| Two Cents |

Spending Midwinter at Home Sweet Home? Good Luck to You!

Unsolicited advice from people with no credentials but plenty of opinions


Illustrations by Esti Friedman

For years, there has been no better time to find parking in Brooklyn than the third week of January, when 80% of the population flocks to warmer destinations. (Incidentally, there is no worse time to find parking on Harding Ave.)
But this year, more people than ever are avoiding nonessential travel and having their midwinter vacation at home sweet home. Concerned citizens submitted their questions.


Our kids’ yeshivah put out a statement that any travel over midwinter vacation would require a two-week quarantine upon return, so we all decided against those tempting $19 Miami tickets. A true nisayon. However, I just discovered that my neighbors are going anyway and have no plans to quarantine. Is it rude if I take them off my shalach manos list? (Yes, I’ve already made a list, purchased containers, and sourced costumes. Get on my level.)

This is not a citizen’s arrest opportunity; consider that your neighbor may hold by the globally accepted psak of “those who have antibodies can do whatever they want.” Unless you’ve personally taken and tested their blood, stay out of it. If you have taken and tested their blood, please turn yourself into the closest authorities, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.

During my daughter’s nightly three-way call with that day’s best friends, (“It’s not like anyone else uses the landline, MOTHER”), she found out that her friend’s mom is planning a new theme for every day of vacation, complete with customized activities, meals, and projects. I cannot and do not want to compete, but apparently everyone else is way more fun and I’m depriving her of a normal childhood. Am I a failure as a mother?

The information given above is insufficient to determine your level of failure, so it’s possible. But you’re probably fine. There’s one way to tell for sure: Did you buy your kids those $100 Swedish knapsacks that they must have since everyone else in the world has them, and if they don’t have the cool knapsacks, why even bother going to school? No? Well, in that case... we have some bad news for you.


The only activity my family of seven can agree on doing without complaint is dipping French fries into ketchup. How do I trick the oldest ones into playing Simple Simon Says on repeat and the younger ones into having a Monopoly marathon so we can be b’achdus?

Lucky for you, there is a best-of-both-worlds compromise. Plan a family togetherness activity. Get everyone ready for a day out, strap all the kids into the car, and pick up some French fries and ketchup to enjoy while parked at your local subway station. (“Look! A train!”) This will end up taking approximately eight hours. One day down, a million more to go. #supportlocal

Under normal circumstances, our family loves spending our winter vacation hitting the slopes in our shneikleid and ski suits, but this year we’re not allowed to travel out of state without quarantining our school age kids for a week upon our return (more family time than we’d like). How do we capture the magic at home?

Let’s boil down the experience to what you really love. Sleeping in a hotel? Shuffle everyone into one bedroom to the right. Twelve-hour days of nothing but adrenaline? Get the same rush by spilling a 10,000-piece box of lego on your playroom floor and challenging family members to cross it barefoot and blindfolded. The wind against your face while hurtling down a mountain at top speed? Hearken back to early pandemic inspiration and stair-surf down your longest flight of stairs on a nice sturdy piece of cardboard. The safety level is just about the same anyway.

It’s day five of midwinter vacation, and I have not felt like I’ve been on vacation yet for one minute. Is it too much for me to expect my kids to disregard the years of me yelling at them not to take food out of the kitchen and plan a surprise breakfast-in-bed for me?

Try to think past your need for pampering and consider how it takes seven years to learn a good behavior and seven seconds to learn a bad one, a true psychology premise that has been proven by several memes. Don’t subject the kids to mixed messaging; use the “deliver discreetly to my bedroom window” function on Uber Eats and nobody needs to know.

One of my kids came home with an excessive homework list for the glorified long weekend that is midwinter vacation. That means I have an excessive nudging list. Is “the dog ate my homework” still a relevant excuse?

These days the kids are saying, “My therapist says I don’t have to do homework I don’t consent to.” Give that a whirl.

I love our family vacations. I spend all year mapping them out, then bask in the glory of a well-executed plan for seven days of bliss. As soon as the glow wears off, I jump into planning next year’s epic family trip. People use my itineraries when they’re too lazy to get their own acts together, and nothing is more satisfying than when that peripheral high school friend (whom I haven’t spoken to since ’08) texts to see if she can get my ideas on what to do on her upcoming Panama trip. Know how long it’s been since someone wanted my opinion on how to find the place that tourists don’t know about? 314 days. How do I regain the validation that I’ve lost over the last 11 months?

If you actually read the NYS travel advisory website, it’s clear that travel for more than 24 hours out of state requires quarantine. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That leaves a gaping wide window for you to scratch that travel itch! Seems like you love a challenge, so let’s see what you can accomplish in a 24-hour period. Don’t worry, it’s totally risk-free. Everyone knows you can’t catch COVID until the clock strikes one full day, so bask in that immunity bubble and go explore the world. Or at least the parts that are very close to you. Worst case scenario, you’ll just have your staycation extended a little… into forced quarantine.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 727)

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