Juggling Smoke and Covid

Juggling Smoke and Covid

Ruth, would you read a letter from my 13-year-old granddaughter, In California, and check my response to make sure I don’t miss anything? Kaylee is a loving, talented and sensitive young lady. Last year, before the Pandemic, we wrote ‘pen pal’ letters back and forth where I shared family traditions and trips. but school, sports, and friends began to take up too much of her time and our exchanges waned. It sounds like she wants to do this again, especially when she asks me to tell her about what it was like when I was her age.

She’s the oldest of three children. Her 7-year-old brother, bored with working with his online class has been a handful, assuming extra attention from her parents who have demanding jobs.

“Dear Gram, you are probably surprised to be getting a letter from me.  Right now, I am extremely bored and this was the idea that came to my head to do.  It is soooo smoky outside right now so I can’t ride my bike or play outside. My best friend, Jenny, has been in Canada for weeks, so I can’t hang out with her. And I’m not about to go watch TV when I have been on a device doing school work all day. I don’t have any sports practices (because of Corona) to entertain me. Finally, activities like cooking, art and playing games have just got less fun after doing them consistently for 6 months of quarantine straight. In a way, I wish I had my driver’s license so I could at least explore and maybe go someplace for fun. To get through a lot of this I have found myself daydreaming and reminiscing of better times.

I am only about 10 days into school so far and I am already over it. I wish I could say this is not true but I have a very long year ahead of me. Do you think I will have a live 8th grade graduation by then?  I noticed during my zoom calls so many kids have their cameras off and it is very depressing. When their camera is off and they’re muted it’s like they’re not even there. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one taking the class. The teachers are required to have their cameras on and there have been instances where they are the only one with it on. I almost start to cry because they seem so sad. Some teachers tell jokes at the beginning of their zoom and when everybody is muted/ cameras off you can’t see/hear any reaction to the joke. I mean the teacher is trying to help, trying to do her job, trying to lighten the mood by telling the joke. That is why I don’t care anymore about what people think of me. I want to keep my camera on all of the time to be nice. It’s so easy to give-in to having it off since it’s not required to be on.

I don’t have words for how much I miss my life. I feel so lonely right now without school. In February I had lots of friends and I loved them all but since quarantine happened, I found out Jenny was my only true friend who cared about me. I haven’t talked to some of my friends since March!  Not even on the phone!  But I swear if we go back to school and they start pretending to be my friends again I will not believe them. It’s hard to feel like they are not my friends because it felt so real and close when we were in person at school. If I had to describe what being 13 is like to a younger kid right now, I would tell them I had no idea because I haven’t had the chance to live it yet. Can you tell me stories from when you were 13 to make me feel better?

I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I hate 2020 so much and I want to live some other year or if it’s because I have been watching so much of The Wonder Years about growing up in the 60’s or what … but I am kind of obsessed with the 50’s and 60’s to the extent--I know this might sound weird--but it’s just the fashion, music, culture, everything seems so much nicer.  For starters there were no smartphones, no Facebook, Instagram, texting, none of that which lets kids enjoy their childhood and have fun rather than playing video games all day. Then, the music was soooo good. I feel like the only modern day 13-year-old who loves and knows every word to songs from bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, the Rolling Stones is strange. I guess stupid millennials would rather listen to rap songs rather than good music. Another thing I love about that time period is that the world was less corrupt and you could run off to your friend’s house for a few hours without your parents panicking about your safety and where you went.

Some of the adventures and things Kevin Arnold did in The Wonder Years are fun things we could never do nowadays. I’m just the type of girl who craves adventure, good times, wants to bike ride somewhere rather than invite a friend over to play video games. I wish I knew some kids like me who want the same things. You probably think I’m crazy for obsessing over a lifestyle 50-60 years ago but it just seems so nice.  Was it really for you? Tell me stories. Oh, and drive-in movies! They sound so fun and I have never been to one before. It seems like they are just not as popular anymore. Kevin Arnold would go there with his friends sometimes and have so much fun. Was it really like that back then? I’m sorry for my messy handwriting but my mom is calling me to set the table now, so write back soon.  Love, Kaylee

P. S.  I wrote this a few weeks ago and I’m just getting around to sending it. P.P.S.  Sorry for being so negative in the first part. I kinda have a lot to vent about. “

“Ruth, I am glad that Kaylee feels comfortable writing to me. She knows I will not share anything she has written with her parents without her permission. I agree with her about the zoom classes and the option for kids to be off the screen.  I told her mother that when she told me about it a few weeks ago. ‘Being too insecure to be on screen’ is a way to hide and they cannot do it in the classroom and should not be allowed to do it here. School administrators should read what Kaylee has written!

I want to tell her that she should reach out to her friends with a note or a phone call, and that I have been doing this, whether a person has been in contact with me or not. Even though isolation has been hard, you just have to be willing to reach out to friends the first, second or third time.

Since Kaylee likes to write, I want to encourage her to journal daily, maybe create poetry or stories.  She and her sister were writing letters from a garden fairy addressed to their younger brother until he got too over stimulated by that and the fairy had to take a month vacation! But she could write some stories to send to her little cousins in Kentucky. They would love that.

Kaylee is very good at drawing and I thought she might think ahead and create some Halloween and Christmas cards. She could plan a trip she would like to take in the future and check maps, research places of interest she would like to see. Both girls have made trips east, flying on their own, to visit us for what we call ‘study abroad’. She could make a collage of one of her favorite hobbies, sports, music, or another theme using word and pictures.  She might hang it by her desk to brighten her workspace.

A couple years ago, I made a ‘thankful jar’, writing on post-it notes every night something good about the day. It could have been something as simple as going for a walk on a sunny day after a day of rain or spending time with my brother at our favorite ice cream place. I am going to suggest that to her and my goal for this new month of October is to begin this again for myself!

We read To Kill a Mockingbird together this summer going on Zoom every couple of days. Then, we watched the movie together when they visited here for a week. I am suggesting we do another book together since we both enjoyed that. Reading biographies of famous people might be good, too. Sorry this has gotten so long! Any input you could give will be appreciated. Love, Betty. “

Betty, you've done a super job of suggesting options on dealing with boredom. You could praise her for acknowledging her problem which is 50 percent of solution. This approach is helping her now, and will help her the rest of her life.

And she’s mature enough to understand the old adage ‘it's not the situation we're in but the attitude we take’. We all need to remind ourselves of that, especially during the pandemic upset. Remind her that coping with problems actually helps us become acquainted with who we are and reveals our passions. Many coping with problems have written books that have helped millions. It's what we do with our problems, getting the most out of every experience.  Encourage Kaylee to write stories about how she’s coping with the pandemic and smoke from forest fires, because kids in the next generation will inhale those accounts.

Encourage Kaylee to keep her self-esteem healthy. I think now is an excellent time to introduce her to another guide for life—Crisis Reveals Character. This truism has helped our children for years. Our professor son, says he still reminds himself of that and passes it on to his college students.

Thank you and Kaylee for being willing to share your story with the blogger world, an excellent encouragement to teenagers, parents and grandparents.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and purity. I Tim 4:12 NIV

You Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can scale a wall.    32 It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.  Ps 18: 28-29,32 NIV