My son is not the type of kid who always asks for stuff as soon as we set foot in a store, and he never has been. Sure, he has some great toys in the way of an XBox One S, a number of games, and a new laptop a few months ago for his time for school-from-home, but he isn’t a particular hoarder of anything commercial except books. He isn’t generally very materialistic.
But he is going through social withdrawal or cabin fever of being cooped up. Because our house is at higher-risk than average for COVID-19 impacts, we have minimized most vectors pretty aggressively. Andrea rarely went out in the first 12 weeks; Jacob didn’t go anywhere commercial at all. I’m the sole vector and my outings tend to be for food or groceries. Or to work twice to pick up and drop stuff off. We’ve gone for a few drives around the city, but that’s about it. Oh, and visits to friends out on the river to go kayaking and have a BBQ night.
Today, he hit a bit of a wall. He’s bored, and lots of little things around the house that Andrea and I are doing are not a lot of fun. We’re in a minor purge mode, and that requires cleaning up and cleaning out certain areas of the house, like parts of the playroom, where some of the stuff is his. And I know that pain.
I too am getting decision overload on some of the clean up where every item is a question mark…do we want it, do we need it, are we going to regret getting rid of it…we’re not stupid enough to ask if it brings us joy, but well, it’s a painful time for 100s of mini decisions in a row where the consequences are not super high, just annoying. In many ways, it’s also about making choices about how we want to live and want we want to prioritize keeping. We play a lot of board games, so that’s a big area of our storage in the playroom, which has caused us to shift a bunch of stuff out of there like CDs that we never listen to anymore. At least not in CD form. Almost all of them are ones I have ripped and copied to iTunes, and if we don’t, well we have an iTunes subscription anyway. It’s not like we can’t hear a song or album we want just about any time of the day (with a few small exceptions like if I get a Garth Brooks hankering one day). But we also have Amazon Prime, free versions of Spotify and this little thing called the internet.
But I digress. I’m just saying that without friends to play with on weekends, as most aren’t on Fort Nite then, he gets a little rangy. And it’s cumulative. This afternoon it hit a peak. We were supposed to go get new sandals, but we pushed that to tomorrow. I was going to go to The Butchery for meat and Canadian Tire for a small bookcase, but that was not exciting him. In short, he just had a combo case of cabin fever and boredom, and moving well nigh into the mopes.
Time for Plan A.
We’ve been working on it for the last couple of weeks. He does NOT like wearing a mask, he says he finds it hard to breathe, and with his asthma and/or small lungs, that’s not surprising. He can get out of breath pretty easily and the psychological triggers don’t help contain it. So we’ve been working on looser fitting masks, pushing him a little more and more each time we go out, and I even bought a bunch of disposables that are lighter than his cloth one. Not as effective of course, but well, we have to work with what we have.
We took him to convenience stores yesterday for popsicles, and while it was a bit of an initial bust, that probably worked in our favour. He went to a pharmacy near our house, a pharmacy at College Square, and a dollar store at College Square, each one brief intros to shopping with a mask, and then finally guaranteed success at a Mac’s store. I almost said Mac’s Milk, but it hasn’t been called that for years, I know.
With those experiences in place, it was time for the big guns.
Today we went to Chapters. And we made a big production out of it too. Or, well, to be honest, I made a big deal about it. He brought some of his gift cards that he hasn’t used, I brought two that I had, and in we went. We were on a hunt for books for him that go beyond his existing series. He has a whack of books that were the next ones in his series but I’d love to find him stuff beyond the core series he reads now. Heck, if I could get him watching Star Trek, there are literally hundreds of books in those series. I might be able to get him on to Star Wars though, food for thought.
Anyway, when we arrived, we headed to the kids section but Jacob is pushing the upper boundary of his reading for the 8-12 set, so perhaps it was time for teens. A guy working there asked if he could help us find something, and while Andrea and Jacob were inclined to say no, I saw it as an opportunity to make it big. So I said, “Yes, please!”.
I explained he had read a whole bunch of series in the 8-12 range, from magical animals to dragons to anything with gods and demi-gods. But we had no idea where to start in the teen range, and we wanted to avoid getting into the sex and romance side of YA/Teen. As an aside, Andrea and I read a series called the House of Night, and it had a bit of a Harry Potter feel to its premise of a new vampire going to a vampire school, which lasted until about Chapter 3 when the main character saw her arch-rival performing oral sex on her boyfriend in one of the darkened corridors in the school. Not exactly Harry Potter! Andrea’s not sure he’s ready for The Hunger Games, but the guy did a great job of giving us some other ideas (teen versions of Cat Woman and Batman origin stories, for example) and then roping in another coworker. They asked Jacob lots of questions, came up with several new series to try and shut down potential interest in others (one was a little too adult for middle-grade in her view, and maybe even badly categorized).
But we went big. Lots of new books, Andrea went and found one too (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, oh that’ll be a light beach read!), and I found a couple that are for Jacob but I’ll read them first to make sure they’re okay for him. I Am Number Four, The Fifth Wave, and an animal magic book called Wild Magic. I remember the #4 movie, and it blew chunks as I recall, but the staff assured us before I even mentioned it that the books were good and to ignore the movie.
All in all, a very positive upbeat outing, we got some good stuff, renewed our Chapters membership just so I don’t order everything from Amazon, and we broke his “mopes” for awhile. More importantly, he succeeded in going out for almost 30 minutes or more with his mask on, and while it was pushing his limit, he did it. Not exactly a “normal” outing, but a lot more normal than anything else he has done in four months.
And his success with the mask bodes well for going shopping for sandals tomorrow. We’re all good. All it took was a little spoiling, with a bit of ulterior motive delivery in the background.
Today I choose to spoil my son to help break his boredom.
What choices are you making?