My Summer Mantra Remains the Same: Have Fun, Be Safe, I Love You

Before my kids got on the school bus each morning, I would say 

Have fun, be safe, I love you.

As they made their way to college and beyond, I sent them off with those same words

Have fun, be safe, I love you.

Masks
The face masks of 2020 (Shari Bender)

2020 has been a very scary and uncertain place thus far. After 3.5 months of stay at home orders, things where I live are opening up. New Yorkers have been hit hard and I shudder to see spikes across the nation. 

Summertime is supposed to be carefree fun

Summertime is supposed to be a carefree time for our kids. Activities, summer jobs, socializing, vacationing, even school is just better in the summer. The pandemic has thrust summer 2020 into limbo for many of us. And if we can somehow find our summer groove, the uncertainty of plans going forward remains.

My oldest daughter, Rose, is 23 and working while getting her MPH in Seattle WA. Mention the word Seattle and the autonomous zone dominates the conversation. Images that flooded the news shook my very core as a parent. I hoped my daughter would not go to CHAZ/CHOP, but she assured me it wasn’t all that bad. 

I am scared.

Rose is also an EMT and has been volunteering at a COVID test site. 

I am both scared and proud. 

My 18 year old son returned home from college early March to finish out the semester online. We were strict with social distancing and originally his social life consisted of 6 feet apart one-on-one outdoor only interactions. Then came hanging out in parking lots – kids sitting in their open trunks 6 feet apart. Small groups slowly went to 4 feet, then 2.

Joe is heading to a July 4th weekend trip with one friend who has been part of his small social circle core of 6. He will pack the usual sunscreen and bathing suit, but also a mask for each day, disposable masks just-in-case, wet wipes, gloves, sanitizer, cleanser and tissues, just to name a few of the extraneous items he now needs. It reminds me of the days of the diaper bag where we packed everything we could think of to keep our babies safe and secure while venturing out.

I am scared.

How we can make the most of 2020 summer

My son’s original summer plan was an elite hospitality internship. As the hospitality industry came to a grinding halt, Joe came up with Plan B and started working as DoorDash driver delivering food. That means he is touching germ-ridden door handles and going out into the real world on a daily basis. 

I am both scared and proud.

Every time my son leaves the house now, I frantically remind him 

Mask! Gloves! Purrell!  

I sound like a crazed anxiety-ridden lunatic.

In the time of COVID and 2020 turmoil, how can we make the most of our summer?  

For me, it means summer get-togethers as micro social bunches. My backyard as my summer oasis with a social calendar carefully orchestrated to minimize risk and maximize fun. Backyard barbecues and girls nights with limited guest lists create the social distance vibe for my level of comfort. My 30th anniversary trip morphed into an at-home dinner for two, my son as our personal waiter, and a musician to play our favorite tunes. It was truly special.

For my daughter, it means enjoying the great outdoors while training for a half marathon and moving into a new home in August with her new West Coast besties.  

For my son it means exploring the nature that Long Island has to offer, hikes, beach sunsets and outdoor dining with friends.  

Most of my friends are scared of what the future holds for our kids, and for ourselves. We keep our chins up and make the best of our circumstances, but as parents and also as individuals we are hurting. People may think the social media highlight reel means that other people are not stressed.

Some of what we see seems like a quarantine fantasy life – teens baking elaborate desserts, learning a new instrument, spouses tackling and crushing long overdue home improvements. But I assure you, behind the scenes we are all stressed about something related to the pandemic. 

Reach out to others

If you can muster the strength-I know sometimes it is just hard getting through the day- reach out to a friend. A text or even better, a phone call, can make all the difference. Plan a social distance with someone, with an open heart to their fears and respect for their comfort zone. Believe me, even 10 feet apart, or two feet with masks on, spending time with others can help make your summer special. 

Summer 2020 is like nothing I could have ever imagined in my 48 years on this earth. My winter coat rack has become the place we hang our masks. Masks, gloves and sanitizer now inhabit the middle of my display nook by the garage, nestled in between my wooden star-shaped Home Sweet Home and God Bless America signs. 

But even with all the new rules, regulations, face coverings and hand sanitizers, my parental mantra remains the same.

Have fun, be safe, I love you.

More to Read:

Popular Face Masks For Teens and Adults

Shari Bender has authored numerous parenting articles, drawing on her experiences with her now grown children. She earned her BA in Communications from Stanford University in 1992 and currently works as Communications and Marketing Director for a large electrical firm on Long Island. Shari is a cat-loving spiritual vegan who is excited to embrace her empty-nesting along with her husband of 27 years.

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