Anxiety, Stress, and Gratefulness

What sums up 2020 for you and your family?

For us, it’s been anxiety, stress, and gratefulness.

Anxiety – the virus turning into a global pandemic reminded me of when I first became a parent. What is happening? How do I get myself through this? How do I help my sons get through this? Time shifted. It slowed much like it did when my sons were newborns, not knowing what each new day would bring, and bracing myself as I learned and adjusted.

Stress – much like giving birth trying to figure out how to survive — what we were seeing on the news, schools shutting down, work going remote, isolation, boredom, not knowing, toxic politics, people suffering, inequality and injustice, and longevity of the situation setting in — could be overwhelming and feel like you were surviving a trauma over and over. Putting one foot in front of the other to make it through the day could be challenging, but you put on your survivor face cause you had kids that needed to know everything would be okay, even when you didn’t.

Gratefulness – nature and our cat have been lifelines for us this year. Simple things — a sunny day, a rainbow, petting our cat (or simply watching him play, run, or hunt), brought us great joy. Virtual dinner parties, friends reaching out to check in, our boys finding ways to physically distance but still be with their friends, are things we are grateful for. Our health. Masks. People taking the virus seriously. All things we are thankful for. A vaccine, maybe two, coming, hallelujah! Time picking back up, adjusting to our new normal, being healthy. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

What sums up 2020 for you and your family? What are you grateful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be off next week, but back in December.

Wait For It

Since the pandemic started time has been a funny thing. Dragging by and then suddenly speeding up, then slowing, speeding up, and so on.

The summer was probably the hardest for us. With school over, and no ability to really do anything with friends or travel, the long-ness of the situation set in. My kids complained often how bored they were. We all were.

Then school started back up and time picked back up with it. Not to the pace it was pre-pandemic but faster than it had been. We were grateful. Then the anxiety of the upcoming election set in, the economy crumbling, people suffering increased, and time almost seemed suspended — like being in an alternate universe. Yet time marched on.

Halloween came and went, and we got a sense for how the holidays will be different this year, foregoing some of our annual traditions to be safe. We held our breathe with the election. Then it was over and we exhaled. We almost shout with glee when we learned a vaccine is coming. But time is funny. The virus starts spiking, the vaccine will come but time slows, we have more waiting to do.

My boys are desperate to be with their friends again. We’re all having quarantine fatigue but have to stay the course until we’re actually vaccinated—so we play the waiting game.

It’s hard to be still and wait. You learn patience as a parent, or at least I did, with my kids. When you’re young, waiting for something can be so hard. Remember what it felt like on Christmas Eve (or morning) when you had to wait just a little longer to see what Santa brought? Waiting can feel like torture, but it does eventually pass. It almost always does. We just have to wait for it.

How are you and your family making it through the pandemic? What helps you make waiting easier or more bearable?

Exhausted

Does your child ever struggle with sleep?

My youngest became a good sleeper after we put him in the same bedroom with his older brother at the age of one. He has been our power sleeper for many years. We’ve often joke at how he can sleep through anything — high winds (he slept through it), rain coming into our tent (he slept thorough it), and the list goes on.

Lately our son has been having trouble sleeping — either having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. We’ve talked about ways to help – no food or water near bedtime, no screen time leading up to bed, and nothing seems to help. He’s not overly worried about it, but you can tell it’s bothering him. He rather liked thinking of himself as a power sleeper.

He was asked to watch the Presidential Debate for school so his class could discuss our political process the following day. Thank goodness he was only required to watch 30 minutes. He and I agreed, every minute of it was painful. It was only a few nights after that he shared he’d woken in the middle of the night and for whatever reason he was feeling anxious and scared. When I asked him if he knew what caused him to feel this way he couldn’t point to anything in particular. The way he described it it sounded like generalized anxiety. Like many these days there is much to worry about — COVID-19, equal justice, climate change, the economy, and politics. It’s enough to make anyone lose sleep.

As a family, we agreed that since the kids can remote school from anywhere we might as well take advantage of it. Because we’re all exhausted we need to take the opportunity for change in scenery. We need to find joy in the new, and gratitude for all the things we have. We’re hoping we’ll even get some good sleep. That would be amazing.

How does your child sleep? How do you help them when they struggle to get a good night’s rest?

I’ll be away for the next few weeks spending time with family and will be back in November.

Enjoying Exercise

Have you found your child more sedentary since COVID began?

My oldest has always been active. You rarely see him sitting or laying around, he’s always moving, dribbling or throwing a ball, or getting out doors. My youngest has been active-resistant. 😊 We’ve always encouraged moving your body as something needed to live a long healthy life. My son gets it, but it’s not been a great motivator for him. We’ve exposed him to different ways he can move (outside of walking and exercise), but he’s resisted. Until his older brother asked him to work out with him.

Imagine our surprise when our youngest eagerly went to work out with his brother. Our oldest has really taken to physical fitness and saw an opportunity to engage with his brother. He asked me about it prior to asking his brother. “I want him to live a long, healthy life. I want him to be around for a while.” I smiled and said, “You know what this says about you, right?” “I don’t know,” he answered, “that he should exercise?” “No,” I said, “that you care about your brother. That you love him.” He suppressed his smile until he couldn’t any longer. “Yea, I guess you’re right,” he concluded.

It is neat to see our sons come together with this activity. My husband and I have done some self-reflection and asked ourselves —shouldn’t we be doing this for our youngest son? But we agreed that he would have fought us, and done anything we asked half-heartedly, while working out with his brother is something he enjoys. And instead of doing the minimum being asked, he’s doing his best. I think he realizes he’s brother cares about him too. Bonus!

What is your child doing to stay active during the pandemic? How are you or a family member helping them?

Power Outage

How does your family do during a power outage?

It was the hottest day of the year (of course), we had shades drawn to keep the heat out and fans going (having central AC is uncommon in our part of the country so this is how we typically try to make it through warm days). We thought we were going to make it through the day successfully keeping the temperature inside the house down until the power went out mid-afternoon.

COVID-19 has already made it challenging for our kids to entertain themselves with so much free time during the summer. The heat was keeping them from going outside. The power going out felt like adding insult to injury.

At first my boys were hopeful it was just a blip and the electricity would be back on soon. Screen withdrawal started setting in once they realized it was going to be a while before power was restored. After they accepted this, instead of complaining they started to strategize around what they could do together to beat boredom. Normally they do their own thing, but the outage gave (forced?) them an opportunity to come together. It was fun to see what they came up with to kill time. One activity took them into my older son’s closet. His closest has extra storage space and I had stored some old college memorabilia there and had completely forgotten about it. My sons walked out with some artifacts from my college days asking “what is this?” It was a decorated sorority paddle. I have no idea why I ever decorated a paddle, much less kept it. The kids thought it was hilarious. They asked, “did you hit each other with this?” Oh my goodness. I doubled over in laughter. “No!,” I explained, “ it was just something we did…bought a paddle and decorated it.” Just saying it out loud made the idea seem ridiculous.

The power outage could have been one more bummer happening during the pandemic, but it turned out to bring us together in yet one more new way. Us laughing together was the best part. I’m also aware I’ll now have to make some time and clean out what I’m storing in my son’s closet. 😊

How are you and your child handling curveballs, like power outages, you’re experiencing during COVID-19?

Vacation Dreams

How did your vacation plans change this year?

We, like most, scrapped our vacation plans (that were supposed to start in April) once COVID hit. We were hoping we’d be able to travel in the summer, but as the pandemic has lingered our plans have changed. Staying closer to home, trying to come up with things to do.

Planning and the anticipation of an upcoming trip is half the fun of going on vacation in our house. Now even local trips outside the city are tempered with hope that COVID infection rates won’t rise causing state to shutdown again. Instead of anticipation it can be nerve racking.

We all need time away, a break, an opportunity to rest and just be. We’ve had a lot of time to be together, but crave a different landscape. We desperately want to be able to move about like we could before.

In our family, we’ll occasionally ask each other, “What are you most looking forward to?” The response is usually trip related, or about a pending activity or celebration. Almost all take place away from our home. If you ask that question now you’ll hear, “Being able to see my friends”, “Playing sports”, or “Getting out of here.”

We’re dreaming of vacation and being able to move freely (and safely) again.

What are you and your child dreaming of doing post-COVID?

The Benefits of Boredom

Quarantine is creating boredom for many of us, including my kids.

My boys have been thrilled to have more free time since school has been out (though they’ve had increased free time since the virus closed school and learning went online). My husband and I have talked about what we can do to get our kids unglued from screens, but hadn’t really come up with much beyond having the kids go outside for daily physical activity, and reading as a family.

Our oldest helped answer the question when he asked to talk to his father one evening. “Dad, can I talk to you?” My husband described that when my son asked him this, he appeared to have something weighing on his mind. My husband started thinking through what my son might want to discuss and was bracing himself for a worst case scenario— was he looking at inappropriate content on the web, was he wanted to do hang out with friends and disregard the precautions needed to protect against the virus? My husband shared that my son was struggling to get out what he wanted to say. After a minute or so, he sighed and said, “Dad, I’m really bored. There’s nothing to do. If you have any projects you plan to work on around the house tomorrow, can I help you?” We’ll, of course, my husband was relieved. He agreed our son could help him around the house and outside.

After helping his father the following day, before going to bed, he asked my husband if he could help him again the next day. My husband agreed. An interesting turn of events since previous requests for help had been met with sighs and resistance. 😊

My husband joked that he’d have to start coming up with things for them to do, because as a team, they were making quick work of our house projects. I shared that our son was likely experiencing the need to contribute in a meaningful way. Much like we work or volunteer. It might be to make money or to help a cause, but we’re contributing, something I think is a desire we all share, particularly as you grow older and become capable of contributing. We discussed giving our sons (both boys) more structure during the summer with ideas around academics, being creative, and physical. We’ll see what works.

My son had to become bored to understand the benefit (and joy?) of contributing. How is your child dealing with any boredom? How are you turning the boredom into a benefit?

Teen Distancing

If you have a teen, do you notice them wanting more space?

My oldest is definitely covets alone time. It’s not uncommon for him to disappear for hours to listen to music, exercise, text or talk with his friends, or just have time away from the rest of us. I get it. I can recall being a teen and spending hours on end in my room listening to music, and just enjoying having time to myself.

We’ve needed a change of scenery from being cooped up due to Covid, and went to a neighboring county for respite. This county has many hiking trails. I had been feeling my son’s distance and asked if he’d go on a mother-son hike with me. My hope was that we could take a leisurely walk and just reconnect. I could better understand what he is feeling — being separated from friends, school being over, the summer and upcoming plans changed or cancelled — and see how (or if) I could help. My son reluctantly agreed. He was suspicious that I had an ulterior motive than just talking (such as wanting to talk to him about something specific), but I assured him I just wanted to connect with no agenda to talk about anything specific.

We went for our hike, or should I say jog? We did walk but you would have thought we were having a race to see how fast we could complete the hike. I had to ask my son to slow down repeatedly. We didn’t have to be too concerned with social/physical distancing because he was always 20 feet in front of me. I started shouting my questions to him (thankfully we had the hiking trail to ourselves), “I just want to check-in with you. How are you doing?” I asked. His response, “Fine.” I tried again, “How are you feeling about things? School being over, and not being able to see your friends?” “Fine,” he responded again. Huff, huff, huff. Image me speed walking up and down inclines trying to get my son to engage in a meaningful dialogue. I’m sure it was quite a sight. “Please, slow down. It’s not a race. I just want to talk, you have been more distant lately, and I just want to make sure you’re okay. That you and I are okay.” “Mom,” he slowed down (hallelujah!), “We’re fine. I just want space. I’m a teenager. I’d prefer not to be cooped up, but what are you going to do? We have to until this is over. It sucks, but it’s just the way it is.”

He continued his slightly slower cadence so I was able to get in a few more questions and get more answers before we finished. He went off on his own once we rejoined his younger brother and my husband.

I remember being his age and seeking more independence from my parents. It’s bittersweet. Amazing to see him grow tinged with sadness with just how soon he’ll be off on his own. While he may want me to give him some teen distance now, I hope he’ll periodically slow down and allow for us to be closer.

How are you bridging any distancing that may be going on with you and your child? How are you keeping them close during this time of distancing?

Animals to the Rescue (Again!)

Have animals been helping comfort you and your family during the pandemic?

Each day when I’m out in the neighborhood, particularly when I’m with my youngest son, we decide how successful our walk is by how many animals we see — cats and bunnies get extra points as we see then more rarely than other animals. Seeing these animals — neighbors walking their dogs, squirrels running between yards and trees, crows scouting out yards for food, bees buzzing, snails making their slow pilgrimage to yummy yards, and hearing birds sing — calms me. It brings happiness to my son. It’s always a topic when we are outside.

I see stuffed animals in windows, to bring younger children joy, and give them something to count while they are out in about. Animals — real or a toy — seem to have an even greater importance to so many of us during this time. I’ve always loved animals, but appreciate them even more now.

We all need something that helps us get through our days. The love of our family goes far, but animals just being (their normal animal selves) gives me a needed boost.

What is giving you and your child comfort (or an extra boost) during your days?

I will be taking next week off to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend and will be back in June.

A Different Mother’s Day

This year Mother’s Day will be different. Many of us are still at home, sheltering in place, wearing face masks when we venture out, and are social distancing to keep ourselves and others safe.

I normally crave time to myself on Mother’s Day to relax and rest — maybe even take in a movie if I’m feeling adventurous. We will all be home together this year with no opportunity to venture out much past our neighborhood and that’s okay. The benefits of being at home together has taken on new meaning for us — we seem to have a renewed appreciation for one another. Not having to run around to get kids here or there, or myself here or there, and being overloaded with things to do has waned. The chaos of my pre-COVID-19 life has settled into a more peaceful existence. I used to yearn for the peace I have now and saw Mother’s Day as my opportunity to achieve it — but this year the gift of peace came unexpectedly, and I plan to relish it for as long as it lasts.

This Mother’s Day, I will do what I’ve been doing with my family since the pandemic arrived — be together — oh, and I might rent a movie we can all watch together.

How is the pandemic changing your Mother’s Day?

Happy Mother’s Day!