The other day I was on a walk with Selah and made the mistake of letting her out of the stroller about 6 blocks from home. I then spent the next 35 minutes, more or less, feeling kidnapped by an evil dictating toddler who wouldn’t, under any circumstances, JUST WALK HOME! So we sat on the sidewalk for 35 minutes. And I felt both, “Why not? Embrace this forced pause. Just sit and be present, you have no where to be. It’s all good.” AND “Damn it, I didn’t want it to be like this. Ugh. To get her home will require screaming. This is going to take forever. I have so many other things I could be doing. UGH!” Both.And. It’s always both, and. She is cute as get out, and I have other things I want to be doing.
Anyway, think of that while you read below. I am adding my voice to the barrage of voices out there in the Corona Crisis. The influencers encouraging you to find time and space to be grounded and at peace. To use this forced time at home to develop rhythms, take up hobbies, and whatever else they are selling.
I am here for all that because the next couple weeks look real, real grim. Find the hobby, make the chore chart, create the peace.
But as is the case so often when I read of optimism, it leaves out a voice that seem blaring in my head. And my experience is, that if it’s blaring in my head, and I have to courage to whisper it, I see a lot of heads start to nod. It’s not the message that gets a ton of likes, or goes viral, but it’s the message that people think back on when the hope momentarily fades. The moments when things feel grim and you recall that you don’t have to be 100% optimistic, or 100% dire, you can be both. That’s my voice. The voice that says, “Sure, we can make the best of this and we will, but can I have a hot moment to kick and scream about how fucking unfair this is?”
A couple likes, but exponential head nods as people find a unique kind of peace in hearing that someone else not choosing from the polarity of hope or despair. But instead choosing both.
Turns out, I’m the mom with the high-risk kid…have your heard? Goodness, I’ve been blaring it from the loud speakers since this fiasco began & that felt good for a hot minute. Panic, stress, point out how uniquely different my situation is. And no one listened. And that felt ok, because I was going to my stress space (a 4 on the enneagram where all my sorrow becomes unique and personalized and its.all.about.me. And no one gets me or my plight. Blah. Blah. Blah.)
And then suddenly, people started wondering, semi-believing, that perhaps this wasn’t just about Beau and his condition. Perhaps it was about all of us. And suddenly, I couldn’t make sense of my stress as a unqiue and personalized sorrow, because here we all are, together.
The pandemic rages on. And I’m shaking my fists for a split second while wearily crying, “I warned you, no one listened….” and then realizing that it’s helpful to no one to hear, “I told you so.”
It’s dire people. And not only bc I have one of those “sick” kids I’m trying to keep safe 🙅🏼♀️ but bc suddenly we are all alone with our children 24/7. And I mean, um, none of us saw this one coming. And well, they are our kids after all, so 24/7 care shouldn’t be horrifying, but there is no shame in it being scary as shit.
You see, I was there, last spring. When the doctors said cancer and the whole family quarantine became a very real thing. A scary real, all eyes on Beau thing. Make a chart, find the peace, seek the rhythm!! And every once in a while I real sideways thought would pop out. “…but I really, really like being alone…? So when can I go back to that?”
Sure it was cancer, and sure my mama bear instincts were there, but you know what else was there…. the fact I didn’t plan a life where I was in this small of a space with this many a children for this much a time.
THIS WASN’T WHAT I WANTED!!!! I took all the small steps along the way to now get me here, so can you give me moment your not feel blessed?
And for months, I felt the heavy shame of how I could be so selfish during such a hard time for my kid. I’d see moms post about their children dying from the same cancer that was forcing me to be at home with my child and feel like I was a horrible human for being anything but 100% grateful. The shame, oh the shame, of simultaneously hating your life and being grateful for it. It’s, as my 2-year-old niece likes to say about anything she’s not up for, “too heavy.”
And the shame, well, I am done with it y’all. You heard it here first. I am done with it 15 months later and I encourage you to be done with it on Day 3 of the great pandemic. Shame is too much to carry in addition to crisis.
So, where are the viral posts of moms defeated? Of moms kicking and screaming that yesterday things were fine and today we have 8-weeks (if we are lucky) at home with all our kids? I am not seeing those posts. I have seen some snarky memes about not teaching our kids much, and I am here for those. I am here.for.those. But where are the real life, kicking and screaming moments that I am having as I take a shower at the end of the first day of full quarantine and wonder, “First cancer, now this, WHAT THE FUCKKKKKKKK!?!?!?!”
Instead I am seeing: the “more family time!”, the “peaceful family dinners!”, the “time to reconnect!” messages. And they are good, really good, but damn if it doesn’t just feel like skirting down the feelings that are rising-up and are REAL inside me, and maybe you too…?
This is what we do…Americans? Humans?…crisis hits and the voices of optimism get real loud. And I think thats good. We need hope and joy and optimism. But could we give ourselves a hot second between crisis and optimism to just feel the feels. I get it, adults kicking and screaming isn’t exactly an encouraging message that lifts people to positive, inspired action. But could we all just take a minute, could we take a moment to kick and scream, together, and then together, later, make some charts, post some inspiration, and take the next step?
PLEASE! Can we not move in a nanosecond from a life that was ideal to a life that none of us would have dreamed of and expect us to put on cheery faces and have a color-coded, spirit wear, craft time ready for our kids. Can we just have a day, or maybe a week to sit on the couch in our pajamas, and wonder what the hell this world has come to?
We are stressed. The kids are stressed. And now we have to navigate a global pendemic and REAL adult problems, can we not add, “ensure the kids feel 100% secure, blissful, supported, and insulated”to the top of the list.
No, just no. Not here. There are lots of places on the interwebs for that encouragement and if it’s what you need, go get it! I’ll be there too, on and off, as I oscillate between hope and despair. But I’ll also be here. Saying things like, “Yes, time at home full time with my kids is a nightmare. AND we will be ok. Because there a moments that I love mixed in to the ick.”
I am here to say: We are living in a time that will change our lives and while I am all for not losing all our shit in front of our kids (consistently)- I am here to tell you- our kids are best loved when we show up authentically. Like crying, and unprepared, and wondering how this will end. Kids are not best loved when we stuff those feelings as deep as possible and plaster on grin that it will all be fine. This does not teach perseverance! And our kids aren’t served by it, nor is the rest of humanity.
There are people out there to give you the pep talk, the color coded schedule, the list of online resources for healthy screen time. I am just here to go first and say: I am not going to do most of this very well. Turns out I am not an optimist, and I don’t handle global pandemic with an immunocompromised kid with ease.
For example, while I explained not playing with the neighbors, Jude was sobbing and I more or less told him to “get over it” bc off all the people suffering real problems. Turns out to him, social disconnection IS a real problem. It was not ideal. While explaining the delay of our RV trip, Beau became gravely concerned about his access to hospitals, and I realized I missed the balance of telling him the truth, and keeping him blissfully unaware. It was not ideal.
So, friends, I am here. Here to tell you, yes!, seek encouragement, get the damn charts, time block your days, read the memes, all the things. And then come back here and see that I, too, am wondering how the hell we are going to manage maintaining our calm, not just on an “extended spring break,” but amidst a global crisis.
I am here to encourage you with one thing: Show your kids that there are real things happening that produce real unknowns. And that doesn’t have to require cheer and positivity. It can allow for conversations about how to hold fear and faith in the same breath. How to be worried about the world, and know about the promises of God’s word.
But PLEASE! please, PLEASE let’s not squander the opportunity to raise kids who see that life is not always 🌈 &🦋 and even still, we will get through. Start applying all that “we can do hard things” stuff we’ve been screen saving for years to the here and now. This is hard AND we can do this. It’s both.
The most important thing I have learned from the last year regarding parenting my children is this: we don’t serve our kids by trying to push down our own feelings to ensure they don’t see grief and heartache. First off, its impossible, and second off it keeps them ignorant. And ignorant kids turn in to ignorant adults and last time I checked, exactly 0% of any of us wanted more ignorant adults in our life.
Show them what it looks like to be both sad and hopeful, both overwhelmed, and moving forward, both horribly unequip, and willing to do it anyway, both scared, and holding to faith.
It’s always both, and. Don’t let pandemic change that.
And finally, I hereby give all readers permission to sit on the couch, not teach their kids a single damn thing, and wonder how we are going to get through this. SIT THERE. For a minute. Because soon enough, I am going to tell you guys to get up and start moving forward.
But for now, we grieve.