Chilling for Spring Break on the Florida Suncoast
Writing the “Spring Break” article annually for The Suncoast Post has always been exciting. I’ve pulled from my own experiences to recommend area arts and sports camps, STEM activities, painting venues, and interesting freebies for the kids. In researching our area’s offerings for spring breaks, I loved finding novel ways to keep my kids busy while enjoying some mom-fun with pals along the way. It was a rather good gig, and an annual piece I enjoyed writing. It was just one of those trivial aspects of life taken for granted, pre-pandemic.
COVID & Spring Break Lessons Learned
This time last year, teachers and students left their classrooms for one really long week that saw them still home throughout the rest of spring and summer. So much for camps, outings, the beach or anything that resembled “spring break.” This year, we find ourselves much further along, with vaccines available and herd immunity an actual realization. For many, myself included, the COVID experience was mild and a non-event. For others, including dear people in my own life, the road back to health after a bout with COVID has been astoundingly difficult. And still many families will forever mourn the eternal absence of a family member or friend, who ultimately died during this unending year. Our deepest condolences go out to the latter.
We have all learned who and what is important throughout this year. Whether dealing with the ultimate loss of life or the loss of income, there is nobody who is left untouched. Many of us have helped our kids through their new realities of isolation and navigating school from home, and to that end – -it has been a year. To say we are completely out of the woods is premature, but it is nice to daydream about barbeques and travel in any form. Nice to think of large family gatherings or simple shopping trips to the mall and a lunch out at a new hot spot with live music. Speaking of which, remember concerts? Sweating and swaying along with thousands of strangers, all sans masks? It is all a distant memory, yet we are seeing normalcy right around the bend.
In many ways the pandemic has completely transformed the way people work, shop, socialize and generally interact. It seems “getting back to normal” may not be a prudent goal. We have adapted to changes that, at the time, seemed necessary but temporary. Now, some of these changes will remain. Many businesses have learned people really can work more efficiently at home and platforms like Zoom are the new boardrooms where decisions are made. Some students find it better for their psyche to remain online and many families have discovered all their “busyness” was not necessary.
Suggestions for This Year
So, what are we to do this Spring Break, when we are not quite where we need to be for full freedom, yet the kids are begging to get going? As they break for the week, there must be this sense of “will we return” for those students who remember clearly when their lives became locked down and different. It is easy to assume kids are doing fine because they accept these new experiences, like a pandemic, as a part of life, just something to be dealt with. Their go-with-the-flow demeanors can get them overachieving and busy 24/7 when they really don’t need all of that. Before things get too hectic again, this spring break is the perfect week to do a little more– nothing.
Here are my suggestions for this year’s spring break: Let them sleep in, eat mounds of chocolate chip pancakes and then let the kitchen sit messy while nobody worries about dishes for a while. Get them out in nature, which if teenagers, they may protest, but that vitamin D and the warm Florida sun not only boost our immunity but also our moods. Cook with them! I don’t mean crack open a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese; I mean find a recipe for something out of the ordinary and shop for ingredients, discuss all as you prepare a great dish together. Re-do their room, with a thorough organization, donation, sale or otherwise cleanout of their digs.
Add some paint or a new light and just like adults, kids will feel refreshed in their spruced-up spaces. Take time to binge watch…. each other. Set some time aside to plant a new garden, perhaps for salsa or sauces or just because it is cool to see things thrive and produce. Lay around in their rooms until they kick you out, talking about the crazy stuff you did as a kid, leaving out the incriminating details, of course. And show them photos of all the places you took them when they were so small and spent hours savoring their smiles and baby toes. Remind them how much they have been loved from the very start. Pretend this is the last unhurried week of their lives and soak up every mother-loving second of it.
And that is it. Maybe this time next year, we will be highlighting places to go and sights to see. You’ll be ready to pack the kids up to see their auntie in Tennessee or will wonder which camp to check out. But for now, enjoy the forced option of laying low with your loved ones. Chances are this will be a nonextended Spring Break this year, so savor the moments.
Photos from Deposit Photos & Jodi Schwarzenbach