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  • Writer's pictureDev Friedlander

My Worst Fears

Everyone has things they are afraid of such as spiders, clowns, heights, and germs, but for me, it’s unstructured time with my children. Sure, I’ve had lots of practice on vacations and sick days and there are plenty of good times and happy memories. But there were also the screaming matches, squabbles and the dreaded phrase heard over and over, “I’m bored!”

My worst fear came true a little over a week ago when our Prime Minister declared, “school has been canceled for over a month to stop the spread of COVID-19.” I gripped my cell phone in sheer terror; he couldn’t have meant it! Or Could he? 40 whole days to teach, entertain and keep my children out of trouble. Five weeks to try and work and keep our houses in order, all while our children are running through them. As I slowly calmed down and came to grips with my new reality; I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Silly me, of course, it could, and it did.

Early Tuesday morning this past week I received an email from the school; my three girls were being placed in retroactive quarantine because it seemed a boy at their school had come down with Coronavirus and as a precaution, my girls were not allowed to leave the house for ten days. If you had told me they were canceling my Netflix subscription I would have reacted better. Not only were my kids home from school, but they were also further restricted to the 110 square meters of my apartment and I’m stuck with them. No going to parks, to the store, or even to take out the trash. Help!

This wasn’t the first time my worst fears had been realized. I have a phobia of parking lot booms not going up when I’m trying to exit. Sure enough, I was forced to face my fear and the parking lot boom at the mall wouldn’t take my ticket and I had five angry people waiting behind me to exit. I had to get out of my car and ask the five people behind me to reverse so I could park and settle the matter inside. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me, it was a traumatic event.

Anther phobia at the top of my list is getting lost in new places. Sure enough, I was compelled to face that fear when I not only became lost but turn out to be lost in a dangerous neighborhood. One where cars had been stoned and even deaths reported. For whatever reason, this news didn’t stop Waze from sending me right into it and then causing me to become thoroughly disoriented. When I realized where I was and that I couldn’t get Waze to reroute me out safely I pulled over and called my husband to direct me out, which he patiently did. I was shaking when I finally got home after a four-hour trek that should have taken one.

So, after having faced down two of my worst fears, I told myself I could handle this new challenge. Sure, it would be a test. There would be fights, and mess and the structure I crave would now be out the window. How was I going to handle it all? I didn’t know. That is what makes fear so scary, the unknown.

Knowing my fears, my husband sat down with me and together we made a schedule. It included activities for the girls that I enjoyed such as cooking and dancing; as well as things I don’t, like art and schoolwork. There were times for chores, aerobics, and even writing. I placed a hand over my heart and declared the scheduled achievable. And to my great relief, it has worked, so far.

Every morning my girls ate breakfast and played while I exercised. Then we did schoolwork. After that was an activity, either art, cooking or some other creative option my girls had come up with. I found I could write during this time. Then we ate lunch and afterward I allowed screen time. When screen time was over, we did a physical activity such as just dance, hide and seek and even a fashion show where there were lots of poses and strutting. Afterward, we ate dinner and watched something together followed by bedtime sometime after.

I’m happy to report, the fighting has been less than what is experienced on most vacations, the enforced cleanup has kept the apartment in order and I still get to do all things I normally do in a day. The best part of all, my kids are dreaming about a picnic. Such simple pleasures were scoffed at in the past. So, while I’m still scared of parking booms that don’t rise on command and getting lost in dangerous neighborhoods, I am no longer fearful of unstructured time with my children, well, at least for now.

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