The one year mark of quarantine parenting has come and gone. While I wish I could say all I learned about quarantine parenting was how well I did it, the truth is that often it was just good enough. Even more importantly, in making mistakes this year, I grew so much personally and my perspective of parenting shifted in major ways. Here are some of my takeaways:
We all know this in theory, but Instagram and other social media platforms will feed us different messages. There were so many times this past year that good enough parenting reigned and I have made peace with that. My kids learned to do laundry, wash dishes, respect boundaries (sometimes), and see their parents struggle to keep it together. We had barely edible meals, strange birthdays, piles of dirty laundry, bad zoom calls, deep loss, hard conversations and everyone is still ok.
Taking care of me helps my family
I started meditation years ago because I had read that meditation can help children with executive function deficits. So, when I first started, it was with my kids doing body scan meditations together at bedtime. While my kids liked it, I found that it was having a profoundly positive effect on my mood, including helping my anger and impatience with them. During the last year, meditating became something I needed. My kids sometimes still join me for a meditation here and there, but sticking with it for myself has made all the difference during this time. Meditation has helped me slow down, see my kids for where they are and not where I think they should be, and allowed me to find a few deep breaths during tough moments. We even had a dinner recently where my kids talked about my deep breaths during the pandemic and I explained that I was just trying to not say something that I regret. They both laughed, and one stated, “Yeah, we noticed”.
Make space for the grief.
I think one of the more profound moments during the last year was when I stopped trying to point out the silver linings of this time and could stick with my kids when they were angry, sad and frustrated. There was so much that I could not fix and that is a lesson that I want to hold onto during the rest of their lives: the ability to just sit and hold their discomfort. To try not to fix a sports issue, manage a friendship or navigate a teacher. They have learned far more from being able to find their way with my bearing witness to their lives than me trying to control outcomes.
Sometimes, I’m just there to hold their stuff
Speaking of not fixing their problems, I recently realized that when my kids dump their day’s grievances on me, it’s really no different than when they used to dump all their belongings on me at the playground. My lap and pockets would be filled with the small rocks, buttons and feathers they wanted to keep. These days, when they share with me a friendship issue or an academic grievance, I sometimes need to imagine that I am at the playground and they are saying “Here, hold this” as they run off to play. My job is to just hold those emotional items for a bit and help them let go.