• Jody Kussin

#76 Family Matters Summer "VACATION"

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin

A typical assignment for ‘back to school’ is for students to write an essay on ‘what I did on my summer vacation.’ I can only imagine what students will say in a few weeks, when they ‘return’ to schools in their pjs, online, in their bedroom or den or kitchen.

“On my summer vacation, I stayed in my pjs and played with friends online from my bedroom, den and kitchen.”

“On my summer vacation, I saw my grandparents on the computer until finally, my grandma could not take it anymore, so she put on a suit she made out of hefty garbage bags, came over to our front yard, and insisted on getting a hug from me.”

“On my summer vacation my mom made me practice schoolwork. The hardest assignment was being able to tell her the day of the week, each day.”

Here are some highlights from the summer in my life:

Last month I received a package from our mail carrier. It was not from amazon or fed ex but hand delivered in an old fashion white box. It was from my friend Marci, in New Jersey, who had addressed it in her own handwriting and who clearly had gone to the post office to mail it. Just that in and of itself was incredibly touching.

It was not my birthday nor was there any other reason to be receiving gifts, so, puzzled, I opened it up. What to my wondering eyes did appear but – A HUGE cylinder container of Clorox Wipes. Yes, huge, the family size, the kind we used to take for granted and could find anywhere pre-COVID-19 but mostly at Costco or Office Depot. There was a cute card and it said, ‘thought you could use a smile … and these wipes.’


Funny. Thoughtful. Practical. (You know you’re an adult when….)

A rare commodity – not just the wipes, but a dear friend who was thinking of me from across the country and who took the time to send me a smile. I have been smiling ever since, really. I leave the container on the counter and smile each time I pass it by. Don’t worry. I obviously have not opened it up or used any of the wipes…they are too precious for squandering!

That was a real summer vacation treat for sure.

Another summer trip is the planning going on for a COUSIN reunion. On my dad’s side we are nine grandkids. July 24, it turns out, is NATIONAL COUSIN day (who knew?!) and we decided to set up a chat for August. A few of us are chatting nightly (mostly on Facebook) in preparation of our visit. I have to say, my cousins are hilarious. As ‘they say’, ‘cousins are your first friends’ (if by friends, you mean the people who make fun of you, cajole you into doing things you wouldn’t normally do, and )

There are still a few weeks of summer. Clearly, this has not been a hoot n holler kind of respite from a usual year. Parents are understandably dreading the advent of school. No major trips to Walmart and Office Depot to get back to school supplies. Mainly you need strong wi-fi connectivity.

However, reminder and note to selves

You know how ‘they’’ say that moderation is good, but too much a good thing is bad? Well – seems true. Too much alcohol makes you drunk. Too much ice cream makes you sick. Too much sun makes you sunburned.

And too much time with family and loved ones?! Makes you…irritated, grouchy, mad, angry, frustrated, anxious, sad…..And, conversely, too much time alone makes you…irritated, grouchy, mad, angry, frustrated, anxious sad.

You know how they say that we, like our dogs, are ‘pack animals.’ That we need to be together and raise our young all in one den…. especially given the above ‘law of moderation’ let’s re-consider.

I find it not at all surprising that the innovation of ‘sending the kids to school’ dates back thousands of years (originating with private schools and then the advent of public schools) and the home school movement never completely took off.

I find it not at all surprising that until recently, most American residents who work for a living, did so out of the house, with under 6% working full-time remotely. (See New York Times Sunday magazine, June 14, 2020.) Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, however, the estimate is that half of those employed are now working from home, and obviously that is regarding those in privileged occupations. And of course, regarding schooling, the estimate is that in the past months in the U.S., close to 100% of our children moved from attending schools out of the home to hosting schools in their own bedrooms, which will now be continuing in most of California in Fall 2020.

So while it’s evolutionarily possible we are meant to hang out together, it’s also historically true that we have put many systems in place to create a balance and mitigate the ‘altogether, all the time’ rule. That was true back in the day too – hunters and gatherers had to leave family members to, well, hunt, and then, gather.

In these times, therefore, we have likely been together waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much. Normally, in summer, we think, ‘ah, time to get back together and re-connect as a family and decrease the frenetic pace of running hither and yon and enjoy some pajama days and down time.’ This year, not so much. The notion of family game night once a week is less appealing if you’ve been playing games nightly. According to many lovely parents and teens, the idea of sitting around lounging together seems more punishment then pleasure.

What to do? Change venues and seek privacy and time apart in whatever way is safe for you and your family. Also, turn to your adult friends and empower your children to turn to their peers. This is a perfect time to do something for someone else.

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