We live in uncertain times, with nearly everyone experiencing their first brush with a global pandemic. From social distancing to shelter in place, we are learning new phrases. We are learning to embrace takeout, use less toilet paper (because someone already bought out the local store’s inventory), and figure out how to be around our loved ones for 24 hours a day.
It’s hard to believe just two weeks ago Audrey was at college, I was traveling across the country, Robyn was busy managing her store. There are now six of us in one house, confined here for the foreseeable future. And somehow, we have to make this work. The nice thing is, I’ve worked from home for years during my time with Microsoft and my studio in Seattle. We’ve been doing online school for 8 years. We’ve always had smaller houses without a lot of extra space, but the six of us still enjoy being together. So maybe this new time of shelter at home isn’t much different from what we’ve always done!
So, after careful thought, here’s some ways we have adapted our old normal, helping us deal with the new normal we face–making sure we honor each other, enjoy each other, and still like each other when all is said and done.
- Give Each Other Grace. Our family is a little more accustomed to this constant togetherness. I worked from home for 3 years while my kids were already doing online school. When you’re around each other all the time, it’s easier to get bugged and annoyed by little things. When you give each other grace, you’re giving an extra helping of understanding, a little more patience, and a lot more room to be human. Don’t let the little things bug you if you can help it. Talk about what’s bothering you, and remember that everyone is in the same boat as you.
- Spread Out However You Can. Our family of six has lived in a house with only 3 bedrooms for 15 years, and we still love and enjoy being around each other. The secret is to figure out who gets to have privacy in a particular place at any given time. When we get up in the morning, I stay upstairs so Robyn can do her morning routine alone (if you haven’t figured out which people in the family are not morning people yet, you will now). Figure out who gets what room when. Discuss the plans for the television use, who gets to use the Xbox, where school will be done. Talk about it, plan for it, and spread out as much as you can as often as you can.
- Eat Meals Together. This may sound like a no-brainer, but meals are a great time to bring everyone together and get people out of their rooms. We eat lunch and dinner together now. We all eat at the same time and we all eat the same thing. (Nobody gets to choose their own food, because Robyn is brilliant and makes a meal plan two weeks’ ahead. She will share more about that in a later post.) We have always prioritized dinner together as often as possible, but now that we are all together, we are enjoying these meal times. We laugh, we get loud in conversation. Last night we did an impromptu version of the musical STOMP! on the dinner dishes when we were done. This is a great time for parents and kids to focus on what matters most: each other.
- Keep Doing Fun Things. Since moving to California, our biggest joy on days off together was to head to Disneyland. Now that we don’t have that option, we’ve been figuring out other things to do beside Netflix and Quarantine. We go for walks (because that’s still allowed), we sit outside on our patio in the sunshine and listen to our favorite Disney Parks music loops, the kids go on bike rides and we take turns walking the dog. Audrey has been baking with her brother and sister. We have scheduled games of Monopoly, played online party games, and yes, watched a few movies together. It’s easy for my family to get housebound because we are mostly introverted people anyway who love being isolated in our bedrooms. Planning for things to do ensures we get up, get out, and get together.
- Allow Room for Conversation About Your Fears. Ever since we were married, Robyn and I have tried to make honesty the bedrock of our marriage. When we’ve been secretive or untruthful, that’s when trouble begins. We have constantly told our kids, “Always tell the truth.” So in this time of togetherness, don’t forget to be honest. Don’t lie to your children and say you’re perfectly fine if you’re not. Kids know when a parent is lying. If you’re honest about your fears and worries, it gives them room to be honest, too. The key is talking about it. This doesn’t mean you unburden the worries you have as an adult on your 11 year old. But what you say sets the tone for your home. Give everyone freedom to talk, to share their concerns and worries. Then respond with honest, truthful, age-appropriate answers.
A week ago today, we were happily walking the grounds of the Disneyland Hotel. We never thought a week later that we’d be safer at home. But here we are. And whatever happens next, your family is the most important thing. So give each other grace. Spend time together–but make sure you give each other space. Enjoy whatever meal you can scrape together out of your pantry. Talk and more importantly listen to each other. When all is said and done, our families and loved ones are what matters most.
And who knows, it may help you discover you actually really like those people you love.