Spread some happy

The last seven weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions. Our little family unit has gone through feelings of sadness, fear, joy, loneliness, excitement, boredom and overwhelming love. You name it, we’ve felt it.

When the rumblings of temporary school closures and activity cancellations started, none of us ever expected what would unfold. As a family that is never home and always busy with sports, family and friends, it hit us quickly when social restrictions went into place and we were home full time.

The sad feelings came first. The mourning of unfinished hockey seasons. An abrupt end to the school year. The cancelled friends birthday parties. Even worse, the reality that my 5 year old wouldn’t be able to have a party. And the hardest reality that there would be no more regular visits with grandmas and grandpas.

As the weeks started to unfold and the events that were transpiring around the world came to the media, the feelings switched to relief, gratitude, empathy and guilt. Relief because we were safe and with each other. Gratitude for the people that were and are working to solve this pandemic and help those that are sick. Empathy for the tragedy that has struck globally and each individual situation of horrific loss. And finally guilt that although we are doing our part to stay home and donating where we can, what else could we be doing to help?

The emotions seemed to chase each other. I would feel overwhelming love and happiness at how much time I get to spend with my three kids. Then a rush of pure heartache would take over as I read something in the news. Followed by loneliness as I miss impromptu visits with my mom. Its a lot to process.

Looking at my kids I had the same thought. How are they feeling about all this? What are they doing to communicate their thoughts?

So I decided to make an afternoon project of Open When Letters.

What is an OPEN WHEN letter?

An open when letter is when you write something with the intention of it being opened at a later date. It can be for yourself or for someone else. The date can be specified or not.

An example would be if you had a loved one that was going traveling. You could give them a letter to be “opened when you are feeling homesick”. Then you write a letter that makes them feel better for those feelings.

Another example would be for a child. You might write a letter to them every year on their birthday with the intention that they “Open When” they turn 18.

Our Open When letter Project

So with this concept in mind I decided as an exercise in appreciation and gratitude I wanted our family to each write two Letters to be “Opened When Covid-19 is no longer considered a pandemic”

The first letter would be a letter that expresses all the things that we are grateful for right now as we are social distancing as a family at home.

The second letter would be all the things that they would be grateful to be able to do and all the people they will be grateful to see when they are able to.

I thought the project would be a valuable lesson in recognizing what they have and appreciating all the amazing aspects of their life. While also opening up the discussion that there are other people out there sacrificing to keep working and having a different experience.

Writing Open When Letters

As I started to build a template for them to write their letters in I decided to make four. The links are all there to download to make your own! I made lined letters and then a template with photo boxes for younger kids that can’t write yet. 

1. A Lined letter for  What I will appreciate in the future Open When Letters Lines

2. A Photo Box letter for What I will Appreciate in the Future Open When Letters

3. A Lined Letter for What I am Grateful for Now Open When Letter Lines

4. A Photo Box letter for What I am Grateful for Now Open When Letters

As we made out way through the project, I was really happy we decided to write these Open When Letters.

My 5 year old did pictures to express his different thoughts. There were certain things that I expected to see. I knew he would be grateful for family and his TV of course. But I was so happy to see that he is grateful for his brother. And surprised to see he was grateful for a meteor shower. We have never seen a meteor shower but he seems to think we experienced one. Maybe he had a dream about it?

The bigger surprise with the drawings was what he would be appreciative in the future. Almost all of his photos were centered around his friends. He hadn’t talked much about missing them and seemed disinterested when I tried to set up facetime play dates. He seemed so focused on just playing with his big brother that I thought it wasn’t bothering him. But he said he just really wanted to see his best friend and hunt treasure. Whatever that means ha ha. But it made me sensitive to the loneliness he is feeling for his friends.

My 9 Year old was able to write his letters. Parents made the grateful list a few times in different ways so I’m feeling pretty good about myself right now. My bigger surprise was that hockey was sixth on the list. I assumed it would be first. But it fell behind friends, grandparents and school. Its obvious that his social connections are what he is missing as well.

Overall it was an interesting lesson for me to realize how much we are all grateful for in our lives during this time period. I myself have become more aware of time and what it means to prioritize. Our lives are so busy in “regular” life. We are constantly on the go to one activity or another. This opportunity to slow right down with no outside obligations has become a gift for us. I will always be grateful for this snapshot in our lives where we had only each other to connect with and how wonderful its been.

In another respect its shone some light onto this relationships outside my home that I really need to value. Grandparents, close friends and my support mom network. I will never again take for granted being able to meet a friend for a walk or have the kids playmates over for the afternoon.

Finally it has made me appreciate our health and our healthcare system immensely. I have never before had to worry about being able to access a health professional for anything for our family. We are so lucky to have our Canadian health care system and the people that work in it.  This feeling of not being able to make an appointment with my doctor, dentist or a specialist appointment has been eye opening at the health care safety net we live with and how taking it away can make you feel so vulnerable. I am so grateful for having these resources in our life.  

We put all of the letters in an envelope and decided that we would open it up together when the Covid -19 is deemed safe and not a pandemic anymore. Who knows when life will go back to “normal”, it could be years. But we will save this “Open When Letter” time capsule to look at down the road. 

Overall it was a great opportunity for us to take a moment to realize how lucky we are in this situation and how much we will appreciate the little things in life moving forward.