It Takes a Village, but Mine is in Quarantine
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, sports coaches, store clerks and cashiers, are just some of the people who make up the village who support me in raising my children. But in the last year, my kids have not been in contact with most these people, and they are aching for it all to come back.
Since last spring, my little ones have felt the lack of family social interaction. They miss joking around with grandparents, playing board games with aunts and uncles, and climbing over their older cousins. Everyone of these interactions gave my kids an opportunity to learn about relationships without teaching them a lesson or doling out a consequence. It gave me a break, but more importantly, offered my children a different perspective, and a different set of behavior rules to adapt to with each person. They knew they couldn't talk with me the same way they spoke to their teenage cousin. (That's changed) They knew auntie would have a little extra time for a board game, or my son's godmother would have the patience to answer ALL the random questions during Sunday lunch. (So many questions). For the last year, my husband and I have had to fill in for each of these relationships for each of our kids, and we're exhausted. I am mom and teacher every day, but for the last year, I've been joker, race buddy, dancing partner, authoritarian, Google, and whatever else they need. I'm flattered they trust me to be it all, but something's got to give.
The banal event of taking one of them to the grocery store offered the opportunity to show them how to behave in public; running and screaming are actually frowned upon in the real world. A waiter's comments about how well behaved they are was helpful to show them that being polite is appreciated. Eating at a friend's house, served by someone other than me taught them to let go of picky eating habits and the importance of table manners.
I miss the village. Something as simple as an older person in line at the store looking and smiling at my kids, telling how nice it is they're helping mommy unload the shopping cart sometimes meant so much more coming from an outsider than it does from me. It makes it real, gives them confidence and pride to have someone other than me articulate what they're doing well.
I am so absolutely grateful to my kids' teachers, who, like me, are dealing with working with young people in a pandemic. They're persisting in showing and teaching them how to be good little humans. But there's something to be said about putting acceptable social etiquette into practice when we were able to walk around freely in public. I fear my kids have forgotten how to be outside of their classroom bubbles. It remains to be seen, when we walk away from all this, the sunlight blinding us, eyes and souls used to being cooped up, how our youth will adapt to our brave new world.
Things are looking up. Vaccines are here. Spring is here. Smiles, although hiding under our masks are seen through shining eyes and arched eyebrows, and I can't wait to have my village back. I know this will all be over soon, but it's hard to convince a five-year-old.