The other day I gave my daughter Holly permission to cut up magazines and use as much tin foil as she wanted, to create what I think will be a gorgeous mobile. I want to hang it over our dining table, if she’ll let me. It touched me to watch her snip and glue. I cheered her on in her wonderful mess, as parents do, no matter the age or stage of their child. In non-pandemic days, I can’t imagine Holly, a college student, would take time to build a mobile, and I wouldn’t have sat at the table and watched her (or been allowed to). These are the days of long pauses and strong pulls in different directions, of moments of confusion and seconds of clarity. No one really knows exactly how to be right now. These are especially tender days for parents, as we walk with our children through uncharted land. Families, we are in this together. So, here is a little of what I am trying to remember.
1. Put on your own oxygen mask. We’ve all heard that announcement on the airplane: “Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” We wonder how we could possibly take care of ourselves first. But we might pass out and be of no use to anyone if we don’t do this simple act of self-care survival. Take care of yourself, and you will be a better parent. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Firmly close your bedroom door when you need to. Read your Bible. Pray, even in bursts. Buy coffee whenever you have a chance, just in case.
2. Try not to compare. We have friends having basketball shooting competitions in their driveways and playing marathon sessions of Settlers of Catan while eating homemade pizza. When we compare, we usually give ourselves a failing grade. Your neighbour’s kid is learning Latin, and you’d just like Ben to learn to make his bed. It’s okay. Keep your eyes and heart on your own quirky, imperfect, wonderful family. Everyone will learn everything they need to survive in the world. It doesn’t have to happen in the next three weeks.
3. Embrace what this time does offer. What we have right now are long hours under the same roof, and that is the one thing we usually lack with our typical busy schedules. There is time to read out loud until someone begs you to stop, to try to play a game and finish it without a fistfight, and to find one movie everyone can agree on and then watch it through to the end. The gift of this time is having the time, and that is worth embracing.
Author of The Minister’s Wife (Tyndale)