By Molly Pereira, CDA Associate Executive Director
From the Spring/Summer 2020 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
The short version of the conversation with my kids went like this:
Me: “For the third time, I need you to come in! Dinner is almost ready!” [for the love…does no one listen in this family…]
9-year-old: “Who are you talking to?”
Me: “Your sister! Where is she?” [I have so much to do…we need to eat dinner because I need to get back to work…did I take the laundry out of the washer…oh speaking of which did I call that person back…why are our floors sticky…I literally just cleaned these…]
9-year-old: “She found a Rollie Pollie and had to take it next door to the sanctuary.” [um…WHAT?!]
7-year-old bursting through the door like an indoor tornado beaming like a rainbow: “OK Google! What does a Rollie Pollie eat?” [The Google Home device answers.] “Mom, so first we found a big Rollie Pollie and then we found the tiniest, cutest baby Rollie Pollie so we made a Rollie Pollie apartment out of take-out containers and it’s called the Rollie Pazillion and they all can live there but they don’t move very fast and the cracks in the sidewalk aren’t safe so we’re taking them all there and then they can be happy and have friends…”
It was at that moment, standing on a sticky floor covered with dried lemonade drips, that I paused and was hit with déjà vu from my own childhood when my friends and I were so bored out of our skulls during summer break that we captured grasshoppers and trapped them in a compound (definitely not a sanctuary) made of cinderblocks. And we did this every day. Both of my parents worked full-time, and my brother and I went to an in-home daycare. We made crafts, we splashed in an inflatable pool filled with hose water and played on a swing set that bounced off the ground when your swing got too high. And when those things got boring, we trapped grasshoppers and were forced to use our imaginations and be outside (without sunscreen applications on the hour and water bottles and snacks packed in insulated lunch boxes).
Before the violins start playing, let’s be clear…I didn’t walk to and from school uphill both directions in the snow. I’m just in my early 40s, so this really wasn’t that long ago but I distinctly remember these simple days where I didn’t have any place to be, every hour was like eternity and we were lucky if we got to watch a VHS showing at our babysitter’s house of the 1961 version of “The Parent Trap” with Hayley Mills.
Here’s my point. As I was standing in the kitchen with my feet literally stuck to the floor and my head pulsing from the stress of my to-do list, I was watching my rainbow tornado give me a play-by-play of Rollie Pollie Days of our Lives. While COVID-19 was taking over the world country by country—threatening lives, closing schools, cancelling all community events, financially devesting small and large businesses, and forcing solitude—life was becoming simpler in several other aspects. We are being forced to slowdown, reset and reflect on what we have. My kids don’t have any extracurricular organized activities (this is weird for us) and I don’t have to get them anywhere on time and be a ninja of schedule management. Summertime for our family is not typically easy breezy—in fact, I usually find it more stressful than the rest of the year with summer camps that have odd hours, several CDA and ADA meetings and being deadline driven to an OCD level just so we can go on “vacation” for 10 days.
Not this year… 2020 has effectively cancelled school, every possible summer camp we could attend, flag football, swim lessons, the CDA meeting, at least three nationals meetings, our annual summer vacation, birthday parties, holiday gatherings, family reunions, pool time, Water World, Hamilton and I’m sure many other things still to come. Despite all of this, I’m kind of excited about it. Am I allowed to say that? The introvert in me has been preparing for this my entire life if I’m being honest, but that’s not why I’m excited. My kids get to have a summer filled with grasshoppers (or Rollie Pollies) and sunshine. Their lives get to be simple; they get to be so bored that they’re forced to be creative.
Let me be clear, the point of this column is not to turn a blind eye to the fact that most dentists are working their tails off to recover from one of the most devastating times of their dental careers. I am not discounting the severity or consequences of this global pandemic. The human loss is heartbreaking, the financial situation for many is dire, fear has brought out the best and worst in people, and the mental health consequences of solitude and stress are coming more each day. This week, in fact, I know two people who lost their lives too soon—one to COVID-19 and one to substance abuse. These are serious issues, and this is a serious time filled with anger, fear, worry, depression, division, and sadness.
Despite all of this, there is a little girl who knows what COVID-19 is and the dangers that it brings. She is sad that she can’t see her friends and that we can’t go anywhere this summer. But the cool thing about kids is that they listen, accept their reality and adapt to their new normal. They don’t know when this will end, but they get up each morning and have hope for a great day. So, I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to reset our insanely busy lives and to appreciate this unforgettable time in history from their perspective. I am going to try to slow down, just a little, and appreciate what I have. Maybe, I’ll even try to enjoy a little boredom.
Oh and, by the way, Rollie Pollies eat grass, leaves, plants and fish food.