• Jody Kussin

#77 Family Matters Moderation

#77 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin July 27, 2020

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

What about too much time with family and loved ones?! Makes you…irritated, grouchy, mad, angry, frustrated, anxious, sad…. And, conversely, too much time alone, also, 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…. However, 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. (3-4% of all children in the U.S. PRIOR to our pandemic were home schooled.)

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. We were not necessarily wired to be part of the pack, all of the times.

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 at this point, and the notion of ‘stay at home schooling’ with an indefinite time-line, well, it is pushing some of us over the brink.

I’m not suggesting we all abdicate our roles and responsibilities and run away (Because, honestly, where would we go? How would we get there? I actually looked into how much it costs to charter a plane – and, turns out, it costs TONS AND TONS…. go figure!)

But I do think in our pivoting (spiraling) we have to plop lots of numbers into the equation of ‘how to do Fall, 2020.’ We have to consider many aspects of each family member, such as educational and academic needs, medical needs, social needs, emotional and psychological needs, behavioral needs, and physical needs. This would become an algebra problem too complex for me to even write out, let alone solve, but it IS something we can each draw out – maybe on a white board. (In addition to the plexiglass producers and delivery industries, I think the white board people are going to really ‘make bank’ with this upcoming academic year – because, yes, google and outlook calendars are fine, but, we all need some huge visual cues, especially ones where we can continually erase and then re-write things, preferably with cool markers that smell good.)

Therefore, consider drawing a grid. This can be a fun family meeting or just you, locked in a closet, by yourself, counting this sadly as today’s ‘self-care.’ Put each ‘need’ category across the top and each family member’s name on the left side. If you can do it in three-D, then also have it spread out for each of the days of the week. (See why I’m neither a mathematician nor an artist?) I think you get the drift here. Write down what needs to happen in each of these arenas because as we panic about one area of need (for instance, literacy for 3rd graders, a legit worry) we may forget another area of need (for instance, exercise for 10 year olds, who, like puppies, need 45 minutes twice per day of cardio activity to be health and to not drive you nuts.)

Something to think about as the days of summer wan. (Do they, wan? What is wan? Decrease? Decline? If that’s the case, then have we not all been waning since about March 19….)

However, Fall does bring with it some good things, even in these days, during the time of the pandemic.

Maybe take back some of your old Autumn traditions and buy everyone a few ‘back to school outfits’ even though we all may be living in shorts and tees for months to come. Or buy some school supplies online and let everyone pick out a lunch box or backpack even if they won’t be using them as they would have, were things ‘regular.’ Take out your box of Fall décor (unless you threw it out while Marie Kondo-ing the garage last month) and start putting sunflowers all over the house, as preludes to pumpkins and pinecones.

Any which way, the time passes.

Let’s try to pass it with panache, by practicing random acts of PRIVACY whenever you can arrange for it, so that we can enjoy our time with the pack. Set up Plan A and Plan B and Plan C. Make a chart or a grid or a table. Use a chalk board or a white board or your sidewalk sense. And remember, distance does make the heart grow fonder, so make sure to set up some times when you are in the back yard, and they are in the front yard, or vice versa!

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