According to My Son I'm Failing at Quarantine
I didn't set out to be the world's best quarantiner, mainly because I think to be the "best" at something you have to have a clear understanding of the rules and parameters. And the 2020 quarantine doesn't have any of those.
Here's an example: At the beginning of the shelter-in-place order when they told us to stay at home, except to get exercise outside which was highly encouraged, I looked up every news article I could find about what we were supposed to be doing and called no less than three people and asked them if they knew if we were allowed to go hiking at a nearby state part. No one had a clear answer, so I told my kids,"Well, let's head over there. If the park is closed or if it looks like there are too many people, we'll just come home."
The park was open and only a handful of people were there. We did our part to social distance and hiked around a bit. Then the next morning I woke up to an email from my mom with a link to an article that specifically said not to do what we had just done.
So, I was out of the running for Quarantiner of the Year months ago.
But I've tried to do my part. On many occasions I have been the only "mean mom" in the group and have told my kids that they can't do certain things. I wear a mask when I'm at the store, not because I feel like it's 100% going to save my life but because I DO think it makes others around me more comfortable. And I'm okay with that. I haven't gotten together with friends and my days consist of working, cooking, and taking walks around my neighborhood.
And wine. Lots and lots of wine.
I will admit that I was a little more relaxed with my kids. I have three teenagers - 14, 16, and 18. My 16-year-old son loves riding his bike, so even at the beginning, I approved a few bike rides where he's met with one friend. He and my daughter have a mutual friend who they like to take walks with and I was okay with that - well, sort of. I felt guilty about it, but I would have felt guilty if they'd stayed inside without fresh air and exercise.
In the world of the quarantine...you can't win.
Things have only gotten more confusing since rules have "relaxed." Again, I've looked online just trying to find a chart or something that clearly defines what's allowed. What I've concluded is that it's pretty much up to each individual household and each individual household has different rules. So, what the hell is the point?
This is when it all hit the fan.
Last week, my 14-year-old asked if she could go to a friend's house for an end-of-8th-grade celebration. Up until this point, we haven't been in anyone else's home and, once again, things are supposed to be "relaxed" now, right? (Whatever the hell that means.) Asking how many girls were attending (she told me eight), I reluctantly agreed.
I cringed when I saw her post a picture of their get together on Instagram. I could feel the parental judgement coming at me, whether it was real or imagined. I waited for someone to make some horrible comment on her post. And sure enough...someone did.
My 16-year-old son.
"Nice get together," his sarcastic post said. "Don't you know people are dying?"
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. My son knew she was going - he'd driven me over to pick her up so he could get in some driving time. Not once had he said anything about his displeasure in her going. And then he posted the comment online for all the world to see.
I felt like a terrible parent for agreeing to let her go and then I thought, "Wait a minute. He's been out on bike rides and walks. He's actually had more freedom than the girls in a lot of ways. What the hell?"
I'm a parent who welcomes communication and discussion and in this culture of anonymous social media trolling I could not believe that someone I LIVE WITH would do something like this, rather than talk it out. I was being judged, not by a parent...but by my own kid.
We briefly blew up at each other (which is extremely rare for us, but I do think provided an emotional release); he blamed me for letting his sister do something I had yelled at his older sister for doing weeks ago (she'd met up with friends without my permission). I yelled at him for posting his comment for the world to see and reminded him that he'd had more freedom than just about anyone in the house. He stomped out to go on yet another bike ride and I seethed as I started dinner.
The truth is that it really wasn't either one of our faults. No, he shouldn't have posted the comment and that's been discussed, but in retrospect...he was confused just like I was. Yes, I'd had tighter rules weeks ago because the state's rules were tighter. I had yelled at his sister because she had done something she wasn't supposed to do...at the time. We hadn't discussed the fact that things had been "relaxed" (again, whatever the hell that means) and that I might allow a little more socializing now until we hear differently.
There's no such thing as the perfect quarantine
If you're reading this post and thinking, "My God. I would never do what she's just done," then I congratulate you. You're on the path to becoming the world's FIRST perfect quarantiner! Because from the conversations I've had with friends when we've asked each other, "Are we allowed to do _______?" I've learned that knowing what we're supposed to be doing is like trying to hit a bullseye on a moving target in the dark.
The bottom line is that, like most people, I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. The city I live in spreads over three counties and each county has different rules. I follow the guidelines the best I can and I'm willing to be the "bad guy" when my kids ask me if they can do something...but I can't do that when the guidelines are so different and poorly communicated. Not only that, but with each person out there thinking they're right about how they're getting through this quarantine...it's like it makes EVERYONE wrong because we're not all doing the same thing.
Right now I feel like we're all pretty much sheep. It's just deciding what herd you're going to follow.