The most valuable parenting advice I’ve ever heard was “put them water or take them outside”… because it works. Putting a toddler throwing a tantrum into a bath is a nearly-foolproof way to calm them down — and it works for adults, too (why do you think baths feel so nice when you’re stressed?). Similarly, science has shown that being outdoors, in nature, is good for our health and well-being. In fact, as little as ten minutes spent outdoors improved the mood, blood pressure, and heart rate of young people aged 15-30 years old.
But how can you get kids outside when you’re quarantining due to the coronavirus?
This past weekend, I found myself in that exact situation. My son developed a cough last Monday and spent the week home from school. After a few days, my ex-husband and I conceded the cough wasn’t going anywhere, and my son had a virtual consultation with a doctor from our family practice. She suggested getting a COVID-19 test, and starting quarantine (just in case)*.
Thankfully, we now know that my son doesn’t have COVID-19 (or the flu, or RSV). It’s likely he picked up a very mild respiratory infection, and the cough is simply lingering. But those days spent quarantining were very stressful, especially with the thought of “this could go on for weeks” hanging over our heads.
My boyfriend didn’t come home; instead he checked into a hotel so that, if the test result came back positive, he’d be through quarantine in time to see his kids for Christmas. So it was just my son and I at home, staring at the walls.
By Sunday evening, both of us were pretty bored, and a little on-edge waiting for the test results. We had tried watching a movie, my son didn’t want to play board games, and I’d convinced him to do a little reading… but really, we needed a distraction. Usually, when we start feeling restless, I’d pack up and head to the park, but being in quarantine means you don’t go anywhere.
So we didn’t. We got in the Jeep, and we didn’t go anywhere.
Instead, we drove around in circles, still wearing our pajamas from that morning underneath our coats, drinking hot chocolate out of travel mugs and looking at the Christmas lights in our neighborhood. I put a Christmas music station on the radio (Sirius 73; it’s usually 40’s Junction, but rebranded as Holiday Classics for the season), and we drove through a few neighborhoods close to our house, giving the light displays made-up ratings.
That got me thinking: what are some outdoor experiences you can have where you don’t need to go anywhere? The obvious answer is “stay in your yard,” but not everyone has a yard! Sometimes you only have a balcony or porch, and sometimes you don’t even have that. Besides, the current air temperature in Cleveland is hovering right around freezing most days now that it’s mid-December. While that may not be a problem for some people, it is for others. If you don’t have a yard and don’t do well in the could, what else can you do but drive around? We’re lucky that a lot of our neighbors put up amazing Christmas displays this year for us to see while driving around… and lucky that we have a vehicle to do that in.
I don’t have any answers for the question of outdoors + no yard + cold + quarantine, really. I wish I did. If you have any suggestions, please, send them my way!
*Yes, technically if my son had C19 he would be in isolation, not quarantine. But as far as I’m concerned, you cannot expect a child to isolate from their mom, especially if she’s the only adult in the house.