As mothers, we worry a lot. Are we doing what is best for our children? What is best for our families and ourselves? As though we didn’t have enough anxiety and worry, along comes 2020, a global pandemic, mixed with social distancing, extreme sanitization, and virtual versus live school debates. Just when you think you are at the end of your rope, your child does something to provide you with so much more validity, peace, and confidence as a parent.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
We have all seen the memes and videos. The ones in which moms debate all things COVID-19 and discuss the pros and cons of live versus virtual school. We laugh uncontrollably and forward them to others because they are spot-on correct. Suddenly, when you find yourself in the same conversation with your spouse, friend, or a fellow mom, it isn’t funny. It is all too real, and you start to question every single decision you make.
Let’s cut ourselves some slack. No one could have predicted the current state of the world, not to mention a global pandemic. We could not have prepared for this in our wildest dreams. We are all in the same boat, and most of us are genuinely winging it each day. If anyone is trying to sell you a different story – don’t buy it.
The Emotions of Our Children
I have always been a self-described worrier, obsessive-compulsive, type-A personality. It is no secret I am competitive, strive to succeed, and struggle with the pressure of wanting to be so much more than most people expect. Once I became a parent, I realized that many of my own personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses are inherent in my daughter. Some aspects of our personalities are genetically hardwired, while others are acquired.
As parents, do we want to show our fears, worries, and weaknesses to our children? Some argue, yes, because we can use them to teach invaluable lessons. Others might say we should shield our children from these at all costs. I suppose I teeter someplace in between these two schools of thought. I hope and wish for my daughter to develop her own beliefs, opinions, fears, worries, strengths, and weaknesses. While I also hope to provide her with a strong faith, morals, and values. I yearn for her to become a leader, independent thinker, and possesses the ability to question right from wrong.
Societal/Systemic Effects on Children
Fundamental systems in our society, like school, family, and faith-based institutions, are well-meaning. We turn to these systems to support what we try to instill in our children at home. Recently, my daughter began online school for the 2020-2021 academic year. One daily assignment was as follows:
- Create a happy face out of fruits/vegetables found in your refrigerator. Around the face, write several things you are happy about or grateful for in your life.
- Create a worried face out of fruits/vegetables found in your refrigerator. Around the face, write several things you are worried about at the moment.
The teacher discussed emotions, the unsettling time in the world, and the need to take time for ourselves. Was this assignment for the 5-6-year-old students or for their parents? You see, there are times when even the most well-meaning intentions may cause so much more stress for our children.
My daughter tackled the assignment with enthusiasm. This was a craft combined with food. She was, in fact, thrilled to complete it. However, she looked at me with the most puzzled look when she came to the second bit. “I am not worried or scared about anything” she said. So, I simply asked her to complete the happy face and tell the teacher why she only submitted one.
I do not discount that many children struggle during this time and have legitimate fears, concerns, worries, stresses, and challenging situations at home. However, as parents, teachers, and school administrators, we must ask ourselves during this unprecedented time, are we projecting our own fears, worries, concerns, stresses, and anxieties on to our children and students?
I debate what is best for my child during this time in the world and second-guess my own judgment. However, when my daughter completed this task, I knew the recent decisions we had made together as a family were precisely the right ones for her. Ultimately, that is all that matters. Today my child provided me with the gift of so much more validity, peace, and confidence. Our well-meaning decisions should be intended to create less stress, not so much more.