Being a calm, rational, attentive parent in these times is simultaneously important and impossible.
As if a raging pandemic weren’t enough, we now have an attempted coup, what appears to be a potential long-term insurgency right here in the United States of America, and a new strain of that deadly virus that is spreading like wildfire.
Just being a human right now is HARD. Caring for other, needy, impressionable humans on top of that, well…
Parenting epiphanies hit me all the time as the mother of 3 young children. Those things you just don’t get until you become a parent yourself. I am flooded by flashbacks from when my brothers and I were the age of my little ones. I recall being frustrated or hurt by something my mom or dad said or did, and have these “AHA” moments:
Aha! That’s why Mom was pleading for just 15 minutes by herself.
Aha! That’s why Mom didn’t seem over the moon excited to talk to me while she was trying to poo.
Aha! That’s why Dad didn’t drop everything to play catch with me the moment he got home from work.
Aha! That’s why they asked me to get ready 30 minutes before it was actually time to leave.
It took me being a parent to actually GET IT.
The demands put on parents right now are relentless. Work, teach, parent, cook, clean, and help your children make sense of everything going on right now even though we can’t do that for ourselves.
All I want to do is listen to the news and have a moment to take this all in, but I am surrounded by children ALL THE TIME. I am refereeing fights, cooking, wiping butts, helping with school work, fielding phone calls, attending meetings, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher. Every second of every day multiple people need me. My brain, my nerves, my senses are all in overdrive 24/7 (literally because my children need to be close to me when they sleep too).
We are juggling our jobs and teaching while obsessively listening to the news and checking social media to keep up on this ever-changing landscape. We’re living in a world where more than 4,000 Americans are dying every day and that headline is buried by all the other breaking news in our country.
On a good day, our heads are spinning, most others they’re about to explode. A simple request to help with a math problem can put us over the edge.
This is not how our world is supposed to be.
It’s hard to tell how the stress is manifesting in our children. My 8-year-old is kind enough to say, “No offense Mom, but I kind of need a break from everybody. Even you.” My 5-year-old, who is fairly eloquent for her age, tells me she loves her teacher but hates Kindergarten. My oldest has Down syndrome, ADHD, and several other diagnoses which carry the delightful combination of making COVID an elevated danger as well as increasing difficulties with distance learning, mask wearing, and social distancing. They say behavior is communication, and let me tell you, this 10-year-old has a lot of not so nice things to say. There are so many Jekyll and Hyde moments in our house. We regularly fall to pieces and then put ourselves back together again.
How will our children look back at these times? How will they judge the parents, caregivers, and teachers of today who are trying to hold it together while the world falls apart?
The hope is that they’ll never truly understand what it’s like to parent while under indefinite quarantine for a deadly pandemic while watching an insurgency unfold. I hope they recognize that we’re human. That we did our best. That we were just as confused as they were.
But wouldn’t it be better if we could start fixing things right now? Remember how our nation came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Has that much changed in the last 20 years?
We could unite for the greater good again. We could start wearing masks and staying at home. We could slow the spread while waiting for more vaccines to become available. We could show our children how easy, basic acts like this can make a huge difference to those around us.
We need to show our youth the importance of compassion and stability. We need to lead by example. We need to listen to each other and practice what we preach. Perhaps we start with treating others how you wanted to be treated.