DISPATCHES FROM MY DINING ROOM (NO 7): Re-Entering the World – Maybe? (Day 743)

I didn’t think, when we started staying home to try to keep ourselves from getting COVID-19, that we would be just now, over 2 years later, beginning to contemplate a re-entry into society. Of course, for many others, the timing and the choices have been different. We have made the best decisions we could for our family, given our unique medical risks. On our doctors’ advice, we are just now starting to figure out what it looks like for us to interact with more people socially and consider having our kids participate in various activities. It has been two years since my kids have interacted with other kids in person. They were 9, 9, 6, and 5 years old when we started staying home. I expect that their re-entry into society is going to include a significant learning curve.

Of course, the same is true for me. This week, I took FangFang to physical therapy for the first time in over 2 years. I realized that morning that I would have to leave my house two times that day. I don’t remember the last time I did that.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I like staying home. Between homeschooling, parenting, grad school, work, and household management, I already feel like my life is pretty full – all from my house! I am an introvert. I love curling up with my heated blanket and a cup of tea and a good book. I’m not sure what my vision for our post-isolation life looks like.

Add to that the reality that my world has shifted significantly in the past few years. I am still me, the same person as always. But I have come out publicly – which has had a significant effect on how I am viewed by many people who were once in my closest social circles. I am over halfway through a graduate career that I had not started before the pandemic began, and I am beginning to investigate what it could look like for me to work in that field. My kids are older, and I am loving the people they are at these ages, but I feel the pressure of continuing to guide them and offer them opportunities to enrich their lives as they grow and the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how to do that.

It’s funny – I am comfortable in the blacks and whites, the definitive answers. So much of my growth as an adult has been learning to negotiate the grays, the ambiguities of which life actually consists. Pandemic life is often very black and white. Stay home. Get vaccinated. Wear masks. Now we’re stepping into another gray area – figuring out how to go back to living a more complex, more full but also more complicated, life. I’m not sure what that looks like or how to do it, but I hope to move forward into it well.

Dispatches from my Dining Room (No 6): Day 99: Activities Outside Our Home?

Obviously, as homeschoolers, the primary structure of our lives was already set up pretty well for staying home before the pandemic hit. However, my kids did lose all of their activities outside of our home – in addition to play dates with friends, we used to be part of a homeschool enrichment group, all four kids swam 2-3 times per week, the big kids and I usually rode horses a few times per month, and we attended other activities (art shows, concerts, museum shows, etc) as we could. We stopped all of that abruptly mid-March. That seemed like the wisest course of action – particularly for our family, with multiple vulnerable members.

It has been a long few months, though, without that social interaction, without the ability to swim (especially now that the summer weather has arrived!), without the ability to move our bodies in ways other than walking, running, and biking. Matt and I have been talking about whether there are ways we could give ourselves and our kids some opportunities to leave the house and have fun without seriously compromising our safety. We’ve been reading articles about how the coronavirus spreads and looking at rankings of activities in terms of their risk levels.

Where we’ve landed is that we need to maintain our separation from most of the activities in which we had previously engaged. It just isn’t safe to go hang around indoors with large numbers of people. It isn’t even safe to have sustained close proximity with others outdoors.

But the one activity that seemed much less risky than others was horseback riding. It’s basically an activity that requires social distancing – if you get closer than one horse-length away from another horse and rider, you’re putting your horse (and yourself!) in danger of getting kicked!

I talked to our trainer, who has put into place guidelines limiting numbers of people at the barn at any one time, which made us feel safer returning. She also has rules about social distancing – essentially, if you can’t tack up your own horse, you can’t come right now, because that would require having someone outside of your household super close to you as they helped you prepare to ride and take care of your horse after riding.

I returned to lessons a couple weeks ago – obviously taking care of my own horse and riding outdoors and staying distant from everyone else. I love having an activity that challenges me in a different way than my everyday life and that is purely fun.

And this week, I took the girls to ride, and we made sure to schedule their ride for a time when no one else would be in the barn. They aren’t self-sufficient, but having a mom who participates in the same activity as you and can help you catch and care for your horse has its advantages.

It was so nice to give them this opportunity to leave the house and get back to riding! This was only the third time since March that Miranda had even been in a car at all. And this was the only actual activity they have done in months (other drives included exciting missions such as “going to the hospital parking lot to change a flat tire” and “going to throw rocks in the river” and “taking recycling to the drop off sites” and “just going for a drive”). This was significantly more interesting 😉

They didn’t do a lesson or focus on building skills – this was all just about having a chance to ride and have fun.

Miranda was thrilled to be given the opportunity to help a pony who has a pretty low weight limit (and thus can’t be ridden by most of the adult and teenage riders who have been at the barn recently) get back into work.

MeiMei wasn’t sure she remembered horses being this large!

It took a bit of time for them to get used to being back in the saddle, but once they got going, they were back to trotting, weaving, and riding all around!

I’ve certainly enjoyed getting back into riding, and I’m glad the girls were able to go this week, too. In this world in which we almost entirely stay home, it’s nice to have one very low-risk activity we can do!