Dear Friends and Parents:
One of my pals just texted me a video of an affable British math teacher going all gaga about the number 6174. I first thought it was the U.K. head count for how many isolating family members have strangled each other. Nope. There really is something magical about the number 6174 itself.
Google the Kaprekar’s Constant, and you will see just how much time my buddy, a big shot family lawyer in Toronto, has on his hands to dwell on dumb stuff. He’s holed up with his two daughters, both young adults, themselves finding imaginative ways of coping with Covid. He could be complaining about being overwhelmed by estrogen. On the contrary, the man tells me there is peace in his land.
He’s sidestepping the domestic doldrums. Is his family the exception or the rule?
Psychologists warn of an escalating mental health crisis in young people. Parents tell me they fear that Covid may incubate a special strain of teenage madness.
Home schooling isn’t hitting home. The job market is dying. There’s a preoccupation with what’s next, or lack of what’s next, that is fostering a sense of helplessness in Generation Zees. Or so the argument goes.
Some parents worry, that their kids worry, about an academic Armageddon resulting from the closure of schools.
Curiously and incredibly, I am discovering that the Kids Are All Right (be the first to name the band and release date of this album and win a Boundless T-shirt doused in Purell).
The world belongs to the anxious right now. Especially teens, some of whom are quite content in their caves. Some kids I have spoken with are positively bubbly. Baking has become the rage. So has push up challenges. Philosophical banter is making a comeback.
The anxious kid’s bedroom or basement used to be both a paradise and a prison – a retreat zone that was often too difficult to drag your butt out of because the world can be so scary.
Now society sanctions, even legislates, the existence of these escape pods. Hovel hunkering is vogue. Basements are everyone’s Miami Beach. FOMO vanishes. There is no missing out on anything.
Some parents tell me that their basement dwellers, like carpenter ants, are finding their way into the light of the kitchen. And that’s where the real action happens. Chilling in the kitchen. I argue this is more important than academics, for the time being.
It appears this virus has shoved mindfulness in our faces. Just “being” is enough.
Unfettered time with family is giving comfort to kids at a primordial level. We primates just want to eat, groom, hang out, and make more primates. We may, in fact, be wired for isolation. As long as Shopper’s Drug Mart is around the corner, and we have cornered the market on all-purpose flour.
I know each teen’s place on the thriving-to-struggling continuum varies widely. I know some homes are truly toxic, and far from an ideal place to hunker. But the mental health experts I hang out with – and I am married to a family therapist – stress that kids are generally doing okay so far.
When the world starts to gradually open its doors again, anxiety will return. But for now, bake your cookies and do your sit-ups and relish every second.
The ancient Athenians had a brilliant practice where if you, as a citizen, got too powerful or uppity, they would exile you for ten years. Many returned stronger. I think Covid will be just like that for most of us, and especially for our kids.
Here’s to hoping.