Day 7 of the shelter in place order, and I’m taking a day off from walking outside. Yesterday I walked 5 miles at Shoreline Park, and this walk, on his first day at home, my husband Rich was able to join me. As he prepares to go to work in the Stanford ICU on Monday, we really appreciated some quiet (but active) time together.

As we walked, I noticed ahead a family ahead of us on the trail. The little girl, about 3, was just FINISHED with using her little scooter. She was crying, and her parents were cajoling her to stand up, and keep going. As we passed them (a good 8-10 feet apart), I said “Wow, is that your scooter? Do you know how to ride that?” She looked at me, immediately stopped crying and stood up. I asked “Can you show me how that works?” She put her foot on the scooter and gave a good 3-4 pushes and stopped. I told her how strong she was, but that Rich missed it. So she gave another few pushes as Rich and I both offered cheers. Her mom mouthed the words “thank you”, gave me a big smile and thumbs up, and off we went. The kid whisperer does it again!! 😊

We then passed another family of four, mom, dad, and 2 boys, about 8 and 10, sitting on a bench together, enjoying a snack. Rich was on his cell talking with his son (a medical intern in Seattle helping care for Covid-19 patients) so I stopped (again, a good 8-10 feet apart) and started chatting with the parents. I asked how they were handling school work, and moved on to some of the challenges of being home fulltime, trying to fill the roles of parent, partner, friend, cook, cleaner, counselor, and teacher all at once. We talked for a few minutes and then I walked on.

I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be a parent of kids living at home right now. My two kids are now adults, living in Colorado and taking care of themselves during this time. During the day, I am alone and responsible only for myself.

But as I told the mom and dad on the bench, despite the difficulties of this time, I think parents are going to look back and think of this time as a gift. It’s a gift to be able to spend so much time with your kids. It’s a gift to be able to get to know your kids better; for your children to get to know you better as people, not just parents; to slow down our lives, to take a deep breath, to let go of the little stuff, to appreciate what really matters. It’s a gift to have the time to teach our kids to cook, to clean, to entertain themselves, to problem solve together, to teach time management, and to enjoy a good movie (or 8) together.

One day, this serious health crisis will be over, our lives will get back to the way they were before the crisis began, and our kids will return to school. I believe that parents will first take a deep sigh of relief, and then recognize how lucky they were to have had this amazing and unexpected gift of so much time together.