This pandemic and the stay-at-home quar that has accompanied it have really messed with the concept of time — and now we’re seeing just how flimsy the whole enterprise was to begin with. That’s all it was? Words and plans and counting by sevens? Also what day of the week is it and why am I wearing a blouse with no pants? Maybe down the line we’ll look back and see this chapter as an opportunity, i.e. that moment when we each had the chance to re-assess how we want to be “in relationship” with time.
One option is to just do away with days entirely, to accept their disappearance. This is a valid choice a person can make. If you can’t figure out what day it is, then maybe it doesn’t matter? Like what does Monday even mean — and if people universally find it to be such a crummy day, why not just get rid of it? Why not pick an appealing day of the week and make that one be the permanent default? (I would definitely pick Thursday, a day I’ve always appreciated. As a kid, Thursdays meant all the good TV and then a nice sparkly glide into the weekend. Also, for a long time, my daughter called it “Fthursday,” getting tripped up on “f” vs. the “th” so cleverly opting for both.)
Second option: Get EXTREMELY SERIOUS ABOUT DAYS. This option involves grabbing those days out of the virus-y air and wrestling them back into place. And this is exactly what I’m doing. Because as appealing as it sounds to do away with the days, I cannot quit them. In fact, for those of us holed up with young kids, the disappearance of days has revealed just how badly we need those things as an organizing principle. I need a container for my crew to live within. I need a structure to provide us with a common language so we can all agree about what the members of this household should be doing at any given moment — i.e. where we should be on the schooling-feeding-entertaining-
If days-of-the-week underwear or stacking rocks Castaway-style are working for you, great, but just in case it’s helpful, here are a few of the things my family is doing to keep track of what day of the week it is.
1) Differentiate each day from the others. OK, so we’ve created a very basic scaffolding by giving each day of the week a raison d’être. Each needs something assigned to it, an association. An anchor. And these little anchors needn’t be grand! Bland works!
Monday: Movie Night
Tuesday: Guitar Lessons with Jesse
Wednesday: Library Book Pickup
Thursday: DIY Pizza
Friday: Street Cleaning (remember to move cars into driveway)
Saturday: Intense Swiffering
Sunday: Front Yard Distance-Mingle With Other People Who Don’t Share Our Last Name
Think of this as color-coding your files. But a more existential version.
2) Differentiate weekdays from weekends. There are seven days in a week (just reviewing here for anyone who needs), and it is our custom that two of the days should be more “kick-back.” In our house, we make pancakes on weekends, and the act signals to our brains: weekend. Also we have different rules on the weekend, like you don’t have to change out of pajamas if you don’t want to. (Technically in our house you don’t have to get dressed on weekdays either, but then you owe money to the penalty jar and everyone shames you.) Also we are Jewish and celebrate Shabbat every Friday night, and this involves a dinner that is longer, more relaxed, and often very delicious, and on these nights we light candles and pause to take a deep breath and acknowledge that another week has passed and here we are, together again and still.
3) Differentiate the school year from summer. No Zoom classes is the most prominent feature. Of course pandemic-summer looks nothing like before-times summer, but there are still some outings. Tennis. Hiking. Mostly there are close-to-home, simple, summer-y pleasures that it’s been nice to be reminded of. We are right now deeply committed to backyard toys. Not gonna lie, there’s a shitload of plastic back there.
4) Hide one little sparkly gem inside each day. There should be one thing to look forward to each day. This goes for all members of the family, kids and grownups alike. Occasionally the thing will be a big thing, like going to the beach. More often, it will be a very little thing, because that’s what this pandemic summer is made of. Whatever it is, decide it in advance so it can be a focal point on the horizon. Tonight we will eat dinner on the front stoop. Today we will set up the slip ‘n slide. Tonight is takeout. Today we will make an epic hot wheels loop de loop. Tonight we’ll all be sandwiching ice cream in between two soft cookies and starting a jigsaw puzzle of puppies playing in a rock band.
The days of the week can be there for you if you need them. Don’t let any bastard pandemic take them away from you.