Teaching and Learning about the Pandemic with your Children
By Bailey Smith
Introduction: Jeff Beedy
I asked my daughter Bailey, to share a story about teaching and learning lessons while engaged in life long sports such as hiking in the woods. What she ended up writing is a stand alone piece about life sports and bonding with your children during the pandemic.
Walking in the Woods
We had seen the news and heard the growing fears but it felt as though our lives had changed over night… We as parents thought “how do we protect our children in this time while also being honest with them about what our new lives might look like?” Our family loves the outdoors and our weekends often consist of hour upon hour outside in all of the beauty Maine has to offer. The first few days of quarantine looked like Pjs all day, family movie marathons, and lots of baking experiments, some amazing and some from which we may never recover. After those first few lazy days we tried to bring back a “routine” so our children had some sort of normal in their lives. In our routine we slotted a 1hr window in the morning to enjoy a walk in the woods, where we live there are hundreds of acres of wooded trails to explore. On one of our first walks, maybe day 5–7 but who really knows anymore, we set out with a backpack full of snacks that we would enjoy halfway through our walk at the picnic table located in the middle of the woods, we call it the “hide out”.
I love our walks in the woods because it allows my kids to be one with nature and see what beauty we have in our backyard, I also love it because this is when the questions flow…”why is this metal jug just out here in the middle of the woods momma?” I answer with a “how do you imagine it got here?” I love to watch the mind take off with exciting theories, this also leads to arguments because there is no possible way it could have arrived here by more than one reason, there is only ever one right answer in a youngsters mind. This makes me smile inside because their minds are running away with what could have possibly brought this jug here, and I love that they look to me for all the answers even though I have no idea about that jug. After these questions started flying on this walk my husband and I realized we should probably have a talk with our young minds about where these next few days, weeks, months might take us. I like to be as honest with my kids as much as possible and I have a wide age range, 6,8 &14, so the answers need to be fair and appropriate for all ages. My kids are amazingly resilient, thoughtful, and kind. We had just had our week long Disney vacation canceled due to the pandemic and while they were sad they didn’t get to go, they understood; I was so grateful for their ability to go with the flow during this difficult time. I was upset I didn’t get my vacation, I couldn’t even imagine how they felt, but those little loves didn’t let it keep them down. As we walked I posed a question to them “how have these last few days of quarantine felt for you guys?” After I explained what quarantine meant I was greeted by a few great responses, “it has been fun to hang out in Pjs all day!” “I have liked our movie marathons!” and “cooking new things has been fun!” Then my husband and I both shared what we have enjoyed most about these past few days “slowing down and enjoying family time”. I went on to say to them that I wasn’t sure how long this would last; they don’t get it when we don’t have the answers for everything. I told them that we would not be going “into town” anymore and there would be no more playdates or school for a while, I said that when one of us went to the store they couldn’t go with us anymore, each child thought about that for a moment asked a few questions about it “are my friends doing this too” “seriously no more school!?” and “how long are we going to have to do this?”. We talked about finding fun ways to fill our time together and we spun it in a way that yes, this is hard but lets look at this as a blessing that we get to spend some much needed down time together. In the coming days we started Spanish lessons, guitar lessons, made bath bombs, slime, cooked a lot, recorded songs together, watched more movies then I could even count, and of course took our daily “walk in the woods” together where in the days ahead we floated around many questions/complaints about this virus that was taking over our freedom. With that, the two littles were off ahead of the gang to check out a “knotty tree”, my teenager hung back and asked a few questions about what was really changing and how it affected him. We answer him as we would hope to be answered when we were a teenager wanting to know what is going on in life. After this talk we went on to explore the woods, letting this new information set in, we broke ice that had formed on gullies, we searched for animal footprints in the mud, and we ended up making it to the “hide out” for a much needed snack. The walk home was a quiet one with questions they knew the answers to but wanted to hear us say it “so I can’t see any of my friends?” “Can we still go to the ice cream place?” “is Margarita’s closed too?” We answered each question with honesty and compassion, these were the things they worried about and we wanted them to feel validated in their worries. As our days ran into weeks and months we always kept our kids in the loop, the News turned into the “Corona Channel” and we had worked out a pretty good “school” schedule for them to follow on the weekdays. While this has disrupted our life in more ways than one, we have gained nothing but understanding and gratefulness from this time at home. We start each meal together around the table saying grace, being grateful for our uninterrupted family time together,praying for those not with us and those affected by the virus. This is not to say it has been all roses and rainbows but in my house but I have never felt more proud of my family than I do during this time. We have managed to find what works for us and we have shown our weaknesses and asked for help from others when it is not working for us.
This time has brought us closer together and has made us human to our children because they see and respect that we are learning this new normal along side of them. We are all in this new crazy world together and I think that is a humbling experience for everyone to gain. Still on day 100000 we get questions “will we go back to school after summer?” “Do I still have a birthday in quarantine?” “Will I really not have a graduation?” With each question we answer with what we know and we ask them how that really makes them feel. As a team we will get through this, we will persevere and see this through until the end, we will come out stronger on the other side because of it. Kids are resilient, as long as we meet these new changes with openness and honesty we can make it through these times with kids who have a new understanding about change and the willingness to meet new challenges with an open mind and an open heart.