When my children were little, I knew the benefits of having a schedule: breakfast at 7, naps at noon, go outside, dinner at 6, two books at bedtime, lights out at 7. We rolled through our days with mundane predictability. I knew it was important for them but I also knew it was important for me. Little children can be exhausting: always wanting attention, always needing something. I should know! I had five of them under the age of ten once upon a time. I was a better mother when the day had a routine.
Children grow up and routines change. I think my youngest was six when I realized I would not always be able to take a catnap at noon, but I still knew routines were important even when they became teenagers instead of toddlers.
The digital world interrupted my plans: the kids grew older, they needed computers for schoolwork, they had smart phones that entertained them but never rang. So my routines became smaller but I knew deep down they were still important. I tried to model responsible digital behavior but it often sucked me in, too.
Then came Coronavirus. I still have one sixteen-year-old at home. She grew up digital. For the first months of the virus we hunkered down at home. She did all of her schoolwork online. I did all of my work for the Job Bank online. We spent hours upon hours with each other in front of our screens and when work was done we turned on the TV and binged show after show on Netflix. She spent hours texting. I spent hours scanning the news.
By the time summer arrived, we had both had enough. We left it all behind. We went outside. We gardened and walked. We kept the windows open and left the news to spin its gloomy predictions. Mostly, we were happy. Life was pretty simple. We learned to accept masks as a way of life. Learned, without even thinking, to leave lots of space between us and people.
Now fall is here. The weather is beautiful. Sadie is back at school a little. I am back at the office a little. But at night we need blankets if we leave the windows open. Time feels again like a ticking clock. I know how to live the new normal in the summer, but what will it be like when we finally have to close the windows and spend time with others inside?
Last night, I lay awake worrying. Then I realized that, since school started, I was naturally falling back into my old plan of routine. Sadie would go to school on Monday and Thursday. Tuesday we would get up early so we could walk before my zoom writing class and her online college lecture. Wednesday she would have online Zoom check-ins for school and I would schedule appointments and have office hours. Thursday nights we will sing with an online group and Friday we will get takeout. I feel better already and so does she. We are creating a routine for the two of us living a “new normal” winter in Vermont.