It’s been 35 days. I’m officially a master at Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts. No longer do I reserve carry-out for special nights. Movie night, a once sacred family occasion, is now commonplace after dinner each night. Strange, yet, beautiful things have occurred during the outbreak of COVID-19. My 7-year old daughter decided to dye her hair delicate blonde hair a fuchsia color for her birthday present to herself. The iridescent color, refusing to fade, is my daily reminder that 7-years young is really a toe into the 17-year old pool of the future. My significant other is now obsessed with the squirrels that continue to raid the bird feeders. Many failed missions to prevent the squirrels from feasting are photographed in our minds. And, my son, Buddy, still rises at 6:00 AM each day, eats his bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, and sits in his same spot at our kitchen table for online learning.
During this shut-down, we have built bird feeders, spray painted the pots outside, racked leaves, created bath bombs with baking soda and citric acid, and made teeny-tiny books for the hands of Sissy’s dolls. There have been meltdowns, too. Not just a scream and a cry. No, these meltdowns consist of screeching and yelling and slamming doors. These meltdowns occur the minute I try to teach my daughter how to read and write in my own way or show my son how to navigate through his Google classroom.
And, I also want to have a meltdown. I also want to throw myself on the floor and scream, “Enough, I’ve had enough!” I want to cry because tomorrow looks the same as today and the week before. I want to run, run so fast that my legs can’t keep up with my mind anymore, and I can only feel the rhythm of my shoes on the pavement. I also want to have a catastrophic meltdown.
Maybe it would have been better for my family if I did have an epic, off-the-charts meltdown. It would be over. Done. Finished. Instead, I chose to show my frustration in the small moments each day.
A heavy sigh to signal my angst over the kitchen table is covered with glitter and glue from the day’s learning.
A frenzied yell to my children, “I need 5 minutes, please. Five minutes without any talking!”
A tense eyebrow looking at my jam-packed calendar that once existed in my real-world day, now compacted into Zoom meetings in the very discomfort of my home.
My exhausted brain at the end of an 11-hour day (at home, mind you) and trying to consider what to conjure up in the kitchen for the third official meal of the day (not including the 23 other unofficial snack fests that occurred).
I chose to truck through each day, committing myself to a hectic schedule to meet the needs of everyone in my household. I created a master calendar, hosting and cataloging all of the occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, reading interventions, child psychologist and morning-meetings-with-teachers meetings. And then I worked my schedule into my children’s very tight, non-negotiable day. I weaved my own morning meetings during the breaks between reading and the daily math problem. I muted meetings and listened while I watched markers bang against the table in pure frustration from Buddy. I interviewed candidates for teaching positions on Zoom while Buddy and Sissy built forts out of blankets and pillows just to the left of my computer screen. I hugged my son and let him cry, cry, and cry when he didn’t understand why his math looked and felt so different, why his daily schedule disappeared into the dust, and how to be in this new world of ours.
And in the chaos of these 35 days, I remembered my own words – I’m in control of my actions. This is something I share with kids almost every day. You are the creator of your world – the dreamer of your destiny …
So, now I am making a shift.
I now choose to have grace with myself. After 35 days of giving grace to everyone around me, it is time for me to have some breathing room. It is okay if I don’t make the last-minute Zoom lunch meeting. Why? Because this is the time I’ve built into my day for my family. It’s okay if I can’t contribute like I normally do in my board and committee meetings because I am doing the best I can right now.
I now choose to build play-time into my day. If there is only one thing I’ve learned during our country’s shutdown, it is the importance of play-time. I’m talking about the scooter races in the street, playing hide-n-seek in the middle of the day, jumping on trampolines, and going on scavenger hunts in the neighborhood. I’m talking about fun!
Of course, I also choose, really, seriously choose, to control my actions. There is nothing in this world I can control. However, I can continue to harness my response to the stress, the meltdowns, the anxiety, and the complete sense of being uprooted in life. I can tell my children that I’m feeling really frustrated and that I need to take a break and go for a walk. I can choose to say, ” I am sad today,” and then go find the paintbrush and watercolors to release it. I can choose to show my children how to live in this moment – this complex, uprooting time.
In a way, I’m grateful for all of the meltdown moments. These moments – along with Buddy and Sissy’s’ moments – continue to teach me about the threads of love in my family: grace, play, and openness with each other. For me, this matters more than the clean kitchen table, being in every Zoom appointment and meeting, and also pulling off the whole mom-thing. What matters is how we are living each day.