Pandemic Adventures in the City

Some of my family and friends worry that I live in the city during the world’s worst pandemic. For them, it’s the perfect storm for a disaster.

I look at it very differently.

First, I live in a building that is locked down. No one other than immediate family is allowed in. I have a grocery store in my building so I don’t have to go out for food and toilet paper. With so many people in the building, everyone knows someone so as a group, we often order from local restaurants and grocers, negating more reason to go out.

But I still have to get out. Insanity would descend very quickly if I didn’t pursue my love of the outdoors. So my daughter and I have figured out how to make that work.

My daughter and I babysit occasionally for a few families in the city. We’ve been doing it for years.

So when the Corona pandemic rose over the horizon, crashing into our lives, we were called into action. Our periodic babysitting turned into a daily habit for 1 & 3 year old boys. The closing of their daycare made us “essential”. I never felt so important!

But the boys’ physician parents had a few rules. No screens and no food.

No problem, right?

It wasn’t a problem at first. The city was our oyster, open for exploration. Libraries, museums, playgrounds and public restrooms for help in potty training the 3 year old. This was gonna be fun!!

Until it wasn’t, and everything in the city closed down. I mean everything, even the bathrooms and playgrounds were taped off. Have you ever thought about potty training a kid when there’s no literal bathroom? In a city? I hadn’t, until I had to.

All that was available was open space.

After their 15 second attention span made the provincial activities like coloring, dancing, toy cars and online sources obsolete, we were forced to get creative. We needed something else to fill the time.

Google Maps became our friend. Philadelphia has one of the largest urban parks in the country. Fairmount Park, with over 2000 acres afforded us access to social distancing while staying in the city. We made it our goal to explore every acre we could while practicing social distancing.

When other humans figured out the park system and the trails got a little more crowded, we were forced to get creative again.

So here’s a list of how we used our daily time to explore the city while social distancing. If you need to get outside and stay away from others, maybe you can adapt this to your location.

  • We found nature trails that are wide, giving the wandering children berth to stay away from others and give the 4 of us and our dogs room to roam. The popular city trails, though wide, were filled with runners, dog walkers and other city dwellers. We had to get out into the deserted area of Fairmount Park. The kids learned how to hike. For them, this was a new adventure!
  • While National Park buildings, like the Constitution Center, were closed, the surrounding grounds were open for our exploration. We could look in windows, through fences and play ball on the once crowded lawns.
  • Most cities have large cemeteries. Small children don’t know they’re cemeteries so they became “Statue Parks” and our go to outdoor adventure as the weather got warmer and the streets more crowded with masked faces. There was literally no living beings on these grounds and we, along with the dogs, had free rein of the vast open acreage.
  • Philadelphia also has 5 world class museums within walking distance. The streets joining these museums are filled with empty fountains, spring blooming gardens and deserted streets. Every day became an adventure of naming and smelling the awakening fauna. Small kids walk slow and our exploration of the various gardens and paths surrounding these buildings quickly filled our time.
  • Rain didn’t stop us. City living requires good rain coats and umbrellas so out we went, taking cover when the rain got steady. Nothing like a little kid jumping in a puddle to make you smile on a dreary day!
  • Zoom and Facetime came in handy on rainy days for childish chats with the boys cousins. There was phone hugging since physical hugging wasn’t allowed and many “I love you more” squeals of delight from one home to the other:)
  • Exhausted after our morning walks, we’d put the kids in the car and head over to our favorite coffee shop for a well deserved caffeine injection. Our favorite coffee shop engineered their take out window specifically for pandemic use.

What I’ve learned from these adventures is that small kids think small. I didn’t need an elaborate set up or fancy coloring books. There’s nothing better to a small kid than a stick race on the river. All babysitting took was a little creativity and an afternoon nap for me.

What have you been up to during this pandemic to maintain your sanity while distancing socially?

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