May 14th, 2020

Creating Positive Experiences and Memories During COVID-19

Mo Bro Rob Reid on how COVID-19 has allowed him to spend more time with the people he loves.
Mental Health

We are now two months into this pandemic. While the coronavirus may have started earlier in some parts of the world, in Vancouver, we started really paying attention around mid-March when WHO declared this a pandemic. Shortly after the NBA, NHL, and MLS canceled or delayed their seasons, schools were closed, and our work environment shifted to entirely home-based for both my wife and myself.
Over the past couple of months, we have slowly built an entirely new routine. While we used to get up and go our separate ways for most of the day, now we spend it all together.
My wife and I have been fortunate enough to keep working during this time, so it has been a bit of a juggling act at times. At first, we were scrambling to get things done and figure things out, but we've settled into a good routine now. In addition to our own work commitments, it took the kids' teachers a few weeks to figure out this new, online teaching environment as well. But they seem to be in a good routine now.
Our routine for now is basically this: I get the mornings as my "undisturbed" work time. So I have set up an office for myself in our sitting room off the front of our house. I try to schedule all of my phone calls and meetings in the morning, as much as possible. During this time, my wife is setting the kids up with their virtual class sessions for school, coordinating them doing some independent schoolwork, and trying to work herself. We break and have lunch together at noon. Then, in the afternoons, we switch. My wife has her office upstairs in our house (she is self-employed and works from home permanently) so she gets her "undisturbed" time, while I balance work, phone calls, getting the kids to continue with any virtual class sessions they have, and a bit of play time.
Throughout this, there are three things that have been incredibly important to me during this whole experience: (1) physical health, (2) mental health and social connections, and (3) creating positive experiences and memories with my family.

MO bro rob reid and his family

Physical Health
I run. That's how I get my fitness in. So one of the things for me, personally, has been to maintain my routine. At the beginning of this year, I set a goal for myself to run every other day (never go two days in a row without a run). So, throughout this pandemic, I have stuck to that. I also train for and run three half marathons per year. So, while the races have all been canceled, I committed to sticking to my training routine, building my distance, and running all of my planned races (virtually if that option is offered) on my own instead. For example, last weekend would have been the BMO Vancouver Marathon, for which I was planning to run the half marathon. Because that was cancelled, I committed to continue my training and am planning to run my virtual race next Sunday (May 17th). With all this consistency, I'm in some of the best shape of my life and hoping to run a new PB (if I can only find a way to replicate that race day atmosphere).
My kids have taken to running as well. My son (nine years old) will run up to 5 km with me and has done a few races up to that distance himself. My daughter (five years old) has run several kids runs (usually 1-2 km) herself. They do their training as laps around our block (which we have measured to almost exactly 500 m).
Because we were just coming up to track season for my son, when we started this isolation, he decided that he wanted to develop his own training program and train for a 5 km race with me. So I researched a virtual race online and ordered some race packages (medals and bibs). The kids chose a race theme (in this case, the Phoenix Run, symbolizing overcoming life's challenges and defeating hard times), set their race date, planned their training, chose their distance, and began training.
April 18th was their race day. We tried to make it special, with finish line photos (my wife), post-race snacks, and a medal ceremony. My daughter completed her 1 km with her best effort ever and my son set a huge new PB in his 5 km (taking nearly 80 seconds of his previous PB). I ran with both of them. And, in the most humbling way possible, the 5 km is a huge new PB for me as well (taking nearly 30 seconds of my previous PB). Meaning, that my son is now as fast as me - we have the same 5 km PB. 
For us, this was a great way to teach the kids to set clear goals, develop their own plans to reach their goals, and then go out and execute.

post-race celebrations

Mental Health and Social Connections
I know that I am fortunate here. I have a wife and two kids in my house, so I am never alone, even if I want to be. But a few of my friends live alone. For them, this is a challenging time.
For two months now, we have been trying to find new ways to stay connected. We have a weekly Zoom meeting with out-of-town family members and we've set up a few WhatsApp group chats with friends.
I have been trying to make a point to check in on a different friend each day, especially ones that I haven't spoken to in a while. And usually one or two nights a week, I have a 30-45 minute virtual pub night over Zoom with one or two of them. For me, that has been really important to support my friends, keep connected, and maintain my own mental health as well.
Creating Positive Experiences and Memories
The last piece for me has been trying to make this a time that my kids will look back on as a positive time in their childhoods. This time is significant. It has already been a couple months and it will continue for several more, at least. This is more than just a summer vacation; it is the year that they locked up the schools in March and we stayed home until September. 
So we have tried to plan and create fun family activities. We have done s'mores on a propane fire pit in our backyard, a neighbourhood photo scavenger hunt, a formal dinner with our finest silverware, backyard picnics, and lots of nature walks.
While we definitely get frustrated at times and lose our patience with the kids, we are really trying to take advantage of this time to bond together.
We are definitely learning together, and finding new ways to connect, My hope is that after this unfamiliar period in our lives is over, that we can all look back on this as a time where we truly learned how to connect with each other, filled with pleasant memories when life forced us to slow down, take a pause, and stay home together.

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