Following the pandemic shut-down, stores and businesses are returning to a kind of unfamiliar normal, but for our family, not much has changed.
There are still very long days where we try to jam in two adult full-time jobs and twin two-and-almost-a-half-year-old full-time parenting jobs. But while there is a hectic tone to some days, there is a decidedly slow undercurrent to it all. And our weekends, in particular, grind to a crawl. People on Monday morning video calls ask us, “What did you get up to on the weekend?” We reply, “Not much.”
Before the pandemic, weekends were busy. We visited family, and tried to take the twins out to places to see and do things. We shopped, and busied ourselves with errands and tasks. Now that we’ve settled into a life where almost everything we need is delivered to our doorstep, and there’s nowhere indoors to take toddlers, we’ve been discovering other more tranquil activities.
One of our favourite weekend haunts is a local park, nestled into a ravine with a shallow creek running through it. On a sunny day you might spot some duckies or some fish in the creek, and the shore offers sandy edges with rocks perfect for tossing. Leaves float by on the surface like tiny boats. The evergreen woods crawl alongside the creek with winding paths and tall trees, the way through peppered with hand-painted rocks for the twins to discover excitedly, pick up, then put down for the next lucky traveler to find. Across the creek is an airport where small aircraft take-off for hobby flights, and as they buzz by low overhead our twins vibrate with excitement, squealing “AIRPLANE!!” at each one.
It was on a long morning at this park that I really began to sink into the slowness of it all. When you slow down, and then kneel down to a child’s level, you see that some of the rocks…are pink, and some of the rocks…are black. You see that sand changes colour as the water touches it. You see that each airplane has ABCDs across the bottom, and they’re different colours too.
In many ways, our kids are missing the summer they would have had this year, if not for the pandemic. They haven’t gone down a slide at the park, or gone for a swim in their aunt’s pool. Their summer would have been much busier, from the hours spent at daycare with a larger group of kids, to the scheduled weekends where we would have jammed in multiple family visits. But I can’t help thinking this simpler, slower pace might be better for them.
Exploring local conservation areas and hiking trails, long slow walks holding hands after dinner, and hours spent in the yard, overcoming the fear of running through the sprinkler would hardly have been possible if things were “normal”. And it’s not just our family that’s changed.
Would we have stopped on a walk to talk to the neighbours, and their dog? Would the neighbours have learned about the twins’ “crocodile shoes”? Would families be having get-togethers on their front lawns, or proudly decorating their garages with hand-painted signs celebrating high-school graduations?
We are in a phase now where we are trying to make difficult decisions about how to socially re-emerge, if at all. The internal struggle I am having, (on top of the fear for our health of course) is how to maintain our slower pace, how to protect the quiet moments discussing leaves that are boats, and how to tune out the social and commercial pressure for more-more-more. Now that we’ve discovered this pace, the rat race is for the birds.