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​ Life-Lessons from a COVID-19 vacation

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After 3.5 months of being locked in the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we packed our bags, hopped in the car and spent 3 glorious nights at the waterpark Great Wolf Lodge. “Waterpark!? What are you nuts—” you say? But yes, that is exactly what we did and we had a fabulous time. Many wouldn’t venture out it into the big, bad world of the unknown for fear of contracting the virus (as it has come to be called), but we did it and truth be told, I would do it again.

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You see, we were struggling in a big way. My kids miss their friends and sports and school and even though they would never admit it, they miss the structure of homework and alarm clocks, too. They are under-stimulated intellectually and overstimulated by things like Tiktok and Roblox and it is an ugly combination.

And while the kids are walking around the house resembling their usual selves, it is clear to me that being stuck in the confines of our own home has them feeling anything but okay. There have been tantrums and eye-rolls; lots of unhealthy extremes like way too much sleep or not enough sleep at all; new worries about things like death from my youngest and social anxieties from the older two. I, too, am struggling with this new normal and I am so damn sick of the only changing variable in our lives being food. I am sick of the couch and the TV and the same freaking chicken dish or takeout every night. I am sick of the walks around the block and the quarantine jokes and all of the big, fat question marks surrounding our future. And everywhere I turn, I am reminded of this challenging time and it feels like the pandemic has taken over every damn thing.

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Before our little vacation, one thing was perfectly clear despite the madness of the pandemic life: we needed a change of scenery and we needed it fast.

So, I did it. I booked a room at The Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos and off we went. We went to blow off steam, to get away from the reminders of life-and-death, and to experience all of the things that the pandemic had ripped from us like other people, fun and a whole lot of activity . I didn’t, therefore, expect to learn anything while there. But learn I did. Some very useful life lessons. Here they are:

Sometimes You Just Have to Stay in Your Comfort Zone

I usually tell people to jump out of their comfort zones and embrace fear as a catalyst to growth— but when it comes to travelling during a pandemic, it is extremely important to respect your own level of comfort. We planned our trip within our joint comfort zone, adhering to our own guidelines and protocols. This included spending a lot of time out of doors, contactless dining options, increased use of sanitizer and regular check-ins with each other to be sure no one was feeling anxious. It helped a lot that we were all comfortable with the hotel’s accommodations and with their sanitation and other virus-related policies. Sometimes, a comfort zone is a nice, cozy, safe place to be and there ain’t no shame in using that as a home-base. We were pleasantly surprised to find some great benefits to travelling during a pandemic, too- the hotel was not at full capacity, which meant smaller crowds and the well-enforced social distancing rules were more than welcomed by this socially-awkward introvert.

Perfection is Never a Realistic Expectation

Perhaps because of the fact that we were coming off of a long and (sometimes) painful quarantine season, I expected perfection from my kids during this little getaway. I truly believed we would spend 4 days in heaven-on-earth with no fighting, no complaining and oh-so-many thank you moms because I just knew the kids would appreciate this post-lockdown vacation more than ever! Well, that didn’t happen. They faught, they complained and they begged for more (ice cream, arcade tokens, etc). My tween still snapped at me and rolled her eyes. I was so upset that they hadn’t met my expectation of perfection that I snapped right back, too. And then I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that this is what kids do- even when they are on vacation. I turned my focus to a solution and we had a much-needed family meeting. We discussed conflict resolution, gratitude and the practice of being present. And yes, I reminded them (and myself) that this trip was a blessing in so many ways. That we could be back to a full lockdown at anytime and it was up to us to decide how we would spend our days here- we could choose to argue or we could choose to love. That little talk was one of the best family talks we ever had and while we all decided to choose love and gratitude over anger and arguments, we still had our moments (because perfection isn’t possible), but we did learn to quickly apologize if needed and we relied on laughter to bring us back to the present moment and we floated right through the Lazy River.

People Will Judge— Just Let Them

It wouldn’t be 2020 if people didn’t judge me, am I right? The truth is, I expected it. An eye-roll here and an open-mouthed gasp there, people did not hide their disapproval of our trip to a water park, but I tried to respect their point of view. Everyone must respect and honor their own comfort level and perhaps mine is a bit more lax than others. There is no manual to living through a pandemic and just as each mom must make her own choice for school in the fall, it is our right as parents to choose if we go to a restaurant, hotel, public pool or water park— while, of course, abiding by legal restrictions and guidelines. This was a choice I made and a choice I stand by. Life right now is totally crazy— hard, stressful, and worrisome and I refuse to take part in the right vs. wrong game that people play. I don’t have the energy. I don’t have the desire to prove anyone is wrong or anyone is right or my way is better than your way. I know for a fact that we moms are all doing the best we can with our own families and what more can you ask of someone? We are all just a little too fragile to be throwing judgement around like it's confetti. So, yes, many disapprove of my decision to go to a waterpark and I choose silence as my response.

Quarantine Sucks

A change of scenery was fantastic and we were busy, busy busy for 4 straight days. There was no Roblox and very little TikTok. We were active and we slept well. The anxiety and boredom that had taken over our lives for almost 4 months temporarily vanished and it felt like I got my kids back for just a few days. And then we returned home and it was back to the reality of life during a pandemic. The contrast really highlighted how much the quarantine sucks. Suddenly, again, I was fielding questions I couldn’t answer- questions of what is to come with school and sports; questions I just didn’t want to answer, like what’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner over and over again. I want this pandemic to end – I want it to end for me, but mostly for my kids because this is way too much for their souls to handle. I desperately want the morning chaos and the math homework that I don’t understand and the insanely busy sports schedules and the overtired teenager on Friday night because we were happier and healthier and just all around better that way and we loved our crazy-busy life so damn much. I want it back, which brings me to my final lesson of my COVID vacation.

Love is all we need

This pandemic has taken almost everything we had from us- school, friends, normalcy, sports, hobbies, security, etc. But it hasn’t take love from us and it never will. I wont let it. We spent 3 nights and 4 days at a waterpark and in that short time, we laughed and we cried. We fought and we made up. Some of us (not going to mention any names) conquered their fear of a water slide and others were there to give us that final (literal) push. I wanted to escape the pandemic for 3 days of perfection— but that's not what I got. I didn’t get it because outside factors don’t cure or destroy our insides. If an amazing vacation can’t make us perfect then the horrendous pandemic can't make us imperfect. We have love and that truly is all we need. Pandemic or no pandemic. School or distance-learning. Waterpark or quarantined in our modest home, the circumstances are different, but the love is the same. And COVID-19 just can’t take that from us. Not now— not ever.


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