During the early days of quarantine, my teens exchanged witty banter and funny memes. Uproarious laughter echoed throughout our home. Sure, they experienced their fair share of fear, confusion, and unrest, but the mood around here was upbeat. Distance learning was review. They slept until noon. Bedtime shifted later and later. They binged Netflix shows, played games, and walked around our neighborhood. To them, quarantine signaled the early arrival of spring break. They had reached the point in the academic year where they needed a reprieve from the daily grind.
As our governor extended (and extended and extended) the shelter-in-place order, my teens became restless and moody. They still spoke to friends over FaceTime, played Xbox Live, and hosted online Netflix parties, but as the days slipped away, they spent less time engaging in these socially distant activities.
ALL the teens EVERYWHERE had become restless and moody.
And our home life? As one of my sons said, “The vibe around here is low-key musty.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant in teen-speak, but I received the message loud and clear. Weird vibes hung in the air. My husband and I showed every sign of burnout.
School and activities had been canceled. We scrapped out summer vacation plans. Basically, life as my teens knew it had been canceled. They exhibited symptoms of the quarantine blues.
How could I help?
Becoming Yes Mom
One of my sons spent months begging me to dye his hair blue. The extreme hair color trend had been on the rise for a while, especially in teen circles. I loved it, but I didn’t love the hassle of it. For the longest time, I responded by sidestepping his request. Divert, divert, divert! When he asked, I said, “Next month, buddy.”
A few weeks into quarantine, he raised the subject again. He gave me the side-eye as he tested the waters. “It’s the perfect time to dye my hair blue, mom…”
Suddenly, I had no more flimsy excuses. So I channeled Jim Carrey’s character in Yes Man, and I became Yes Mom! And guess what? We had a blast! It looked super cool and made him happy. The itch had been scratched.
Advice: If you transform into Yes Mom and your teen asks for crazy hair color, apply the bleach and dye outside. We encountered a “situation” with the blue Manic Panic when I dropped the jar on the bathroom floor. It splashed everywhere. I mean…EVERYWHERE. I did my best to scrub it away, but the blue dye left stains on the walls. Upside: It’s the perfect excuse to repaint the bathroom. It needs a new coat.
We’re Going On a Treasure Hunt
I know what you’re thinking. Puh-lease, Karen. Treasure hunts are for young children. Just trust me on this one—teens are desperate for something different after 45+ days of “Quar.”
I spent an hour crafting fifteen clever clues. After I donned my facemask, I made a quick trip to the drugstore, where I purchased treasure (boxes of Sour Patch Kids and Nintendo eshop cards). I kept the hunt a secret, hiding clues in total stealth mode.
After dinner, I handed over clue #1 and told them they were going on a treasure hunt. More than one of my four kids stared at me through narrowed eyes. My daughter sighed theatrically. The oldest said, “Are you serious right now?”
Yes! Yes, homie. I’m dead serious. Get to hunting! I clapped my hands and steered them out of the dining room.
While they felt a little silly at first, they ended up loving every minute of it! They dashed through the house and jumped up and down when they solved a new clue. When they found the treasure, I saw flushed cheeks and smiles. It took a little work to craft the hunt, but it was worth it to see them feeling excited and happy.
Wait. S’mores for breakfast?
Like most parents, the hours I was spending in the kitchen started to wear on me. I devoted a quarter of my day to cooking and cleaning. Should I fasten feedbags to the kids’ muzzles? This was getting silly. In true sloth mom fashion, I made a decision. Old rules were out. Yes Mom’s rules were in.
Waffles for dinner? Yes. Popcorn and carrots for lunch? Yep. S’mores for breakfast? Wait…s’mores? You bet! We lit the fire pit and roasted the hell out of those marshmallows. I’d like to say we watched the sunrise as we lounged around the fire pit, but my kids sleep until noon. Remember?
Don’t worry! My kids still consume epic amounts of fruit, vegetables, and protein, but the pressure to make every single meal a well-balanced, fine-dining experience disappeared. We’re having fun by turning mealtimes upside down.
Honestly, I dig it. While we’ll return to a more traditional meal schedule once our lives return to normal, we’ll hold on to some of our newfound spontaneity. Yes, spontaneity in parenting is possible!
Family Movie Night Flex
We’re avid cinephiles. Before quarantine, we held family movie night once a month (on average). Tournaments, practices, and music lessons kept us busy most weekends. Now that our schedule was wide-open, Saturday evening transformed into family movie night.
My husband drags two small sofas into the den and arranges them behind the large sectional to imitate theater seating. Instead of cooking, we opt to support local restaurants by ordering takeout. My kids appreciate dinners served smorgasbord style. One evening, we got Indian food and set the table with a dozen small side dishes. The kids got a kick out of sampling the different specialties. Some even found new favorites.
After we binge on delicious food I DON’T HAVE TO COOK, we stream movies. My kids adopted my love for horror (swoon), and I used this time as an opportunity to expose them to some of the classics like Jaws, Aliens, World War Z, and Poltergeist. Of course, I introducted them to gems in other genres as well—Interstellar, Big, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Once the movie ends, we gather in the kitchen and give our ratings and reviews. My youngest son writes a weekly newspaper for the family. He asks his older siblings to play film critics, and then he quotes them in his newspaper.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We printed out a map of our city and planned to walk every street. One of my sons hosted a family ping-pong tournament, complete with brackets and a certificate for the winner. We’ve hiked and played games. Best of all, we’ve sat around the table shooting the breeze. We’ve talked about everything and nothing. You can find a list of other things to do inside during a pandemic here.
I’ve been moody during quarantine. Family and friends mention the many feelings swirling around their homes, too. Our teens are no different from us. They have good days and bad days.
I added chores to our routine toward the beginning of quarantine. You can read about that process here. But when I detected salty vibes coming from my teens, I knew we needed more spontaneity and fun in our lives. I couldn’t erase their moodiness. I couldn’t make up for all the things they had lost. But I could make life more interesting for them. After all, Yes Mom says yes to new ideas, even the craziest ones.
Recently, I’ve seen more smiles, laughter, and curiosity from my teens. I’d like to think I’m helping them beat the quarantine blues. When life gives you lemons, you toss them aside and make your own fun.