Parenting in a Pandemic.
First of all, those are words I never thought I would say.
My second thought may be a bit controversial, but it’s realistic… I think this particular time has highlighted for me the old adage “What it feels like to have the shoe on the other foot.” As parents, we have a new appreciation for how hard teachers work every day. Conversely, I believe teachers are learning a lot about the families of their students in an entirely different way and gaining the perspective that family partnership is a real value-add to the classroom, either virtually or in the school building. This will be a silver lining to us all... especially the kids.
(Pausing to break up a sibling fight… be right back.)
Ok, I’m back. Luckily, everyone is unharmed. Including me.
So, back to my point. Let's call a spade, a spade. The 30 hours my kids are receiving education is also 30 hours of a break that I am getting. In the past 3 weeks, I have absolutely realized that. Now, of course as a working mother, it’s especially fantastic to mute my Zoom calls every 10 minutes because of some random noise or scream that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. I also have the special opportunity to have a teenager AND a 20-year-old who had to move home from college- living under the same roof and learning remotely. This shift has been quite indescribable. You would think that humans of their ages would be able to manage a certain noise level. This is an incorrect assumption.
As a matter of fact, the presentation of my child’s mental health has significantly impacted our daily living. The first week was ok. Week 2? DEFCON 3 should have been deployed. Broken kitchen light fixtures, knives, threats… oh we had it all. “Teaching” in the midst of that was a ‘hell no for me.’ I have no idea how teachers get kids back on track after moments like that. I have mastered de-escalation and redirection in my home, but practicing fractions after that??? Nope. Nah. No way. No how.
I have many friends who are also raising kids with mental health, autism, and other neurodevelopmental needs. We have kids in ERs (and that have been kicked out of ERs), in hospitalizations or residential treatment settings that can’t receive visits or have limited contact with their family, in-home therapeutic teams that are meeting with us virtually, and so on. And let's not forget that the undercurrent of all this is a massive pandemic sweeping the Earth and everything that means.
What’s a stronger word than exhaustion? Depleted? Weakened? Drained? Walking dead? Are we zombies? Are we ZOMBIES? Perhaps. Quite likely, y'all.
Our kids THRIVE on routine. Predictability is key in my life. If something goes off track; we just focus on the next thing and redirect. That’s not a possibility right now. We don’t know what’s next. Or when the next thing is coming!! At this point, my daily hope is to open my eyes every day and not have my first thought be Covid-19. What alternate universe have we slipped into?
Ok, ok. SO, things are tough. Now, that I got that off my chest… I have this annoying habit of finding the good in these circumstances.
(Pause, excuse me for a moment… fight over food happening.)
Ok. I’m back. Someone hid a Ziploc bag with the remainder of the Oreos under their bed. Why don’t they do that with oranges???
Anyways, so looking to the good. Now that we have survived the third week of quarantine, there are some great things happening when I can step back and look at things.
This might be the only time in my kids’ lives that I have this amount of time with them. Yes... the adjustment has been REAL, but we are settling in. Starting to find a rhythm in this new normal. I am trying to focus on that in the moments when it’s tough. Even looking back to five minutes ago… It's hilarious that the kid has an Oreo stockpile of his own in the middle of a quarantine. That’s a story we’ll have forever.
Learning more about how my kids learn. There is an entirely different perspective to see them in the process of learning than reviewing it with them over homework. I’ve learned a lot about where they struggle and where they are strong processing information from the vantage point as their mom and knowing them best.
We’re getting outside more. Even if it’s just sitting on the porch and chatting. And we’ve met more of our neighbors… social distance style.
We have more autonomy to make our days our own. This one I really love. Obviously, I have work and the kids have their school commitments, but outside of that we can make every day what we want it to be. We aren‘t over-scheduled. We aren’t bound to other commitments.
We are stronger in our faith. We are already a family of faith but getting teens/young adults to church is not easy. Being together to watch church on livestream on Sunday mornings has been wonderful. We also pray every night for the world, for healing, for patience, and for peace.
Parenting in a pandemic.
I am explaining to my kids why they need to wear masks and gloves outside.
I am terrified.
I am strong.
I am sad.
I am courageous.
I am a mother.
Therefore, above all, I must walk through this and model for my kids how to manage crises with grace, making smart decisions, and sticking together- even when its hard and scary and BORING and terrifying and the future is uncertain. Even when I'm crumbling inside and wishing I had the beautiful ignorance that youth gives to situations like these.
In contemplation of Coronavirus, I've asked myself-- isn’t life always uncertain? We fill our schedules and our calendars. We book vacations and make plans, but it’s not actually real. Until that day, that meeting, that game, that vacation… we are only in the moment that we are in. That is what parenting in this pandemic has very clearly taught me.
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Kristi Glenn is the Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer of Pinnacle Partnerships.
As a professional with lived experience of raising her own child with emotional health needs, Kristi brings personal and professional passion to her work. She has worked in government, community, and direct service to support family driven care and advocate for family voice at the highest levels.