Life under shelter-in-place orders is something new for us all. It’s not a staycation, it’s not a break from real life, and it’s not a holiday.
But what is it?
It’s our new normal, for now.
During this new normal, families across the country spend far more time at home with one another than they have in years. Parents fortunate enough to have jobs that enable them to work from home set up virtual offices and videoconference all day. School age and high school kids do the something similar: they log in to their virtual learning portals, get their assignments, go to online classes, interact with teachers and peers via text, email, and videoconference.
Most people stay in their pajamas half the day, then change into sweats around lunchtime. Some take a different approach: they go through their complete morning routine, get dressed, and show up at their laptop ready for business, as if they’re on deck for an important presentation with a promising new client.
Kids and teens are all over the map. The young ones likely wear superhero costumes all day, while the teens may spend weeks in their favorite jeans and t-shirt. But don’t be surprised if the teens break out their Harry Potter wizard cloak they haven’t worn since third grade, and the young ones want to get dressed up like grownups and play at working.
The point here is that many families, for the first time in years, are getting reacquainted with something they may not have seen in years: the real personalities of the people they live with day in and day out.
Remember Me? We’re Related
Here are some things that happen when everyone is at home, for weeks on end, without going out too much and without visitors to add variety:
- A stay-at-home parent overhears their spouse on conference calls and thinks, “Hey, I remember that person. Pretty smart. Actually, a nice catch on my part.”
- A teenage daughter realizes her dad does, in fact, listen to the same streaming jazz station all day every day.
- A parent learns their middle-schooler is far more popular than they ever knew, based on the number of texts, FaceTimes, and phone calls they get all day every day.
- Kids used to spending their days at school realize they miss their teachers, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and their solo time hanging out in that special corner of the library.
- Parents hear their kids in virtual class and remember why they did not choose teaching as a profession.
- Kids see and hear their mom teach an online yoga class and think, “Wow, I never knew mom was so spiritual. Where’s all that mindfulness when I forget to clean up my room?”
And then there are the things no one ever wanted to know: how bad a teenager’s room smells when they’re in it for weeks at a time, the weird noises dad makes when he’s at his computer stressing over a work spreadsheet, and why on earth the neighbors don’t pull their blinds down when they’re in, shall we say, casual afternoon attire.
The True Personalities Emerge
As we mentioned above, the COVID-19 stay-at-home, lockdown, shelter-in-place, and social distancing situation is not a break, a vacation, a staycation, or anything to take lightly. It’s a serious response to a serious public health threat, and we’re all smart to follow the advice of medical professionals, especially those who specialize in epidemiology, immunology, and infectious disease. They advise us to stay at home, until further notice and practice social distancing when we do go out.
They do not advise that we stay serious the entire time we’re at home, though.
And that’s what we want to point out to you now: with all this time at home together, you get a chance to reacquaint yourself with your family members. Not the mask they wear in their daily lives – even at home – but the true, core people that you know well, but haven’t seen in a while. They’re the people who bring you joy with a smile, fill your heart full of love with their habits and quirks, and make you laugh out loud when they walk in the living room wearing that T-Rex Halloween costume from five years ago.
You get to reacquaint yourself with them and learn to appreciate them all over again. Inside of all this strangeness, newness, and uncertainty, we have one piece of advice which, if you follow, we’re sure will fill your soul with the good stuff:
Look for the belly laughs.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.