In the Time of Coronavirus: Mothering - "Before you leave, you must know you are beloved"

Thursday, March 12 --
That was the last time I lived a semi-normal life before COVID-19 overtook our normal way of life. It was announced that day that schools would close the week after, and we (my husband) made an executive decision not to send the kids to school the next day, Friday. So, it's been 52 days of social distancing, as of today. If we did this 6 more times, we'd have covered the whole year!

I don't exactly know how to put this into words, and I have sat down to try and document the experience many times, only to be interrupted or unable to form thoughts that are writable. Right now, I think we might be about 2 weeks away from the strictest social distancing measures expiring, which is a hopeful thought, but the closer we get to that milestone, the more crushed I feel about the abnormalcy of the future we are about to step into, because it's still not going to be normal as we once knew it. We will still have the virus among us, and it occurred to me in the last couple of weeks, with compounding depth of realization, that the "at-risk" loved ones I worried about most are going to be more and more at risk the further we get from socially acceptable socially distancing guidelines while the virus is still with us but before we have a vaccine or really viable treatments. My fear of losing very specific loved ones has never been greater or more reasonable. 


There has been something so beautiful about this experience of spending so much more time with my children day-in, day-out, than I ever thought I would be able to as a working mother. But suddenly, it has become routine and common practice for people to be on conference calls with the background noise of their children, who are home from school or without childcare. It has not stopped all commerce and progress in business for us to be doing both at once -- caring for our children while working. We can actually have grace for one another and enjoy this side of the people with whom we do business. Something about the acceptance of the unpredictability and rudeness of kids is very mysterious, real, and beautiful. 

I have seen my kids' personalities in vivid detail. I have watched emotional maturity blossoming like a documentary showing botanical progress in fast motion. I have gotten to see my nearly-two-year-old progress immensely in his speaking, learning multiple new words per day and really putting a great effort into successful communication. It's so gratifying and just plain fun to be able to witness that! I have seen my sometimes-emotionally-explosive child enjoy a prolonged period of stability and calm in being home with his people not forced to adhere to structures imposed from the outside. I've seen kids take advantage of naps when they need or want them. I've also seen both a natural intelligence and a bent towards overindulgence in distractions from the emotional difficulty of the current season. I have been able to bear witness to daily developments I often miss completely. This has been a wonderful thing, and I feel like it's been a surprise gift that I never would have asked or imagined getting to have!

I have also struggled, and it's a fight to stay positive and engaged. It's exhausting trying to guide young children through something that is honestly pushing me to my own wits end. It's very difficult to never have any alone time to process my own feelings. It is fraying to be the point person at almost all times (except for some periods when my husband [thank God for him!] is in charge and I have to transition immediately and gracelessly to wearing the professional responsibility hat) to keep the very curious and mischievous baby from destroying things, hurting himself, or hurting someone else -- he is literally always engaged in or looking for the next opportunity to dive into some questionable activity. He makes more mischief than both the older two boys put together for their whole lives (10 years compared with his >2!). I can't check out for more than 2 minutes together, or he could be badly injured as a result of his own carefree choices. (This is a huge reason why writing has not really been a frequent option.) Oftentimes the things that they need to do (school assignments, physical activity, chores, something besides watching screens) are a real fight, and I get to choose whether to try to stay positive and upbeat or to drop a hammer to force them to do what they and I need them to do.

Being so constantly aware of my role as a parent and my responsibility to teach enduring lessons has been overwhelming. A lot of the time, I do not have good ideas or answers and I don't feel like I am doing a good job of instilling the deeper meanings behind the surfaces actions I require or recommend. I don't feel like I have a surefire strategy for reaching their hearts. And I very much feel like they are capable of getting deeper than the surface level, at least to some degree, and that it's time for me to figure out how to begin the transition from rules and regulations to philosophies and critical thinking. However, ain't nobody got time for that, right now. We're all in a live show doing costume changes on stage right now. Thoughtfulness and depth of insight seems like such a luxury. 

But don't mistake me...

Although I would never, ever choose to go through this experience again, I also would never, ever choose to go through this without my children. There have certainly been moments when I think a little wistfully about what it must be like to live through 6 weeks of doing whatever I want as long as it's in my home, but there has never been a moment where I have felt utterly alone. Even though they're little they're mostly taking from the services I have to offer them, they also give me an immense amount. They make me laugh and smile every few minutes -- that's a lot of laughing in 52 days! Way more than I ever did in the office. They make me feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. I have never been on the receiving end of such a high ratio of "I Love You's" per day as I am currently, and have been over the last 52 days! They keep me distracted from my own tendency towards heavy and sometimes dark thinking. They churn up all my creative juices as I try on the fly to scramble for new and better ways of achieving better daily outcomes. Considering how different each of them is, and how mental and emotional difficulty is expressed differently depending on their individual characters is such a lesson in interacting with other fellow humans. Watching how we as adults try to short-circuit their emotional processes in our urgency toward daily survival is another reminder that most of us have been forced into less than healthy patterns for handling emotional challenges. Seeing the difference in how this odd season affects each of them is a reminder that everyone is different, and what's hard for one person is not hard for another, and that's okay. 

Lastnight I was thinking about my mom, in particular the period of time when we lived on Edzell Air Force Base in Scotland during the late 1980's/early 1990's. While I can't accurately report because *kid memory,* it felt like my dad was gone almost the whole time. His presence at home with us is much less momentous in my mind from those years than the months it feels like we spent without him while he was on submarines (Cold War, US Navy, etc.). My mom had 3 kids, similar age ranges to mine now. She was solely responsible for us all the time, and while we had the opportunity to socialize with other military families during that time period, she didn't have family around and I remember very rarely having babysitters. The difficulty inherent to her life for those three years, which also saw the passing of her mother while she was overseas and unable to attend the funeral or memorial or do any communal mourning, must have been massive. It must have been like this period of time for us, but on steroids. At least Jhonny and I have each other all the time like it or not no matter what. *grin* She has continued to be there for me and my sister now, and has had so much compassion for the challenges we are facing in our mothering journeys, with no judgment on us when it's hard. She has truly been there and then some, but she never rubs our noses in it. She has been coming every Thursday to pick up bags full of dirty laundry from my front porch to launder and fold at her house (with mask and gloves, etc.), and then she returns them to my porch on Saturday or Sunday. 

This season is forever a part of my motherhood journey, and I'm confident it's going to serve memories I will treasure forever, and mark our family by a unique and historic set of experiences that will soon be so foundational to our lives that we don't even remember or recognize how bizarre and life-altering this was to us.  

Something special I stumbled across during this season is this music video made by Mumford and Sons. My middle child absolutely loves it, and he frequently asks to snuggle in my big bed with me and watch it. It's both a perfect song for this moment, and a heart-wrenching portrayal of how life is both beautiful and brutal all at once and there is no extricating the two. In fact, they feed into one another. And also, we never get forever with each other. I think I'll want to remember this tune for a long time. 


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