I never imagined that I’d be having a moral dilemma around whether or not I should let my kids hang out with their peers. Before the pandemic, my house was usually full of extra kids. I know that the mind of a teenager is wired to pay greater respect to their peers than to their parents at this age, and my strategy has been, “If I can’t beat them, join them.” I tried to orient my home to be one where kids would feel welcome. I bought skate ramps off Craigslist. I had a trampoline and more wheeled riding things than my own family needed. Sure, my kids might be naturally pushing away from me at this age. But at least it could happen under my watch.
When schools shut down in the spring and I began to make my children follow social distancing guidelines, I saw the toll it took. They were lonely. They missed their friends. They were grieving missed school dances and birthday parties and sporting events. They were growing irritable with me, and with each other. Initially, they were FaceTiming and texting furiously with friends. But as time wore on, I noticed even that fell off. I think my kids, like many others, were experiencing a collective despair, and the lack of real face-time interaction was causing feelings of isolation and sadness, even while they were surrounded by family all day.