A summer like no other

When we welcomed the New Year, certainly nobody anticipated how 2020 would change our lives. We greeted the new year as we had in previous years, with resolutions and plans and with an assumption that our plans would be carried out.

Never in our lifetime have plans changed so drastically on such a wide scale. Although one can never truly guarantee how things will turn out, this year caught most people off guard. Things we took for granted, like spending time with family and friends or food samples at Costco, suddenly gone.

Instead of a two-week first-time experience of overnight summer camp in the Prescott forest, my oldest son spent one week at a local day camp – wearing a mask all day. My younger sons had camp at home, with activities from a box that were designed to keep them busy all day but took them two hours. After stay-at-home orders began in March, they spent some time outdoors, but once the summer temperatures arrived, only weekly visits to their grandparents’ pools during socially distanced visits brought moments of outdoor fun. (Summer 2020 broke 20 record-high temperatures in Phoenix. This August was officially the hottest month on record, beating the next hottest month on record – July 2020. Yay.)

One highlight of our summer was a trip to Sedona, where we spent the morning walking in a creek in the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. It was such a lovely experience that we decided we would soon return for a day trip since it was only a 90-minute drive away, but three weeks later, up to 20,000 gallons of sewage leaked into a storm drain and spilled into the creek water. Although tests later that week concluded that the E. coli levels at most of the creek sites were below state and federal limits, somehow walking knee-deep in the creek didn’t sound as appealing.

We looked into other weekend trips, but several wildfires in the Northern Arizona led to closed roads and smokey air so that mixed with anxiety about staying in a hotel during a pandemic, led to never finalizing any plans.

Although social media provided a slight connection to the outside world, I eventually had to cut back a bit because of the mix of election nastiness, COVID-19 irresponsibility and all-around content overload.

I experienced a surge of guilt that my kids were home for half the year. Would this be an experience that would scar them forever? They could have learned a new language or an instrument during this time, but they weren’t interested in doing anything but playing with friends online (although the younger ones did make creative videos, too.) For the majority of the summer, they went along with some of my attempts to add variety, such as cooking or having a music-themed week, but most of the time I was just the deterrent between them and their games with friends.

Thank goodness for fun distractions like the Holderness family whose funny, relatable videos reminded me that this was a difficult experience for everyone and we have to keep our sense of humor about life challenges. And phone conversations with family and friends. And “Shtisel” on Netflix, which I’d watch if I woke up in the middle of the night because reading the subtitles sometimes help make me sleepy.

I know this has been a hard year for nearly everyone – and our personal experience is very mild. People have lost jobs, homes, loved ones. Lives consumed by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and COVID-19. It’s so heartbreaking to imagine and seems trivial to even articulate that we’ve had a bummer summer because we’ve been stuck at home. I read an article where a Holocaust survivor summed it up best – we have a home, food and we’re safe together with family, what is there to complain about? That perspective is so true and I am very grateful for our circumstances.

However, I wanted to share my thoughts about the summer in case there are others feeling the same way. Yes, you can feel grateful yet disappointed at the same time. No, it doesn’t make you a bad parent because your kids are on screens for hours during a pandemic when it’s 113 degrees outside and you’re working and indoor places of entertainment are closed and it’s not safe to get together with others. Yes, you can be happy for others who seem to be providing an excellent summer for their children but still be disappointed that you weren’t able to do the same.

Breathe. Hopefully this situation is temporary and like with other tumultuous times in history, we’ll get through this. While life may not get back to “normal” for awhile, let’s try to support each other and as my mom used to say, “Just do your best.”

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