Like all of you, I find myself living in strange times. I am a full-time working mother of two who is used to waking up before 6 and rushing to get myself together before waking the kids to get them dressed, fed and off to school, ensuring that we not only leave the house on time but with all critical assignments and permission slips accounted for. I chug down my cup of coffee, find my keys (after inevitably losing them the night before), grab my laptop, and make it to work just in time for my first meeting. Hectic – that’s how it was before.
Like yours, my mornings are different now. And it’s not all bad. For starters, I no longer set an alarm. I wake up when my four-year-old decides it’s time to start his day. He comes into my room and onto my bed, and after some sweet little boy snuggles, together, we wait for the rest of our crew to join us. We take our time heading downstairs. We linger over our eggs. We stay in our jammies until there is a reason to get out of them- which, to be honest, we don’t find every morning. Most days, if I do get dressed, it is in sweatpants, and that cup of coffee I used to chug? Now, it’s two cups, and it takes me well over an hour to drink both. There is beauty in this new routine. I can see it for what it is and appreciate that this odd time, though chaotic and unsettling, is also providing me with a rare gift- the gift to spend time with my children instead of the two hours on either side of the school day that I used to get. And for that I am grateful. Exceedingly so. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the numerous challenges that this beauty brings with it.
Like mine, my children’s routine has changed too. In some ways, it’s nice. I can build that Lego train with them instead of hearing about it when I pick them up in carpool. I can make them milkshakes after lunch simply because they asked me to. But in reality, though I’m sure they enjoy a nice milkshake in the afternoon, they are struggling to understand what’s happening around them. Why can’t they go to school or play with their friends? Why can’t they go to Grammy’s or even go into the grocery store to shop? Why can’t we go to their favorite restaurant or give their cousins a hug? They don’t always verbalize their feelings. But I know they are experiencing anxiety from the tears I am wiping away over my son’s cup of spilled water or my daughter’s ripped tights.
I can’t make this reality go away for them by denying that things are different or that mom and dad are stressed. And I can’t put a Paw Patrol Band-Aid on this pandemic and send them happily back to school. But what I can do is stay true to the commitment I made to them when they first entered this world- to always put them first and to love them like crazy. And to that end, I’m doing what I can to make this time fun for them. I’m letting them eat candy in the afternoon and finger paint inside. I’m letting go of my OCD tendencies that dictate that glitter is never a good idea or that jumping on the sofa is strictly prohibited. I have ditched the color-coded schedules, and for the most part, am just letting them be who they are.
These days, every day is a little different. We don’t have language arts at 10 and story time at 11. We have snacks when we’re hungry and sprinkler time when it’s warm enough. We make pictures and play tag. We read books, and we bake. We watch movies, pop popcorn and fill our days with activities that make us happy- even though at times, we will still fight, and cry, and get frustrated, and mad.
I don’t have an answer to how to make this time better for your children. But by trial and error, I have found what works for my family and what doesn’t. And I recognize that what worked today will not necessarily work tomorrow. And that’s OK. The best thing we can do for our kids is to tell them that we love them and show them how much we mean it. Take time to let them be little and not worry about the mess. Read them their favorite book (you know the one) one more time and hold them close while they flip the pages. This will not be our life forever. One day, we’ll get back to the routine. But now, while we’re living this life in the temporary abnormal, hug them more, show yourself some grace, stay home, stay safe, and by all means, keep reading!