My girls often reference friends of theirs that live elsewhere. “So and so is doing this…” we’ll ask who that is, and they say “oh he lives in Washington.” Or “she’s my friend from Maryland.” Their networks are large and expansive – carefully cultivated digitally. Their worlds are made up of TikTok, SnapChat, and Instagram communities that far outnumber anything my husband or I will likely ever have.
My husband and I have lots of friends in real life. My husband is an avid SnapChatter and Twitter follower but that’s the extent of his online world – aside from LinkedIn. I love Instagram, LinkedIn for work, but hate Facebook and rarely read Twitter (because it makes me furious). I only go to SnapChat if someone has sent me a message. What I’m saying is – we don’t really live our lives digitally. It’s not our gig.
So when the world gets tipped upside down, schools are closed, gyms are closed, restaurants are closed, we’re told to stay home, our businesses are trying to figure out how to survive, and we’re supposed to social distance, you’d assume that the girls would continue to thrive in their digital worlds and we’d be turning to things like art – whether it be writing, reading, pottery (my husband), etc.
But it hasn’t turned out that way.
I haven’t seen my girls on the ACTUAL phone, or Facetiming this much, ever in my lifetime. They are connecting digitally, technically, but face to face more than ever. They are baking – cookies, cakes, cupcakes. They are painting, and painting, and painting (if Target runs out of canvasses we are legit screwed). They are creating in-home nail salons. They are asking to play games like Clue, Blokus, and more.
My husband and I, and most other adults I know, are kind of losing our sh-t. We do not know what to do with ourselves. How do we stay active when it’s cold and windy? How do we connect with people outside of our own family? How do we even look forward when there is so much uncertainty and ambiguity about what comes next? How do we do this???
My husband looked at me on Saturday and said “it is only nine o’clock. What are we supposed to do? Go to bed early every night?”
We’re not a family that stays home, sits still, or ever has hours on end with no plan or no place to be. That isn’t a thing for us. When we do have a rare opportunity to be home with no agenda or plan, we bask in it. When it’s mandated it feels confining, oppressive, and heavy. And while the girls have gotten off of their phones and gone analogue, I find myself checking Instagram every eight minutes wondering why there isn’t more new content? Why aren’t my fave celebrities posting more? Seriously, how can only three new things be up since the last time I checked? And what other dog accounts can I follow? And, please God, is it time for @DNice’s daily Instagram live party yet (if you haven’t checked this out I can’t even express what you’re missing)?
Why is it that the ones who are so accustomed, skilled, and knowledgeable about living virtually are not doing so? And those of us who are always wishing our kids would, oh I don’t know, go outside, read a book, and create art, are in the fetal position in the corner clutching our phones, laptops, and upgrading our Zoom accounts?
I mean, it’s weird. Right?
Our kids were born after 9/11. They’ve seen school shooting after school shooting and lock downs are a part of their every day realities. They know the earth is in trouble. They saw Trump get elected. They’ve seen all of these things happen and they’ve seen a country of adults unable to do anything about any of it.
Many of us adults, see all the crazy in the world, and are still able to be shocked. We didn’t grow up this way, we didn’t grow up with all of this crazy, and all of this noise. So it still has the ability to floor us. Even though the past 20 years have seen a lot of crazy.
Maybe our kids are more resilient to the chaos while we cling to an idea of normal, and a sense or order, that might not exist anymore. So when something really crazy hits, like say, a pandemic, the kids are like “yep…here comes another thing our parents can’t explain…” And the adults look at each other, wide eyed, wondering what the f-ck just happened.
Even though we’re in the midst of this unprecedented time with no real idea of how it will end, our family had the loveliest of weekends. It all felt slower, more intentional, gentler, and true. Aside from the jokes we’re throwing around about NOTHING TO DO, and my husband saying “YOU WANTED ME HOME MORE,” we found ourselves in our tiny home huddling around the latest painting, nibbling on the latest baked goods, binging FBI, Jack Ryan, and SWAT (serious question from our family to yours…why does Hondo have to wear the fingerless gloves all of the time???), and trying to convince our dog that the world is not coming to an end (he hit a wall yesterday – we had to reassure him).
At the end of the day, none of us were truly made for this kind of thing, right? In one way or another, this is cramping all of our style (understatement of the year). But the kids are handling it, and we grown ups are playing catch-up. It may be time to follow their lead. Maybe checking Instagram every few minutes is not the answer? Maybe we need to give ourselves a taste of our own medicine and nudge ourselves to go outside, open a book, or create. I won’t go so far as to suggest we also start baking because my a-s and thighs have had enough baked goods in the past week thank you very much. But maybe we need to spend less time wondering what just happened, and being scared about what this all means, and take a step back and follow the leads of our kids. Turns out, our fears about them not having proper imaginations due to technology were unfounded. They really can be in the world for real. We just have to find our own ways to join them.
I’ll get right on that after tonight’s @DNice #ClubQuarantine is over.