The extent of our current outdoor adventures
How's everyone doing in the era of COVID and shelter-in-place? I, for one, am having a difficult time parenting my 4 year old daughter. Overall, I can't complain; we're happy together as a family, and we're all healthy. Despite changes in work volume, we're secure. Finding ways to balance our time with her needs, as well as physical exercise for all, is going alright. But explaining complex concepts to a 4 year old has been... challenging.
Being that she's 4, her world is pretty small. We've talked about the virus. Why our travel plans for the end of my sabbatical from academic anesthesia have been cancelled. Why Nana and Papa can't come visit this spring. Why we can't go to our gym or her gymnastic classes. Why only Mommy or Daddy goes to the store when we need things. But even a month into staying at home, she doesn't quite get why she can't play with other kids.
It's been easy with friends she's made through her preschool classes, since they're just not nearby. But little friends in our neighborhood are another story. We're in a condo complex, and for the most part, people are doing their best to remain active but socially distant. Dog walkers shift to the other sidewalk when passing. People wave hello, some wearing masks and some not. And as with any neighborhood, there are a few odd ducks. With kids.
Of the similar-aged children in the complex, I've seen the spectrum of parenting styles... made fully obvious now that everyone's home all the time. There's the child who's outside all the time, garage door open and toys strewn about the driveway. She's scootering up and down the roads, calling out for other children. She's wearing her pajamas and eating candy, all day. Mom is young and single, but three other men seem to be living in the home as well. Cigarette smoke wafts from the windows. On the flip side, there's the child who parts the drawn blinds and peers out the window longingly as we take our multiple daily walks. Her parents keep the house dark and quiet. Despite our previous evening chats and child exchanges, I haven't seen any of them outside for weeks - only glimpses of their silhouettes at the dining table when passing by.
My child desperately wants to play with both of these kids. The one is unavailable for even a distant hello. The other is too available. And the "family" is too tricky... When she asks why she can't see the one friend, or why I won't let her play with the other, I have a hard time coming up with what to say.
We definitely believe in authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting. I never want to say "because I said so" as a response to "why". At the same time, I want her to understand that we prescribe the boundaries. So I guess what I'm wondering is, how do I talk about these decidedly complex issues? Mamas of older kids, what have you done? What would you do differently if you could go back?