Life in the Bubble

My daughter turned to me just before bedtime the other night and said – “This summer is actually pretty great.” And you know what? She’s right.

I had a lot of anxiety going into the summer. We were so tired from the long weeks of crisis schooling. Everyone was burned out, stressed out, and grieving all the things we weren’t going to get to do this summer. The thought of spending another three months cooped up together with nothing to do had me more than a little bit concerned.

But it turns out that it’s possible to find a new normal inside our little pandemic bubble. Once the crushing weight of involuntary homeschooling lifted, our small world got quite a bit brighter, despite the chaos swirling around beyond the borders of the bubble.

I found a fantastic babysitter to watch the kids during the day, while I continue to work remotely. She is friendly and competent and my children adore her. They spend their days biking to and from the park, romping through the sprinkler, watching movies, and eating popsicles. I know that many kids are struggling with loneliness and isolation but our neighborhood is full of kids. We’ve instituted some basic rules – no going in houses, no hugging, no sharing food, etc. – but allow them to ride bikes and hang out in the yard together. They spend hours outside every day and come home tired and sweaty and smelling of sunscreen.

I don’t miss my kids’ extracurricular activities – and I don’t think they do, either. They miss seeing specific friends, but I don’t hear anyone clamoring to return to the frenetic schedule of evening practices and lessons. Eating dinner on the porch is far preferable to wolfing down fries in the car, en route from one engagement to the next. We have time to walk the dog together or play a hand of cards before bath time.

It should also be noted that there are a lot of baked goods in the bubble. When you’re looking for moments to celebrate – to counteract a steady diet of bad news and disappointment – it’s easy to justify daily production of cookies, cobblers, and rice krispie treats. Thankfully, the kids burn off the sugar with all the outdoor play time.

When we look back, I truly believe we will see beauty in this weird COVID summer.

Sadly, the outside world refuses to stay entirely at bay. As conversations about the start of school ramp up, I can feel the walls of my bubble trembling under the weight.

It’s not safe to send the kids back to school. I honestly don’t believe that is an arguable point. The pandemic is raging more fiercely now than it was in March when we shut everything down, and there is no scenario where in-person schooling is a genuinely good idea.

But.

I also completely understand that staying in the bubble indefinitely isn’t feasible. The economic and social cost is unsustainable. We’re considering opting for virtual schooling this year, but haven’t committed one way or the other. There are so many questions and factors. My rising middle schooler desperately wants to go to school. She’s ready for new adventures and experiences. My younger two have expressed an eager willingness to remain home forever, but may have misunderstood exactly what is involved with virtual schooling. I believe they are picturing an endless summer vacation. Bless their hearts.

How do I ensure that my children grow – academically, socially, emotionally – while also keeping them safe? How do I justify demanding a return to normalcy when in-person schooling endangers so many teachers and staff? Do the potential health risks of going to school outweigh the inconveniences of trying to learn online?

How will I convince my children that, not only do they have to wear masks to school, they also have to wear pants? (We may be going a wee bit feral this summer.)

There are no easy answers. While I gather information and debate the pros and cons, I’m trying to keep the bubble intact for the kids as much as possible. No matter what we decide for the school year, we still have another month to swim in the lake, sleep in the hammock on the porch, and bake a few more batches of brownies.

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