sense of normalcy. My two daughters, who are four and six, were amazingly resilient through it all. Little by little, we returned some parts of our lives to what they were like before, even altered by masks and social distancing.
More than six months have passed in this odd limbo, but in some ways, it feels like one long week. This is why it’s so startling when I notice my girls have gotten taller.
It’s silly to admit, but I can’t really believe they’ve kept growing all this time when the world has seemed to stand still.
I marvel at their long limbs, their faces becoming more defined and less baby-round. They are maturing, despite the irregularities of their circumstances this year.
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I wonder: have I taught them enough? Have they learned enough, here with their father and me, away from school friends and teachers? I’m quite certain I haven’t taught them enough math skills. Neither girl is reading independently yet. I worry constantly that I’m squandering this time, but then I step back and see what they have learned that can’t be measured in a standardized test.
They’ve learned grace and patience—so much grace and patience. They know if I’m on the computer, they may have to wait a few minutes before I can help them with something. If I yell out, “Work call!” they know to tone it down until I’m done. They know that if we all really need it, we can drop everything for a cuddle break.
They’ve learned love and kindness. It takes a lot of both to live with the same few people day after day, and when you’re four and six, having just each other as playmates most of the time can be challenging. But I’m happy to see they’ve grown closer by practicing love and kindness toward each other. They play together, work side by side, and have taken to calling each other “Snugglebug,” which is as precious as it sounds.
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They’ve learned to swim, to play Uno, and to pay attention to the changing seasons more closely than I do, asking about the changing trees and watching baby birds grow.
All these things and more, life lessons and trivial information, they’ve taken in over the past few months.
I asked my 6-year-old if she’d missed school. She replied, “A little. But I have liked all of us being here together.” As we head into the fall, I’ll still worry if I am teaching them enough, but I’ll hold on to that. We’ll keep loving each other the best we can, and everything else will fall into place. We’ll do more math but also keep watching the trees. We’ll move out of survival mode and into a thriving rhythm, accepting that time really is passing, and we’ll do it all together.