The extracurricular calendar is empty and the kids are antsy, begging to see their friends IRL. Many parents are juggling working from home while managing their kids’ e-learning, their steady call for snacks and demands for more attention. At the same time, many other parents are out of work and frantic with worry about how to cover the bills, let alone all those extra snacks.
It’s been tough on everyone. In all the negative, though, we’ve searched for something positive. We reached out to a few moms to hear what they’ve learned and how their parenting will be changed long after the pandemic is over. What they learned might help us all.
Walking the mine field
By: Shannan Younger, Between Us Parents
Shannan Younger and her daughter, Megan
I’ve learned that picking your battles is hugely important. I knew before the pandemic that you can’t fight them all, but in a time of crisis, I’ve gotten better at selecting even fewer battles than usual, and it’s been helpful for us both.
I’ve learned it is helpful to take a few minutes to myself to figure out what it is that I really need my child to do and why. When I’m clear on that, it’s easier to let the other issues go and easier for me to articulate why I care about whatever that issue is to her. Also, I’ve learned that family fun really can happen without spending a lot. With both my husband and I out of work, and with nowhere to go to spend money, we’ve had a lot of fun with what we already had, like yard games and board games we’d forgotten about, puzzles, baking, funny online videos.
I’ve also learned that while I’d focused on showing her the wonders of our big, wide world, it’s also important to encourage her to appreciate the wonders that surround us every day. My heart was happy when she said I had to come see a beautiful sunset or told a friend how much she loves the daffodils in our yard. The Midwest is pretty fantastic, and I’ll be better about remembering that.
Learning new things
By: Jenny LeFlore, Mama Fresh
Jenny LeFlore and her son, ObieQ
Social media gets such a bad rap but in this time of isolation, it is bringing us together. We are on the South Side of Chicago doing the same dance as a kid and his grandpa on the West Coast. That’s beautiful. ObieQ and I are doing a TikTok a day. It has been so much fun and we both look forward to it. There are a couple of reasons I chose TikTok specifically.
1. The power of connection. One of my favorite parts of the day is when we choose our video. We scroll the “for you page” or search hashtags like #kidsoftiktok. We watch all of these young people having so much fun. Dancing. Laughing. Together. Often with family members or friends. Suddenly we are not so alone in our condo. It’s joy we look forward to.
2. Sharing with family. We send our TikToks to my parents and my in-laws. We usually see grandparents weekly so being away from them is hard. They look forward to seeing the videos of ObieQ (and I) dancing and being silly.
3. THIS is learning. Gross motor skills. Mirroring. Even editing. With every video we are also learning. I am no professional teacher, so I am trying to find learning opportunities in our organic life.
Leading with love
By: Holly Simon, I Am Who I Am
Holly Simon and her son, Nate
Nate bores easily. From the minute he wakes up he asked me what we’re going do today. He can’t comprehend the magnitude of this virus so I find myself repeating it 20 times a day, which only makes my heart break. I’ve learned as a mom (of five) that my kids definitely learn by example. The days that I am sad or nervous I see that in them as well.
A lot of kids like Nate don’t do well on lesson plans via the computer. He needs 100 percent human interaction. This is why this has become my worst nightmare. Zoom chats are fun for an hour, then we have to fill the other 23! I’ve learned more patience, I’ve learned to give more love, I’ve learned to give more affirmation.
I think the hardest part for me so far is that I feel like I am failing on so many levels. I feel as though I’m not making a difference in this world and it’s horrible. Even when you’re doing your best, or you think you are, you look on social media and people are so clever, they’ve created gigantic outdoor gymnasiums. I think a lot of us moms feel like we are not living up to that.
I’ve also learned that kids are more resilient than we realize, that we as the adults are struggling more than they are. I am learning to be patient with myself as well. I’m learning that I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m learning that smiles and laughter can change an awful day. I’m also learning that fear is a gigantic obstacle and then I must lead with love.
Filling the calendar a new way
By: Karen Alpert, Baby Sideburns
Karen Alpert and her family
Ice skating five times a week. Soccer four times a week. Theater twice a week. Basketball, tutoring, play dates, etc., etc., etc. Before the quarantine, our lives were jam-packed.
And then everything stopped.
While the kids miss their activities and I even miss schlepping them to their activities, we have time to breathe now. Maybe a little too much time, but it’s taught me something. When this is all over and things go back to normal, our new normal might look a little different. I’m not talking about how we’ll be wearing masks and standing farther away from people. I’m talking about finding a happy medium between a jam-packed calendar and one with nothing on it.
My goal is to have more white space on our family calendar.
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This article originally appeared in Chicago Parent’s May 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.