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I’m going to be stuck at home with three kids for two weeks because no one did anything

Thanks for nothing. After a spring of COVID lockdowns, closings, and distancing, we went back to doing nothing this summer, and now we are going to pay for it this winter. After hunkering down and going nowhere, doing basically nothing, and inventing countless hours of basement games, it looks like we’ll be doing it long into 2021, and even more, we will have nearly two full weeks with school closed before the end of the year. I love my kids, but spending two weeks stuck in our house wasn’t exactly the plan.

If I were forced to take two weeks at the holidays with my kids and could travel anywhere, I would be thrilled. In fact that’s basically what we do every year. Instead, the most traveling I’ll be doing is between the basement and the upstairs while we desperately try to find enough things to do to keep two 4 and a half year old balls of emotions and energy entertained. After four months of the initial COVID lockdown and however many weekends it’s been now, we’re already pretty far into our backlog of ideas. We ran out of paints months ago. All our Play Dough is already mixed together into a brown mess. The blocks and Lego have already been built, built again, and I’m out of ideas for any other kinds of tunnels, cities, or trains we can make.

Sometime around June, when the stay at home was no longer novel and we had opened all the toys we had stored, the days started feeling longer and longer. At least then we could go outside in the yard or driveway to play too. This December, we won’t even have those options. That was also the time we started to notice family fatigue with the boys acting up and getting into fights more, short fuses for ourselves, and regular outbursts. It wasn’t a fun time and when their school opened back up in July it was a life saver. We immediately saw behavior improvement in both the boys and they quickly resumed their love of learning. We tried Zoom class at home when they were running it, and they’ll do it again during the holiday break, but even that was a chore trying to keep them focused. I truly feel for the parents who have had to do months of home school or have had no backup child care this whole time. It was impossible for us both to work the first time around, and it will surely be the same in the winter.

I understand why our daycare decided to stay shut down between Christmas and New Year. It is nearly a certainty that at least one kid is going to travel somewhere to see family or vacation for Christmas and would come back immediately to school, potentially spreading COVID. This way, at least if people only travel for Christmas itself, they’ll be in a  semi-isolation for nearly two weeks after before heading back into school. Unfortunately, for anyone out and about longer over the break, which a longer break will probably encourage, they’ll still head back to school while still asymptomatic and contagious. Sadly there is no easy way to prevent this and at least the longer break may help.

That doesn’t make it any easier for us though. Instead of time off during the holidays to travel somewhere like we normally do, we’ll be cooped up in the house with very few options. In past years during staycations, we were at least able to go out ice skating, brewery hopping, or try out some restaurants nearby. We also took some excellent road trips in years past, namely up to New England and Canada to enjoy the winter weather. We obviously won’t be crossing the border this year, and with states on their own lockdowns, we’re not heading anywhere else anytime soon. So the only breweries and restaurants we’ll be enjoying are our basement and kitchen.

The reason we’re in this predicament is that we effectively did nothing all summer. Instead of strong usage of masks and staying locked down, everyone tried to maintain some semblance of their normal lives, extending the grip of the virus. While other countries had cases effectively down to zero, and even when things came back in Europe, they were able to quickly fight it back down, we pretended we could keep on living normal lives. Mask wearing even in New Jersey is often terrible. On my runs in the park, I see big groups all the time with no distance and no masks. Restaurants are still packed inside. Gyms are busy with patrons flinging sweat around. Even in stores, it’s often the employees I see with masks hanging below their noses and clustered around people. It’s everyone unwilling to make the small sacrifices of keeping a mask on when they are in a store or when they need to unlock their phone, or any of 100 other little things that is going to keep the virus going strong through next year. You can already see it in how people are counting on the vaccine to give us an immediate return to the old life.

So while millions are flying around the country and even more are driving around, we’ll be hunkered down in our house. Instead of dining out, I’ll be making more sourdough. Instead of enjoying a new craft brewery, I’ll be brewing in the basement. Instead of flying to a new country, I’ll be trying to entertain the boys with a new train track layout for the 100th time. Because even if no one else is trying, we’re going to keep playing our small part to limit the spread, flatten the curve, and try to get something like our regular lives back sooner. A vaccine may be a good plan b, but with a long time still to test and tons of challenges to distribute it, prevention has to be our best plan a. Without it, there’s a good chance we’ll have the boys home far more than just a couple of weeks.

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