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Turning quarantine into quality time

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

This morning as we were laying around in bed, Levi pulled the covers over our heads to make a tent. He wanted to tell stories. The premise was, “What did you dream about last night?”

We were both making stuff up, but I didn’t really care. I loved just being able to stare at his face up close, to take in those big blue eyes, so round and wide set they’re almost cartoonish, his mouth full of those funny looking baby teeth with spaces between them, all jagged and pointy. I love the way he scrunches up his nose when he laughs. I didn’t even bother to try to stop him from saying “poop” because he thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world and hearing him laugh is all I need right now.

When it hit me that I was staring down the barrel of weeks on end without child care, I thought I should organize some kind of schedule for us both. I reached out to his preschool to ask about educational play. I perused Pintrest for arts and crafts projects and talked to friends for suggestions.

“There’s a bad sickness going around, so your school is closed for a little while,” I told him. “Instead, we’re going to have Mommy and Levi school at home.”

“I don’t want school at home,” he said, without skipping a beat.

“Why not?” I asked, trying to suppress a reaction.

“Because there are no other kids.”

It never ceases to amaze me; the honest lens through which kids see the world. Their reality is so much simpler than ours. That was when I realized I’d be learning a lot from him over these next few weeks, too.

If you are anything like me, you’ve been paranoid for days. Your throat feels raw. Your chest feels tight. You feel your forehead to see if it’s hot, then remember you’re not supposed to touch your face. So then you have to take your temperature again, just to be sure. You ingest 50 times the recommended dosage of vitamin C and zinc. You go back to the supermarket 10 times to buy things you probably won’t need, even though you’re pissed off at people who are hoarding and the supermarket is probably the worst place to be right now. Instead of buying your normal grocery list of fresh produce and organic meat, you scrounge for the last scraps of dry goods and fill your cupboards with precisely those things you normally try to eliminate from your diet.

Fear makes people do crazy things (don’t get me started on the whole toilet paper thing). But before I go too deep back into Negativity Land, let’s talk about ways we can put a positive spin on this, especially since it’s our new reality and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

After two days of Levi and Mommy Adventure School, it became quickly apparent that a schedule wouldn’t do us much good. This time is about freedom, not structure. That’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

There are other positives to this otherwise scary time in our lives.

A friend of my once said, “What’s good for your dog is good for you.” I’ll tell you this: your dogs are loving this program. They get to be with you all day! They get to go on long walks every day, sometimes twice a day! They get to be with their people, and that’s all that matters to them.

I know the prospect of not having child care is tough. But how many times have I heard someone say, “It goes by so fast; before you know it, they’re all grown up”? This time together is a rare opportunity, even a gift. We get to spend this time with our kids, our families, our loved ones, our closest friends and neighbors (I’m not encouraging social gatherings, just thinking about single kids in Aspen who are here to party and ski). This is uninterrupted time. This is quality time. Time for long walks outside, for lazy mornings in bed hiding under the covers, and talking about your dreams. Time to really study the face of your child, to notice a new freckle or a scratch. Time to prepare meals, to sit together at the table and to do projects.

I hear people say it’s hard to manage unstructured time with kids. How about this instead: Embrace it. What other time in your life can you wake up when you want, without having to rush off to school, work, activities, or to run errands? Our lives are so busy, we hardly have time to really talk to each other. Why send a text when a phone call could kill so much more time! See what I mean?

I realize these are trying times for people who are out of work but on the flip side, think of how much money you’re not spending by not going out, boozing, shopping or spending obscene chunks of change on your own self-care? I’m saving a lot more than I’m not earning. Plus, that’s what credit cards are for.

This is a time for the things that matter most. I know it’s uncomfortable, but try to relish it any way you can. Go outside at least once a day; fresh air and vitamin D are the best medicine you can get, empty shelves be damned. Lay in bed as long as you want. Cuddle your kids and pets. Tackle some of those long-neglected projects. Read. Meditate. Roll out your yoga mat.

Don’t worry about what to wear. Don’t worry about shaving or plucking or doing your hair. Leave your makeup in the drawer. Let your hair go wild. Sleep in. Bake bread. Do your taxes. Finish one thing you’ve been putting off.

The best news? You don’t need toilet paper for any of that.

The Princess has probably overdosed on vitamin C. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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