Posted in Mommyhood

Surviving Quarantine Boredom – literally… surviving it

Last Updated on March 29, 2020 by World’s Okayest Mom

I will admit that there are certain things My Girl can say that set off an explosive reaction in me. It’s her baking soda to my vinegar.

Like when she asks me repeatedly “what’s wrong?”

Half the time, what’s wrong is something that she did. Or didn’t do. Like listen to clear instructions to not use her fingers to transfer syrup from the bottle onto her morning waffle.

The other half of the time, there’s nothing wrong. I never knew this until I had a child old enough to read nonverbal cues, but, apparently, I have a resting bitch face. Good to know. Except, of course, I can’t say that to her. So in exasperation, I finally say: “Nothing’s wrong! This is just my face!!”

Or in the case of things The Husband can say for an instant reaction… How about: “Calm down.”

Oh brother. One hundred percent of the time, I am calm before he said those words. And I know that for certain, because, while he’s not always smart enough to never utter those words, he’s definitely smart enough to not say them when I’m actually, already un-calm.

But today, let’s focus on: I’m Bored.

Surviving Quarantine Boredom

My Girl, like every other child in the country, and without exaggeration, I think I can say, the world, is now a homeschooled child for the foreseeable future. As I have said before, I have nothing but the utmost respect for teachers (see here). But I did not choose to be one. For very good reasons.

Some people can handle this without breaking a sweat. I am not these ‘some people.’

The Sister’s surviving vs. Mine

If this whole quarantine and homeschooling thing were a sport, The Sister would be LeBron James. I would be that lumpy guy from seat 114B who happen to win the drawing to make a shot from half court as pre-fourth quarter entertainment.

She’s got the skills and athleticism, not the mention the speed and height. I’ve got the lucky ticket that I picked up as a second thought on my way to the nacho bar. And like that lucky bastard in 114B, my shot from half court starts with a beautiful arch and then drops like a brick about seven feet shy of the rim.

The Sister’s got a daily dry erase board with color coding and bubble letters. I’ve got an alarm on my phone for a 20-minute reprieve brought to me by the Cincinnati Zoo with their daily animal safari.

She’s got science experiments with egg shells and St. Patrick’s Day themed dress-up days. I’ve got a 300-piece puzzle with fuzzy animals that I bought in a panic before Amazon Prime discontinued nonessential, next-day shipping.

Luckily, the homeschooling, though, is not really the problem. My Girl is in second grade, so it’s not like she’s computing quadratic equations (which to be completely honest, I don’t even know what those are, let alone know how to teach them). She’s learning basic math – subtraction of double digits, borrowing from the tens to subtract the ones; she has mandatory reading time – but with an English major mother, she’s not lacking for books even with the public library closed; and she has spelling words to practice – with a semi-photographic memory, there’s nothing there I need to teach her.

So the bigger challenge is boredom survival

I was very clear with My Girl about my stance on boredom, even from the beginning of this quarantine.

“If you say to me that you’re bored, I’m going to open your mouth, reach down and pull out your voice box ala Little Mermaid Style.”

I could tell she wanted to ask what “ala” meant, but we’ve been working on utilizing context clues.

Also in preparation for this stick of dynamite that is My Girl complaining of boredom, we spent a significant amount of time making a list of things to do. The rule became, if you say you’re bored (after I’ve disposed of your voice box), go to the list and pick something. No ifs, ands or buts.

A couple examples of the things we put on the list:

  • Play with Legos
  • Listen to MP3 player
  • Practice piano
  • Chat with family or friend via FaceTime
  • Science experiment
  • Try to take a nap (the “try” was her addition, I don’t hold out much hope for this one)

(As a side note, this post is not a cheat sheet on what to do with your child when bored. Maybe I buried the lead a bit about that, but I’m ok with tricking people into reading my blog. If you want ideas to keep kids occupied, you should check out The Sister’s FaceBook page. Or my mom’s. Or basically anyone else’s. I only have memes about what an inadequate parent I am. Accurate but unhelpful in this instance. But so I’m not completely useless, here’s a link)

Literally… surviving quarantine boredom

The problem with “I’m bored” is that it translates into My Girl getting into mischief. She has that perfect combination of imagination, reckless abandon and ability to not think things through that really spells out trouble.

So keeping her away from boredom is for the safety of all more than anything else.

And now, about two weeks into this who debacle, My Girl has yet to tell me she’s bored.

Those of you who don’t know My Girl are about to congratulate me on my success.

Don’t.

An un-bored My Girl may be the scariest thing I have seen

Day Two of Quarantine was my birthday. It doesn’t need to be someone’s birthday for My Girl to want to throw a party. Really anything is a good reason in her mind: the 9th of the month, a Sunday, the day you trimmed your fingernails. All acceptable reasons to throw a party. But when the day is actually the one of my birth, you can only imagine the lengths she will go.

So My Girl decorated the dining room: streamers, balloons, tropical umbrellas in our water bottles, etc.

The topping on the chocolate birthday cake, though, was our thirteen-year-old dog, Mr. Darcy, meeting me at the door with what I thought looked like a bleached “P” on the side of his unusually long back (he’s a mini wiener dog). Apparently, it wasn’t bleach but a haircut. In My Girl’s boredom, and also party planning excitement, she took scissors to him.

Surviving Quarantine Boredom Mr Darcy
Do you see the P on Mr. Darcy’s back? Do you see the pleading desperation in his eyes?

There was a lot of speculation as to the exact nature of Mr. Darcy’s new design – whether it was a lower case “d” from one view or an uppercase “P” from another, whether it was a accident, done with scissors, or (heaven forbid) a razor. But finally, the truth came out. In the words of My Girl:

“It’s a P for Party!”

And this is why I need to keep My Girl entertained.

Quarantine Boredom Antics

But like I bragged about before, My Girl usually stays pretty entertained. It’s that over-active imagination that gets her into trouble in Mrs. Irwin’s class, or on the bus, or during horse back riding lessons, or during dinner. You get the idea.

So with My Girl’s great imagination, here are a few things she’s been up to, mainly when I’m not looking. Give me a little slack – The Husband and I have both been working from home. Like real working, not “working from home” with a wink.

Surviving Baking Boredom

So On Day One, after a two and a half hour conference call, I came into the kitchen to find My Girl hard at work… on her Easy Bake Oven.

Amazingly, My Girl, who lacks the patience to sit still for the entire ten minutes it takes to drive to the grocery store and thus packs a backpack – and I’m talking packs it full – of toys for that time period, waited calmly for a lightbulb to bake two separate batches of cookies.

Unfortunately, like the cute cross-stitched idiom in grandma’s kitchen says – Made with Love – My Girl’s Easy Bake creations were also made with love. Translation: she licked the spoon. And then shared the end result with the Chandler/Monica/Jane/Little LuLu family. If I’m being honest, she didn’t just lick the spoon, but it was like a full on, open mouth, slobbering all around the spoon.

I ate it anyways. Those tiny Borrower’s size cookies were delicious.

Not quite in the spirit of quarantine though. I hope Monica didn’t eat hers…

Surviving Play-Doh Baking Boredom

Baking is apparently the theme of our stay home time. On Day Fourteen, My Girl decided to open her own Play-Doh bakery. This was probably a little safer as there was no real consumption or germy spoon-licking.

Oddly though, My Girl came up with some cakes I don’t think will make it to the masses. My particular, disturbingly favorite was the “armed cake.” It was a small cake with a human-shaped arm, complete with a flexed bicep, protruding out of it. When I expressed some small concerns, I was reassured that the arm was made from chocolate. Well then…

Did I mention that this was all done while wearing a talking Chewbacca mask? Yes, like the one made famous from the mom video that will make you laugh until you cry. How else would you run a Play-Doh Bakery?

Picture this mask, My Girl and a cupcake with a forearm coming out of it. That’s what boredom looks like in our house.

Surviving the 47 cent treasure hunt

Then there was the scavenger hunt My Girl created for me on Day Infinity of Quarantine. This was in response a scavenger hunt that I shamelessly stole from The Sister’s FaceBook page. My Girl created a four-room, three-level, treasure hunt with clues and a prize at the end. I learned a few things:

  1. My Girl needs to learn how to spell the word ‘where’
  2. My Girl knows me pretty well – one clue was to “Go were (sp) you keep what you love to do when it is your free time” – i.e. my book shelf
  3. My Girl is pretty smart when it comes to puns – one clue was to “Go were (sp) you do homeWORK” – meaning the desk I use when I work from home.
  4. I’ve never worked so hard for 47 cents, the prize at the end of the hunt. But, hey, you can’t put a price on not being bored, right?

B. Swift’s surviving vs. mine

While I’m working hard to keep My Girl’s imagination from causing permanent damage to the living creatures in our house (including mine and The Husband’s sanity), B. Swift is doing the opposite.

If this whole quarantine and homeschooling thing were a company needing management, B. Swift would be Steve Jobs overseeing Apple. I would the franchise manager of a skeezy McDonald’s off of I-90.

B. Swift is creative and generous. Maybe a little crazy, but nevertheless successful. I’m a polo-wearing middle manager who was promoted to her highest level of incompetence and has no shame in stealing ideas from her underlings.

To battle boredom in her household, B. Swift decided to purchase three-week old ducklings.

Let me repeat that: During a time when we are unable to leave our homes, we are expected to take over the job of a four-year educated teacher for all of our children, all while praying we don’t run out of toilet paper, B. Swift thought she would entertain her three children with two baby ducks.

See? Crazy like Steve Jobs. But also, maybe a crazy genius? That will remain to be seen.

To be fair, it’s working. B. Swift is not bored at home. She’s running from child to child, trying to ensure the survival of their baby ducks. Cindy Lou is trying to substitute her duckling for a baby doll, and her middle child is trying to be the accomplice in their escape out of the garage where they are currently dwelling. I can just picture B. Swift chasing baby ducks around her front yard…

A little quarantine boredom fun… I hope

If I’m doing my job right, though, this forced time at home shouldn’t be traumatizing, but rather, something that My Girl looks back on with fondness. So, I have been trying to facilitate some fun, special things: the indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt (previously mentioned), some crawling worm construction paper activity (also shamelessly stolen from FaceBook, but this time from my mom’s page), many dance parties to our new favorite song “Smile” by Sidewalk Prophets, and a little more participation in My Girl’s imaginative play (like the before mentioned bakery selling armed cake and kiwi rolls that looked suspiciously like pickles).

So, that’s why I agreed to this: On Day Four or Five of quarantine, we got a lot of bad news. There were confirmed cases in all 50 states. There was a travel advisory for my city. And school was cancelled by the governor’s decree until May 1. In an effort to promote morale among the prisoners, Monica suggested a neighborhood block dance party. In the rain. And 45-degree weather.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. Remember, World’s Okayest Mom here.

And like most of our brilliant ideas, it ended with at least one of our girls (in this case two of them) in tears. But before that, we all had a great time, dancing down the street, jumping in mud puddles and singing “Happy Dance” by MercyMe on the top of our lungs. Our quarantined neighbors were probably on the side of one or more crying children. But Monica and I had fun.

Surviving Quarantine Boredom Little LuLu
Little LuLu got mud-splattered (by her mom’s puddle jumping). She wasn’t thrilled, but Monica and I had a good time.

And I’m sure none of our girls could say they were bored that day.

Share your own imperfections.