Pandemic parenting is maddening.
It is a total and un-welcomed mindf*&. Your schedule is empty. You can sleep more and spend less. You can stay in jammies all day and never - I mean never - have anywhere to be. You expect peace and quiet. You may even get it for an hour or two.
You enjoy it at first and wonder what life was like when weekends were jam-packed with birthday parties and soccer games and trips to fun places like bowling alleys and movie theaters. You think about how much you love the balanced life that a pandemic forces you into.
You sit down, breathe a sigh of gratitude for the simple life… and then…..
All hell breaks loose.
The kids realize that sitting still is not something they can do for longer than an hour. They are sick of each other and they are sick of you, too. They miss the structure of a busy weekend and they miss the mental and physical stimulation of youth sports and afterschool activities. They miss their friends and time away from those with whom they share blood and a living space. They miss having plans and not wearing masks. They miss their grandparents and cousins and eating ice cream inside of their favorite ice cream parlor. They miss field trips and science fairs and talent shows. They miss classroom parties where moms and dads come in and read stories and bring snacks and lead a silly craft that involves popsicle sticks and cotton balls. They are so very under-stimulated and bored that they actually become overstimulated; they are full of pent-up energy with nowhere to put it.
So that energy comes out whether they (or you) want it to or not. It seeps out of their faces and vocal cords and their hands and their feet. It makes noise. It doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative. It confuses love with hate; gratitude with greed; fun with destruction. Their minds may know better in a practical way, but they are not built for life shut-in from a world shut-down. They run and jump and yell and scream and oh-boy- do they tease each other. You ask them to stop and they want to listen, but their energy isn’t ready to be stopped yet. It needs to come out. There is a strange delay between mind and body and so they don’t listen. They keep at it: running, jumping, yelling, teasing — not listening.
And you, mom — you forget, too. You forget that your kids are not built for this. You forget that they are confused, bored, and isolated. You forget that they desperately want life to go back to normal and they want to wake up early in the morning to get to that hockey game. They long for the days of being so tired at night that they fall asleep at 9 p.m. You forget that they want — no, need — social interaction outside of their family and they need physical activity and more than anything they need some sense of variety in their days; you forget that without all of this, they are slowly crumbling on the inside.
You forget, too, that you are carrying around the same anxiety and stress and energy that your kids are and you lose it, mom. You scream and you yell. You say things you wish you could take back. You promise you wont say it all again, but you do. Guilt sets in and you blame yourself and punish yourself and wish you could get a do-over. You say sorry. You remind them that you love them. You tell them that this pandemic life is a challenge for everyone. And together, you keep trying.
You remind yourself that your schedule is empty, that you can sleep more and spend less, that you can stay in jammies all day. You think about how much you love the balance that the pandemic forces you into. You sit down, breathe a sigh of gratitude….
and then… You keep trying. You keep trying.
Be easy with yourselves and know that on any given day, your best is enough.