A lot of people are struggling with social distancing while we deal with the global pandemic that has been caused by the infamous Covid-19, Coronavirus. As a parent of an only child I am trying to establish healthy habits for our family like all parents are.
As an artist who is also a parent, the way I foster creativity and joy in my daughters life is an extension of myself and of my own creative practice. My artistic projects often include her – more now than usual – and it seems important that I share this part of my studio practice in addition to my usual creative habits. I have decided to do a mini-series chronicling this journey with reflections, activities, and inspiration along the way.
In this first post I would like to discuss a little of where we are starting from as a family and the personal challenges we are individually facing at this time.
For starters, the idea of social distancing is not anything new for me. I now have a better and less socially awkward term for my every-day life-style as opposed to being called a “hermit” or “anti-social”.
As a result, I have personally found this transition less of a burden than most and rather enjoy having my child home more with me. Katie is now almost 7 1/2 and she is curious about everything and pretty delighted about endless hours with mom. However, I am starting to see a little of this glow fade as the weeks pass… Katie is an only child. The absence of sibling, friends, family, and other social interaction with her own peer group has not gone unnoticed by her.
Both of us are rather introverted but we each crave some social stimulation from time to time. My social anxieties typically limit and direct the way I pursue this itch, but for my enigmatic girl it is definitely different. She needs planned interactions and ways to engage with other kids and it is typically my job as her parent to provide this.
When her school closed she was only 1 day away from starting the spring soccer season – something she was looking forward to a great deal as both my husband and I were coaching her team of all girls. She was excited to meet her “new friends”. And, for the first time in a long time, she was making genuine connections with her friends at school. I was thrilled for my somewhat socially oblivious kiddo.
My husband has an “essential” job and thus he is away from home every day. The stability this provides during such a tough economic time only slightly compensates for the risks. It creates some what of a protective bubble around us in which most things are fairly the same as they always are.
Having been through hell and back the last couple of years, I am immensely thankful for this rare capacity to weather the current storm with as little upset to me and my child as possible. Although I have not written or shared much about it – Katie is adopted. My best friend died almost 2 years ago leaving Katie orphaned and without any other family able to care for her. My husband and I moved mountains to bring her home with us.
Going from “Aunt and Uncle” to “Mom and Dad” has certainly had its challenges over the last two years but we have made such a beautiful and loving life together as a family. As none of us have actually completely recovered from our journey to this point, I think the universe has graced us with a slight reprieve after everything we have been through together.
I have begun to recognize the reality that the world we will emerge into after the virus runs its course will be different than the one we knew before. How can I help my daughter, who has already been through so much earth-quaking change, deal with these new realities? Perhaps she will be more equipped to handle this than most seeing as most of her brief life experience has centered around the kind of loss and change most of us could never imagine. Time will tell.
As her parent I want to give her everything she needs and it will be hard to do this when social distancing makes it difficult to provide the interactions she requires to learn how to better communicate with others.
So, what can I do – as a parent of an only child – to keep my kid (and myself) from becoming too removed from others?
I have been endlessly inspired by heartwarming acts shared around the globe – people maintaining connections in new and creative ways. I know that there are ways to facilitate similar interactions for my kid and myself – I just have to think outside the box, as so many others are doing.
Because I am not very social myself, I do not have anything like a Facebook group of moms from my daughter’s school to reach out to. We have yet to make friends with any other parents. I stay to myself mostly and have not yet found my niche as a new mom yet. I do not like that this has the ability to impact Katie – especially in the current situation we are in. Although I would like to keep doing what I normally do, I know that this will not help her out.
So, I must keep trying.
I have not pushed anything resembling traditional homeschooling with Katie in the first weeks that she has been home with me. She is anxious about the changes. So am I. In these times of uncertainty I believe that it is best for both of us to nurture other needs as we acclimate to what will become our new normal for the foreseeable future.
We have been reading a lot of books together and she has been venturing into quiet spaces of personal reading more and more. She tears through 2nd and 3rd grade level chapter books at a pleasingly alarming rate.
We have taken a lot of walks and collected a lot of natural treasures. We look up and identify all manor of plants and rocks that we discover. We hoard dandelion blooms and make dandelion jelly, delighting in the honey-like taste of our efforts over pancakes, homemade biscuits, and toast each morning. We will collect more to make dye and bring new life to old stained clothes.
Katie has become interested in geology and so we have learned more about how the earth was formed and how the continents have changed over time. We look for fossils at the nearby river and discover layers of shale, chert, crystals, agate, and crinoids… lots of crinoids. We talk about the way scientists measure time of artifacts. We learn about how the Native Americans used crinoid fossils as beads and called them lucky stones.
Katie is learning a lot. But she is not learning the same things she would have in school. And that is okay.
I know that she will resume more traditional academic work with her teacher online soon – we will be getting packets at the end of next week and I am eager to see what they will provide.
For now, we will keep going with what we are already doing – nurturing our creativity and inspired curiosity and practicing kindness to one another and ourselves.
Stay inside. Socially distance yourself for the safety of others as well as yourselves. Wear masks like the CDC recommends. Be caring and kind to others. Give what you can where you can. Be accountable to yourself and your own needs as well as the needs of your community.
Be safe everyone.
Note: My crafting posts will continue and I will release various posts about opportunities for kids to learn organically from nature in addition to posts about my own studio practice and creative pursuits during this unique time we all share.