Recently I’ve had numerous conversations with: coaching groups, reading groups, classes moved online due to COVID-19, meet-ups on the sidewalk with neighbors, friends and family members being in touch via Facebook. Here are some things I hear and/or observe:
- We all began this SIP (sheltering in place, in case you’ve been living under a rock!) on a fairly high note: careful teach-at-home calendars; plans to clean closets or to take up new yoga online classes; dedication to accepting a new “normal”, at least for a while. Mostly I heard good attitudes, a little like, “Oh boy, I could really use a snow day! And look, it’s snowing!” Many of us had an idealized notion (see pic above) about what we might accomplish during this gift of time!
- Things began to sour. Moms got exhausted by cleaning up after kids who’re eating at home three times a day! Sibs began to irritate one another almost as if they are taking out their frustrations on…who else…their brother or sister. School work calendars began to seem hopelessly optimistic. In fact, that slacker who lives at our house, he really is a pain in the neck to get to do his assignments before gaming.
- And today, about three weeks into this SIP (in Texas), I notice something new and pretty wonderful: in their frustration, some folks are beginning to set aside structure and lean into BEING with their families. One mom commented, “I wonder, when I look back at this time, what I’ll wish I’d savored MORE.” Another mom regaled us with stories of teaching her sons to clean the bathroom as one was shocked that cleaning the bathroom mirror with a wet washrag left streaks! “How do you DO this, Mom?” he pleaded.
Right after that came an outpouring of stories of what might be called “Tales from the Homefront”: a middle school boy who “lets” his 1st grade neighbor boy retrieve his baseball in front yard practice. A middle school girl vowing to use her bathroom more neatly if THIS is what it takes to clean it up! One family doing game night, a good idea they’d considered for years but never quite had time for. One mom said, “I think we’re about like our kids. If we think other families are out there doing something we ought to be, we hustle and push to do it too. With NO ONE out there, we’re not afraid of missing out.” (yes, you read that term, FOMO….could it be that we parents ALSO fear missing out?) Or as Julie Lythcott-Haims writes in her book, How to Raise an Adult, we share
“a belief that to be a good parent means to always be there with and for our kids, and the looming threat that the Joneses are doing more to get their kids ahead than we are, every day feels like a leg in a race of unknown duration…”
What if, suddenly, we are RELEASED from that pressure, if we can let go of FOMO, if we can ease into being a little relaxed, a teency bit careless? More than one mom confessed that even though a slower pace is allowed, called for, she is having trouble slowing herself down. We might find ourselves confronting that driver-inside-my-own-head which has been pushing and pushing relentlessly.
It brings to mind a quote from the book, Woman of Independent Means, by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, based on the journal of her grandmother, a Dallas woman in the early 1900s. At one point in the book the heroine and her best friend take their combined five children on a train to Maine for the summer (imagine what THAT trip must have been like). Once settled in, she writes,
“When we were able to set aside those two devilish P’s of propriety and punctuality, we all frolicked like children for the summer.”
And so, I ask you, what devilish words do you need to remove from your language right now? What is it that you’d like to look back on the Spring of 2020 and recall savoring with your kids?
Wouldn’t today be a good day to start?