OAKLAND, CALIF - My teenagers have found their pandemic rhythm: Light school work in the morning, watch videos, make music, eat, walk the dog. Repeat.
But summer looms. How are my teenagers going to “face the hours,” as the dying Richard says in the movie “The Hours?” The endless, sunny beautiful California day? And the day after?
Our county just loosened some of its restrictions — golfing, tennis and skateboard parks are now okay — while extending the lockdown until May 31. What if the shelter-in-place continues into the summer? How will we all get through it?
Tearing down a wall
Lately I’ve been hearing of people doing something on the lowdown. They are picking a few families their kids can hang out with and taking down the invisible walls separating households. They may have a few agreements in place about keeping safe while, to some extent, merging families.
I’m interested in how they are settling on rules without stepping on boundaries that separate all families. In my household, I am the family nag, begging everyone to wear gloves and a mask when going to a store, spraying surfaces with my bleach cocktail.
Long before the coronavirus contagion, I got out of the business of telling my kids to wash their hands — to the point of asking to smell their small soap-scented hands as proof. “Let me have a sniff.” Now I’m doing that again.
Of course, I wouldn’t demand an affidavit of handwashing practices from another family, or ask how often they are wiping surfaces and with what solution. At least I hope I wouldn’t.
Still, there would be issues to discuss and all seem fraught to me. Do we limit the number of visitors to each household? Could they ask me not to run with my friend even though we keep a safe social distance? Should we limit visits to grocery stores or should everyone get their groceries delivered to cut down on the number of potentially dangerous contacts? And what about riding the bus?
No social media posting
One thing I would want — and maybe this is a sign that I don’t have the stomach for this scheme: If my kids do meet up with their friends, nobody posts anything on social media about it. No Instagram selfies of my kids cheek-to-cheek with their friends, even if they have a mask on.
Tearing down one wall or two may be low risk. But in these anxious times, I expect there will be major blowback if other teens see my kids meeting with their friends, and of course tell their parents. Perhaps I lack a healthy indifference to societal pressure, but I don’t want my family to be an example of what not to do during a pandemic.
So I wait for someone — the governor, the mayor, a county health official — to bequeath us back one activity at a time — golf, tennis (thank you), skateboarding — and let us know when it’s time to start talking about tearing down a wall.