As vaccination for COVID-19 became more widespread, I was delighted to see an ad in the newspaper sponsored by Humana. It gave these “Instructions:”
- Find a family member.
- Wrap your arms around them.
Yes! I thought, Let’s hug again! Let’s return to the way the world was before!
But then I remembered the words of my friend, Lori M., who said the pandemic forced us to step back and evaluate our schedule and how we do things. Now that we are returning to “normal,” she asked an important question: Do we want to go back to our old ways or are there some pandemic behaviors that were positive and worth keeping?
Clearly, hugging is a behavior I wish to bring back into my life, but there are parts of the old me that I don’t want to bring forward. Thanks to the pandemic, I see two ways that I am a new and improved granny/Marmel. As I look forward to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, I hope to hold onto the new traits.
I learned how to play:
It all started when my daughter, Shana, brought her three daughters and carryout Blizzards from Dairy Queen to my house. At that point in the pandemic, we were sharing togetherness outside-and-at-a distance. Since Shana was not in a “bubble” with her siblings and nieces and nephews, there were no cousins for Shana’s girls to play with as would be the norm, so I stepped in to fill that void. With Velcro mitts and tennis balls, the girls and I played catch and “Monkey in the Middle.” We were all shocked by this turn of events, especially Shana. In her 42 years of life, she had never seen me throw a ball.
And then one day Shana’s daughter, Cici, asked me to play basketball. My mind went immediately to a wedding toast I’d heard where the father-of-the-bride told the groom how to have a happy marriage. The instructions were simple, whenever the new wife asked for something, the new husband should reply, “Yes, dear!” And so that’s what I said to Cici.
When she asked me about playing frisbee next, I said it again. Yes, dear! I’m thrilled to report that it’s not very hard to throw a frisbee. Who knew?
It would be oh so easy post-pandemic to go back to letting the kids play while the adults talk, especially when all the cousins can be back together, and of course, it is important for them to have that bonding time! Yet, I would like to find a balance between the old way and the new so that the kids not only have fond memories of being at my house, but also many fond memories of being with me.
I learned new conversation skills:
There is a learning curve for how to talk to kids. Somehow, we need to get from the sing-song voice we use with infants and toddlers to a method of talking that engages older kids. As an introvert, my methodology of talking to people was to become an interviewer and ask a lot of questions. Indeed, before I went to a family event, I would think about who would be there and come up with things to ask them. But this method doesn’t work well with kids who are famous for one-word answers.
Truthfully, in recent years, I wasn’t even sure how to talk to my adult kids. I was always grateful that we communicated, but we did it mostly via text messages, which are pretty close to one-word answers as well.
During the pandemic, my son, his kids, and I all did a lot of talking via FaceTime. Additionally, my daughters and I often took walks together. As we started these new behaviors, I worried about how we’d keep our conversations going. My go-to mode of asking questions felt like a painful extraction of information, and was not the smooth give and take I desired. Before long, I realized that what I desired, was my solution. I had to give as well as take, and so in the process of asking about their day, I also told them about mine, giving us all fodder for further comments.
But wait! What if I combine the two behaviors?
Now that I am fully vaccinated, my kids feel it is safe for me to have one-on-one time with the grandkids. That’s how seven-year-old Stella and I spent an afternoon together making bookmarks out of card stock and magic markers. Whereas the old me would have emptied the dishwasher or diced vegetables for dinner as she sat at the kitchen table coloring, the new me sat and colored with her.
Our conversation took us many places serious and silly. Indeed, the lack of eye contact while coloring seemed to make serious stuff easy to talk about. On the lighthearted side, we turned on YouTube videos to hear some of Stella’s favorite music. Taylor Swift singing Shake it Off was aesthetically pleasing to watch and its message wonderful to talk about: Instead of getting down about the bad things in the world, you can “get down” to the beat of the song instead. And just that fast, we were serious again. A beautiful ebb and flow. An equally fine give and take. A dream come true conversation.
So, I’m a new and improved Marmel! Now what?
I would be lying if I said I’m confident about retaining these new behaviors in post-pandemic life. The truth is I fear reverting to the old me. But I am a serious student of life. I realize that the whole world came to a halt for an entire year! To reemerge unchanged would be ridiculous, especially when my new behaviors are positive and worth keeping. And so when my inner voice asks me if I think I can carry on in the new way, I shake off my fear and give my practiced and enthusiastic response, “Yes, dear!”