One of Syd's BFFs had a "drive-by" birthday last week. They don't see each other often, but the girls have celebrated their birthdays together every year since they were three, and Syd has been anxiously looking forward to the day for weeks. She handmade a gift and then included several other treasures she's collected. They've been talking about it incessantly. Suffice to say, it was going to be a BIG DEAL. Plus it was going to be our first one, so that felt like a component of this pandemic that we wanted to remember.
I got a little nervous when I got the official invite for the drive-by, as it said "Drive/Stop by." I know that these friends live in a very social neighborhood and that houses and yards tend to blur together in that suburban utopia people aspire to. Wonderful, in general. Less so currently.
I prepped the girls ahead of time that even if there were other kids hanging out, that we couldn't. That didn't make it any easier though when we pulled up and a crew of kids in swimsuits swarmed the car. The girls miss each other. They wanted to hug and be together. Syd wanted to not be the odd-kid-out and it was so obvious. And I wanted to hang out too! Seeing the adults standing together, cool drinks in hand, I missed the awkwardness of small talk and the ease of standing in a group together in someone's driveway without being hyper-aware of everyone's respiratory droplets. I tried to catch up with my friend, real quick from my drivers' window, as cars piled up behind me. I let Syd jump out to put her gift on the gift table, but then had to call her back when the kids started to move further towards the house.
All in all, it wasn't nearly as fun as we'd hoped. As we drove away Syd was obviously disappointed and at one point we agreed that maybe it would've been easier if we hadn't gone. I tried to point out the other families that just drove by, and reminded her that she's been able to play with a neighborhood friend while her siblings haven't (because the "you should be grateful" tactic always works so well). I think sometimes the kids feel pretty powerless, so I shared my frustration that I wasn't able to hug my friend or stay to chat either. Finally I took everyone through the McD's drive-thru and got ice cream. Because the fact was, even though we love our friends, that it did kind of suck and we all needed a frozen Fanta.
I'm really starting to struggle with the question of whether I'm being arbitrarily cautious and a fun-killer, or if I'm being responsible and thoughtful. Eli is getting invited to parties again. Syd's friends are having sleepovers and playdates. Avery's collecting animals from our front yard and putting them near her bed "so I can have someone to talk to." None of this feels sustainable, but at the same time I'm not quite ready to go back to normal again because the world still feels scary. At the same time, I know I'm also struggling with how to make this all feel less oppressive to my kids, often vacillating between validating the suckiness of it and being overly indulgent in the areas that we can splurge (Let's rent a movie! Who wants to make cookies? New Legos for all!) Am I setting up my kids to be cognizant of the sacrifices we make for the greater good or am I setting them up to be the weird kids who's parents have never let them (fill in the blank here)?