By Catherine Brown
When I see a newborn, my heart soars. I see the tiny fingers and fuzzy little head and am instantly transported to that time when I snuggled an infant every day and inhaled that distinct baby scent. I can still feel the imprint of each child’s tiny body lying on my chest as I rocked them to sleep.
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When I’m reflecting on the experience with more clarity, I can admit that I struggled during the newborn stage. Exhaustion brought me to tears more than once. My body didn’t feel like it belonged to me, and I had no free time to go out with friends or read a book or even take a shower.
But, when I see a newborn, do I remember that? Nope.
I remember all the good stuff.
That’s how I feel about the Lockdown Summer of 2020. Last June, when virtual school ended, I felt both relief and intense panic. Let’s be honest; that first go at virtual school was a bit of a disaster, and I was thrilled for it to end.
But I had no idea what a quarantined summer would look like.
What were we going to do all day long every day when we weren’t sure whether it was safe to leave the house? How would I keep my kids off screens when it felt like there was literally nothing else to do? Would we all despise each other by the time lockdown was over?
Surprisingly, we got through Summer 2020 while still tolerating one another, and we did find things to do. We played volleyball in the backyard, went for evening walks, played a version of Capture the Flag that involved climbing a puny, unsuspecting dogwood, binged Shark Week and Survivor episodes and played some board games.
That’s what I remember anyway: the bonding times, the “we’re one big, happy family” moments when we all got along and enjoyed each other’s company.
COVID-19 has devastated people across the world. It has led to lost lives and livelihoods and a mental health crisis.
Because I have not faced direct loss as so many others have, I can focus on the pandemic’s silver lining—the opportunity to spend all day, every single day with my kids. When things are “normal,” time seems to accelerate when kids enter high school. The pandemic gave us the gift of slowing down time and prolonging the girls’ childhoods.
That’s why, as Summer 2021 kicks off, I feel nostalgic for those hot quarantine days.
This weird hybrid school year has ended, and we’re already running in all different directions. My 16-year-old is driving and working her first job. Both she and my 14-year-old daughter are busy training for high school sports. My 14-year-old is babysitting and going with friends to the pool.
In some ways, it’s wonderful. It feels like normal life again.
But, in some ways, I feel melancholic.
I’ve always found change and transitions to be challenging, and, just as I struggled to conceive of how we would get through the Lockdown Summer, now I’m struggling to adapt to our post-vaccination return to busy lives.
I feel a sense of longing for those slow-paced 2020 summer days. Sure, my kids may have logged too much screen time, and we may have gotten tired of each other, but we got to be together more than I could have expected during their teen years, when it’s developmentally appropriate for kids to want to socialize with friends as much as possible.
During the Lockdown Summer, I knew where my teens were every moment of every day: at home with us.
I’m happy for my kids to resume some normalcy, but I miss knowing they were always under our roof, and I miss working together to confront the challenge of finding ways to pass the time and keep ourselves entertained.
While summer 2021 is drastically different from summer 2020, I hope we will be able to engage in some of the family activities that made the quarantine more fun, like having family party nights and going out for evening walks.
I hope we can take the lessons we learned from the pandemic and the bonds we formed during lockdown and make the most of the time we have together in the midst of jobs, sports, and teen hangouts. I hope we can soak up all the family moments we get to enjoy this summer and until my oldest graduates from high school in two short years.
As I try my best to enjoy the fleeting moments, I know that, just like I have forgotten the hours spent walking my colicky babies around the family room for hours on end, years from now I’ll likely forget the challenges of this particular phase of life.
I’ll forget the arguments about curfew, chores and summer assignments. I’ll forget the stress of watching my oldest pull out of the driveway and drive off to spend time with friends.
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Instead, I’ll remember the happiness we all feel from being able to live life outside of our homes again. I’ll remember only the blissful moments of this emerging-from-the-pandemic summer.