For the last five months, we’ve been locked up with our families for 17 years. Each day is another long, hot trek to bedtime. Parents break their brains thinking up creative ways to entertain their kids during this “summer vacation” that started in March and threatens to continue through fall. The phrase “Families Can Be Together Forever” is now a terrifying prophecy.
Here’s what we’ve learned: Sometimes video games ARE the answer.
Celebrities share Tik Tok videos about being “stranded” in their $6.5 million log cabins where everyone has their own TV, floor, masseuse, trampoline and personal chef. I’m not belittling their suffering, I’m just . . . well, I guess I am.
For common folk, trampolines are as hard to find as Lysol wipes. Puzzles, board games and sidewalk chalk are valuable commodities on the black market (along with livers, since we’ve been day-drinking for months).
Everyone is heading outside to escape.
Extended families stretch the “No large gathering” rules to the max because COVID wouldn’t ruin the annual family reunion, right? Lakes, canyons, national parks and camp sites are packed with people who thought they were the only ones who needed a break from looking at the same dirty carpeting for one more day.
I’ve been on several hikes this summer, sometimes with the puppy, sometimes with the grandkids. Not necessarily relaxing, but at least we take the fight to a different location.
My latest hike was tackling Bell’s Canyon with my daughter and three of my grandkids, including a 3- and 4-year-old. If that sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel, you are correct.
Before we even started up the trail the complaining began. “I’m so hot.” “The trail is too steep.” “The dirt is too dirty.” “I’m so thirsty.”
My daughter told me to shut up and set a better example, but it was too late. The littles were soon echoing my whines at super-high decibel levels. I ended up confiscating water bottles after a good portion was dumped onto the trail to make mud. I explained to the toddlers what happens when you dehydrate. They didn’t care.
It took roughly five days to make our way to the reservoir where the kids splashed in the cool water, tossed wet sand at each other, threw crackers at the ducks, slipped on the rocks and screamed at the dragonflies.
I considered calling in a rescue helicopter, figuring the expense was worth not having to walk back down the trail. Instead, we bribed the kids with McDonald’s, promising processed chicken parts if they’d walk faster than a drugged porcupine. We made it back to the car exhausted, sunburned and grumpy – just like a normal summer hike!
Backyards are also being used to their fullest. Our luxurious backyard pool (a 6’ wading pool from Walmart) is usually a weird shade of green and full of dead bugs, but that doesn’t stop us from soaking in the probably dangerous water, eating popsicles. If I don’t get sick from COVID, malaria might be another option.
The grandkids set up a tent a couple of weeks ago, hoping to have a backyard campout. They roasted marshmallows over the grill and climbed into their sleeping bags only to be shaken awake two hours later by a microburst that threatened to carry them to Oz. Everyone was safe, but traumatized, which seems to be the status quo in these crazy times.
Returning to school is the big debate right now, followed by what should be a strange Halloween and holiday season. Sure makes eternity feel like a really long time.
This column originally appeared in The Davis Clipper