Our family appreciates coziness and downtime. I wrote about it a little bit here in a previous post. We love our home (in all its imperfection), and I think most of my gang would choose home over any other place. This was confirmed in a sweet little moment we had last Sunday.
I was in the kitchen with my nine-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son, making a very typical lunch of grilled cheese and soup. My daughter asked, “Mommy, what was your favorite age?” I named a few that I liked — 11, 17, 26, 30. She seemed satisfied with my quick descriptions of these important years in my life. Then her brother chimed in. He responded sincerely, “I liked 11 best because we got to do the quarantine.”
GOT to do the quarantine.
My boy wasn’t being cheeky. For him, the quarantine was fun! We played more games, watched more movies, and even bought a virtual reality headset for which he had pined for over a year. More importantly, the best thing that has happened to him in his young life was a nationwide quarantine that gave him permission to stay home and just be–to enjoy his room and his Legos, to stop having his mom nagging him to hurry all the time, to get his shoes, to find his jacket, and to go out to some place he didn’t really want to go or some activity he didn’t really want to do.
Maybe we can learn from a twelve year old’s perspective. Certainly, I understand the complexities of the shutdown more than my son does. I understand the losses that many people experienced–the loss of health, the loss of loved ones, the loss of “normal,” the loss of financial security. With those losses come many valid emotions of grief and fear. This is the reality, and it is on-going.
Despite the difficulty this pandemic has presented, I experienced an unprecedented stillness that allowed me to think. Why have I not valued my need (and clearly my child’s need) for downtime and solitude until the world gave me “permission” to do so? Why have I always scolded myself for not really wanting to hang out with friends or go out to dinner when home seemed so much more inviting? Why have I decided to ignore comfort for all the “shoulds”? Why did it take a PANDEMIC to make it okay for me to value downtime with my snuggly kiddos and recognize that as a real NEED in my life? Not just a preference, a need.
I have learned that our brains need periods of relative inactivity in order to form memories. Our brains can consume and consume and consume, but if we don’t sleep or have periods of “wakeful rest,” that information will not become part of our long-term memory (“Mental Down Time Affects Learning,” Psychology Today).
For me and probably others, the pandemic and its subsequent shut down, allowed a kind of hibernation that opened my eyes to the need for quiet. I live with five active children. Obviously, I don’t mean quiet like a hushed library. I mean a state of not being socially taxed, a time of not taking in every headline, Facebook post, and news broadcast at any and all hours of the day. Yes, I am an introvert, and that fact becomes more and more obvious as I grow older. But I believe the lesson I learned is bigger than just my enjoyment of occasional solitude. I am off balance if I consume but do not rest, and I am finally realizing that I need to deeply examine why I so easily set aside my needs when faced with probably imaginary pressures to be more social or more…something…
It is almost laughable that I needed a world-wide virus to show me that it is okay to speak up for my needs, and as I navigate a half-open world with the virus still doing its thing out there, I am getting more and more practice at standing up for what my family and I need. As of this publication, it still isn’t easy.