I’m worried my kids won’t remember how to go to normal places like museums and out to restaurants once it finally feels safe enough to do so. I’m especially worried they won’t remember how to go to synagogue. Shabbat services used to be a big part of our lives and now, for two years, that’s changed completely.
I’m sorry for what I’m about to say because it sounds harsh, and it’s sad, but your kids very likely may not remember any of these things. Depending on their ages in March 2020, the kinds of in-person experiences you’re describing may be distant memories, or they may hardly be memories at all. A 4-year-old who went to services every Shabbat is now a 6-year-old who has lived a third of their life with these restrictions and without those experiences.
Rather than trying to get your kids to remember or, when it’s time, to compare their current experiences with any past ones, focus on making new memories and creating new associations. Depending on your risk level, putting on a high filtration mask and going to a museum on a weekday when it opens could provide you with a low-crowd opportunity to reintroduce your children to this particular scene. Even if you only stay 20 minutes, when you’re ready to go for longer, you’ll have a more recent memory to recall.
When it comes to restaurants, if your family is in the habit of getting takeout, next time, instead of getting delivery, consider bringing your children to do a pick-up. You’ll be safely masked and, even if indoor diners aren’t, your children can (briefly) see people eating in a social setting and can start to re-acclimate to knowing that’s something some people do as part of the human experience. Obviously don’t do this if they would be jealous or unable to understand differing risk tolerances, but if they could benefit just from seeing this experience, I think it’s worth it.
As for synagogue, if you are comfortable with a Zoom service, consider tuning in whenever it’s convenient. This will help your kids remember the tunes and the setting and the people involved. And even Zooming into services from home can give you the chance to let your kids practice sitting quietly and can give you a chance to model the parts of services where they can and should sing along and the times to sit quietly.
If Zoom services aren’t an option for your family, consider whether there’s a weekday service or some other in-person, masked opportunity with fewer attendees than Shabbat that you could try out. If that’s still outside your comfort zone, talk to your rabbi about whether there’s a time you could bring your family to the sanctuary when no one else is around. Building some familiarity with the space could be a lovely first step on the way to getting back to services, and being there may even jog some memories from the past.
While I hesitate to end with a lot of platitudes about how kids are resilient and their minds are elastic, and how the world and all of our experiences are continuously challenged and changing, alas, it’s true.
Your kids may not remember all the happy times they spent in these places pre-pandemic, but those experiences helped form them into the people they are today, and into the people who will continue to have new experiences and form new memories.