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You have permission to cry

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The other day, an incredibly sweet and loving parent of one of my students spoke with me on the phone about some concerns that she had for her child.

She asked me how I do it. “How do you teach children all day and then have the patience for your own children when the school day is over?"

“It’s not easy,” I reassured the mother.

“But you are a professional,” she said. “Surely you can share some advice with me on how to keep it together.”

I told her that I definitely did not have it all figured out and that every mother has her own struggles. It seemed that she did not believe me, but I tried my best to tell her that I knew exactly how she felt - that being a mom was not easy at times.

When I said “goodbye,” I sensed such sadness and defeat in this mother’s voice, like she truly believed that she was a failure and that somehow she was the ONLY one in this struggle to keep it all together for her family.

I hung up the phone, and all I wanted to do at that moment was to figure out some miraculous 80s movie magic spell that could send me to this woman’s doorstep — all while still social distancing — just so that I could give her a hug. I wanted to tell her again and again, “You are not alone.”

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is difficult, but it’s especially difficult for ALL of us right now. We are supposed to be the rock for our children, the fortress that protects. We do our best to keep it together for our children when the seas are rocky and the storms approach. But it is not easy to be that beacon of light at all times.

Every single one of us feels weak at times, whether people share their weaknesses with others or not.

I wish this mother could walk into my home during these recent weeks to see that I don’t have it all together. I am devoting my entire virtual “school day” to my students, and while my 6th grader is managing his own virtual schooling and is staying on top of his work, my younger children are getting minimal help with their own school work.

It is not until the school day is over that I can spare more of my attention, and so the “school day” turns into our younger boys doing what they can of their schoolwork without my help, which doesn't last long...

And then they end up playing “cops and robbers,” or now that they hear me teaching the events leading to the American Revolution, it is “Patriots and Loyalists.” Oh my! At least they are using their imaginations for part of the day because they ultimately end up on their devices.

My sweet husband has his own craziness to deal with at work, so he cannot help teach the kids right now. And so the mom guilt is overwhelming.

This seems to be a place where many parents currently reside.

Don't get me wrong — what a blessing it is to still have a job. But if we still have the great opportunity to work, how do we balance our work while also making sure that our own children are learning?

Some days are better than others. But the tough days are tough when the anxiety builds as the school/workday begins to unwind.

This is when I check my personal emails from family, only to receive another COVID update.

Then I read or hear about family and friends who are nurses and doctors and what they are facing each and every day. I hear on the news that patients are dying without their family members next to them. And then my heart just breaks...it breaks in two. No one should die alone, without their family by their side.

And then we hear about friends who have lost jobs or those who might lose their jobs.

And I worry about the health of my own parents, in-laws, and aunts and uncles...and now, frankly, I’m just worried about everyone.

While I’m normally a very positive person, I even have those days, when it all just builds up, and my heart hurts because so many other hearts are hurting in the world...and I just can’t take it anymore.

And so on the same day when this mother spoke with me, it became a day that was just too much to handle. At the end of the day, my neighbor and I spoke across the fence to check in on each other. I told her that “I just feel like crying.”

And she replied, “Go ahead and cry. I think that’s what we all need sometimes.” And so I did. I cried, and then I cried some more. My heart and my body had had enough.

Oh, how I wish that my student’s mother could see me now. I was far from a model parent. I was weak and sad and vulnerable.

But I did it. I cried. And I was not ashamed.

And then I went inside the house and listened to Pearl Jam's new album, Gigaton. I figured that would cheer me up. And it did. But there was something about the song "River Cross" that spoke to me that same afternoon. It was as if Eddie Vedder was singing directly to me — “Let it out. Get it out. Shout it out. Won't hold us down.”

Twice in one day, I felt like I had been given permission to cry.

Please understand this, friends, my eyes have been opened to the blessings around me in the midst of all of this.

I have soaked in the moments when the boys pile around me as I read a story to them in the middle of a “school” day. When can I ever do this?

I have wallowed in the moments where the boys actually want my help in teaching them. I may be teaching them the “wrong” way, but they like my ways. And I love that they love it!

I have relished the slip and slide moments, as I watch the three boys laugh and play together and actually get along.

I have appreciated the opportunity for daily bike rides and the long walks where I have had that extra time to speak with my children and find out how they are doing.

And I have cherished reconnecting with friends and family. I especially look forward to our daily family VHH (Virtual Happy Hour) when I can see and talk with my family every evening on FaceTime.

Most importantly, prayer time and reflection extends beyond bedtime prayers. How awesome is that!

We are healthy. We have each other. We have jobs and are able to provide for our family. We know this. We are blessed!

But from one blessed parent to another, I just want to give you permission to “Let it out. Get it out. Shout it out.” Because times are tough right now, and sometimes we all just need a really good cry.

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