Parenting During Covid 19
SILENCE IS GOLDEN OR IS IT?
There are times in the day that I dream of silence. A moment that my ear doesn’t buzz with someone calling me mommy. A millisecond that I can call my own. I dream of silence. I yearn for it so badly that at times I stay up at night just to hear the blessed silence.
Yet. Is it actually blessed silence? What about the day when the young ones have grown and the house will be silent?
My teenage son has already flown the nest and attends an out of town high school. When he was home during the pandemic he seemed super busy. He was rushing to speak to his friends on zoom and enjoying his favourite pastimes. It got me thinking.
When he went back to yeshiva he was so excited and relieved. I started feeling sad. Didn’t we just laugh and play together? But then I stopped. I had dreamed of the day he would be confident and happy to spread his wings and discover himself and here I was brooding? Why?
We crave for the silence. We crave for noise. We crave for our children to adore us and respect us. But then we say- “give me space- I need some quiet time.” And then they start spreading their own wings. We run after them trying to catch one more moment of childhood fun. But they are experiencing their own journey with us hovering somewhere nearby.
So now with my younger ones I am still craving silence but I know the value of the noise, incessant physical demands and emotional needs. Silence is golden until it’s actually silent.
BACK TO NATURE
Simple natural fun and discovery.
Now that most play places are still closed due to corona, I figured it’s time to visit the farm and waterfront. It’s time to go back to nature.
Watching my children laugh and squeal while looking at the animals was worth the drive. They were amazed at the sounds the animals made, the way they waddled and their wonderful colours. They sloshed through the mud and jumped through the puddles as they visited the goats, chicks and sheep.
We were surrounded by animal sounds and the natural smell of the barn. There were no buttons to press or lights that excited them. Just nature and animals. Overgrown grass, animals running freely and patches of hay everywhere. Yet the children seemed so at ease.
Then we went to a small empty beachfront. The waves grabbed their attention and there they were running joyfully through the water. Their feet sunk into the sand and they giggled in delight. Even the pre teens got caught in the excitement. Natural and pure fun.
The way back was hard. The children were sandy, wet and hungry. The walk back to the car was bumpy and filled with stones. There were flies and mud. Natural fun can be messy. But natural fun is exhilarating. It gives us a sense of the beauty that exists beyond ourselves and is completely organic.
Let’s get back to nature and discover the natural beauty in our own backyards. It’s the way G-d created the world and it brings out a more tender side of us full of appreciation for the magnificent world we are fortunate to inhabit.
I always imagined there was a program called Mommy School. If I was having toilet training issues I would enter the toilet training wing and presto problem solved. Or if I needed help with my child’s stubborn behaviour I would enter the behaviour floor and magic my child was fine.
When my teenagers were younger they would ask me questions and when I answered they would look at me in awe and say “how do you know that?” Without waiting a beat I would say “I learned that at mommy school.” And they believed me.
Wouldn’t it be a wondrous thing if there was a real mommy school? I think this would give many moms a feeling of sisterhood and support. It would be an educational environment to learn how to raise our children.
When I was a young mom just in my mid twenties with two young toddlers I felt completely incompetent. I grew up in a family of ten children and helped with my younger siblings. Why was I at such a loss?
One big challenge was that my baby had anaphylactic allergies, severe eczema and asthma. It took time to figure this out and for the first few months all I had was a crying baby. I remember taking him to the doctor to try and figure out the eczema. His skin was covered in severe patches of bloody spots. I was a few minutes late and the secretary turned me away. I stood there holding my baby and just cried. Did she understand what it took for me to get out of the house? Did she understand how lost I felt. All I needed was a warm and understanding gesture and then I would feel stronger to figure out the health issues.
It took time to figure out motherhood and I’m still on the journey as every day and stage brings new experiences. Mommy School would be helpful but it doesn’t exist just yet. But perhaps instead of creating a new institution we can offer each other a sense of support and reassurance.
When we see a fellow mom instead of judging the way she manages her children at the park or the way she deals with bedtime, just give her a warm smile and supportive comment. It can accomplish almost as much as “Mommy School.” After all it’s about sisterhood and mommy-hood needs just that.
Let the children Play!
The sun is shining brightly and for that I am grateful. But a sinking feeling is starting to fester in me. My kids wake up and eat breakfast. Now what? That feeling seems to be taking residence in me. It’s summer and to be more precise it’s corona quarantine summer and we haven’t signed our kids up to any backyard camps.
How can I reframe my thoughts and use this time as a stepping stool to grow?
Instead of thinking of the day as endless I have reframed my thought process and I think of all the play opportunities that my children can have uninterrupted by the pressures of time.
The children spend hours biking, scooting and in their bathing suits playing in the sprinkler. and yes some screen time so I can have a break. I’ve had to switch my mindset to “let the children just be happy and play” from “am I giving my children the BEST opportunity.”
Being a parent brings with it the responsibility to make sure our children thrive. To make sure they use their abilities and blossom. But sometimes the “pressure” of making my child the best he can be gets in the way. Sometimes we need to just let the children play.
Now that we have beautiful weather it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the great benefits it brings. Play and especially outdoor play allows a child to relax, be creative and flourish from their own sense of self. Yes we need to give them play equipment like bikes, chalk, balls and other fun things but that’s about it.
Mommy is allowed to sit on the side and drink her coffee. And daydream. One day as I was sitting on the grass watching my children play I had a moment of reflection. “THIS WAS MY CHIlDHOOD!!” We ran outdoors and played!!! I remember feeling free and light running through the park. I remember my mom taking me to the pool and splash pad. Those were fun days. Perhaps I can give those days to my children too. Perhaps I can allow my children to discover their inner sense of self and experience the childhood that many of us parents experienced and loved. So let’s let the children play!
A Mom's Coffee Break
Coffee is an escape for me.
It provides a sense of relief and something that’s just mine that I don’t need to share with my kids. Except for when I see my three year old climbing the kitchen stool and taking a drink out of my giant mug. There goes my escape. There goes something that just belonged to me.
Coffee also gives me a sense of calm. The warmth makes me slow down when I drink it and allows my mind to process my never ending stream of thoughts. Except when my coffee turns cold because I get distracted by my children’s never ending needs. Then the warmth is gone and there goes my sense of calm.
Let’s be real. Coffee is very low in calories so it's a great beverage for moms that are always trying to watch their weight. Except when you use maple syrup as your sweetener because you want a healthier choice and a heavenly texture. There goes the low calorie beverage.
During the corona era each grocery item is treasured. Coffee, Milk and your speciality coffee sweetener are set aside to pull you out of bed. Except when your kids make themselves hot cocoa in the wee hours of the morning and use your magic ingredients.
Coffee gives me a reason to take a break. After all, who doesn’t deserve a coffee break? Especially a hardworking mom. We all deserve a break.
So I take a deep breath and resolve to have a coffee break with NO interruptions.
As I grasp the hot coffee mug in my hands, I allow the warmth to slowly calm myself down. I hear little footsteps coming close but I continue drinking. I feel thumping coming from upstairs but I am determined to enjoy this coffee break. I smell something strange but I convince myself that I am imagining things. And then I touch the side of my chair- perhaps to ground myself…. But I feel those soft delicious toes of my little one. Those toes have a way of melting my heart. My son climbs on my lap takes a gulp of coffee and then skips away.
That was my coffee break.
Is bedtime your favourite part of the day? My favourite is AFTER bedtime. AFTER the children are tucked in and it’s quiet. AFTER they asked for drinks and did a second bathroom run. Just let’s get to the AFTER part please!!!! And then I feel joy. I feel love and I feel guilt. Why do I feel so many different emotions?
I think for all parents bedtime brings a huge sense of relief. The whining, fighting and keeping the kids busy and entertained comes to a halt.
A funny thought comes to mind when I put my kids to bed. I love these children. Deeply. I take care of them with pride. Why do I love the AFTER bedtime so much?!!
And then guilt sets in. I wasn’t so kind to my oldest, I could’ve talked to my daughter with more patience. All the should’ve and could’ve that Moms have. So just when I’m about to enjoy the AFTER bedtime experience the guilt sets in. How annoying is that?!!! I want to relax and take a break.
And then I think of how cute they are. And I think of the funny things they say and laugh. My mind is just obsessed with these children of mine. Being a mom brings with it a plethora of emotions. Love, joy and guilt to name just a few. Bedtime brings out those feelings for me.
Joy: I get a very much needed break and time for myself. I worked hard and completed my responsibilities.
Love: A bubbling feeling inside of me that these children are G-d’s great gifts that he has given to me and I’m filled with love for them.
Guilt: All the things I should’ve done better for my children that day.
So it’s finally AFTER bedtime and I’m feeling joyful, full of mommy guilt and endless love. Now how relaxing can that be?!!!
Long & Endless Days
The day is long. So long I can’t remember what my kids ate for breakfast or lunch. Did we have any snacks? Hmm…. beats me.
Do you feel like the days are long? Endless? So different than what we are usually used to. Usually time goes by so quickly that I can’t keep up. Like a marathon that I just can’t master or win.
If I as a parent feel this way what does my child feel like?
When this all started my six year old son turned to me and said “mommy I feel very lazy,” and then he started to cry. It was the early afternoon. It wasn’t bedtime. Why was he so lazy? Why was he so sad?
I tried to get him to take a walk. No movement. I tried a bike ride. No desire. Mind you I got him a new helmet and he has a spanking new bike from his bubby. Seems like the endless days have started to get to my children too.
So I decided it’s time to pick up my mommy skirt and set the routine and structure in my home. I had a huddle with my husband and we made a plan.
There were going to be mommy tasks, chores for the children and my husband was going to be the administrator of quality and control of the cleanliness in our home. No joke.
I made a weekly menu and rolled up my sleeves to do the laundry so my children could get out of their PJ’s. As the admin of quality and control my husband gave out chores. Yes the Rabbi gave out chores and ensures all the children do their tasks. Reminding the children to do their chores is too taxing and exhausting for me.
We told the children they need to make their beds and clean up after themselves. Responsibility breeds independent and proud children. We had a family meeting and discussed the current situation. Everyone got a chance to share how they feel. Including the three year old. Then we discussed responsibilities.
This does take an awful lot of work but I think I may be seeing some results. The jobs are not done perfectly but the structure is there. We set a time for school work, a time for play, meals and snacks and of course screen time.
Family dynamics, different personalities and various emotional characteristics make it very colourful. But at least we have a sense of structure, rhythm and routine.
“Mommy can I have this?”
“Mommy can you play with me?”
Mommy… Mommy and Mommy again. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes I feel like my children just say mommy for no reason. It just comes naturally to them. Almost like I’m a magician with a magic wand that magically gives them everything they need.
Sometimes I want to whiz around and say “listen lovely children I’m not a magician and there is no magic!” But I don’t want to break the spell just yet. It’s just that I feel awfully human.
If you are a mom and you are reading this then we are on the same page. We need ME time. Let’s say it again. We need ME time. That’s why when my kids say the word mommy. Guess what I hear? I just hear the last two syllables. I hear the Me part. So let’s practice. “Mommy…....” Yes I only hear the last two letters that sound like Me.
Although I’d like that to be realistic it actually isn’t. But the reality is that we do Need Me time. We crave it. We dream of it. Our minds beg for it.
How do we create ME time?
When my kids go to bed at night and they start asking me for a million things, I tell them “It’s mommy time.” I say “Mommy is a person and she needs time to do her own things.” This works for some children but isn’t the magic wand. It’s never perfect.
Either you have a pre teen walking around the house late at night or you have a baby that doesn’t settle. So it’s also about creating boundaries. Boundaries for yourself with your loved ones. Telling your older child that you are not available is okay. Sharing with your spouse that you need to leave the house to get a break from the needy baby is perfectly fine. Go for a drive, go for a walk or just sit in your room and breathe. Just take the ME time. We deserve it. Now is your time for mommy time. Go for it!
Toilet Training During Covid
My child just turned three and he's not toilet trained just yet.
Now its Corona. Now its quarantine time. Now it's toilet training time.
The thought gives me shivers. Don't think I don't have any experience in this. I toilet trained my four children above this one.
But the thought still makes me uneasy.
Uncomfortable. Very Uncomfortable.
It's messy. To put simply its dirty. Literally.
But at the start of this corona journey I pulled on my brave hat and looked my child in the eye and said "It's time to wear underwear!" I said it with a smile but inside there was that uneasy, hesitant, uncomfortable feeling that I had when I started thinking about this.
But all the hesitancy aside. It was time. We were home now and close access to the washroom was crucial. So began day one, day two and day three. As the days rolled into each other my hesitant feeling started to disappear.
There were lots of and almost moments. Almost making it to the washroom. Almost getting up the stairs in time and just so many Almosts. And lots of messy things to clean. But there were many proud and joyous moments. "I'm a big boy now" My child smiled at me one day.
I think as we all journey through this corona quarantine we have to pick up our big person pants and become a big boy or big girl. Life isn't exactly as we envisioned at this time. But let's remember- life wasn't perfect before and it will never be. Let's pick up our pants now.
The Great Big Giant Pause
The hustle and bustle early morning dawn routine has paused. No longer does my alarm ring at the crack of dawn and no longer do I push the snooze button. A pause to the hustle and bustle. The lunch bags, backpacks and water bottles lie empty and clean. The rush and rhythm of crying, dressing and eating has halted. It happens later in the day endlessly but the dawn hustle and bustle has taken off.
Nowhere to go and no place to be has never been more accurate. Do I miss the power and purpose of having somewhere to go? Do I miss having a warm place to send my child and get a break. Do I feel the endless day dragging before the crack of the dawn? With the hustle and bustle of daily life at a pause I feel the lack of those things keenly. This Great Big Giant Pause has caused us to have endless days, to work hard on basic tasks and to feel that we are in a tunnel that is going on and on. But I also feel one great giant pause.
A pause to look at my child in the eye and sit on the couch in middle of the day and read them a book. A pause to go for a mid day family hike. A pause to cook my families favourite dishes. And a pause to take one giant deep breath in from the hustle and bustle we used to call life just a few short weeks ago.
What is the purpose of this rush? In this desire to perform and to achieve? Are they merely ways to prove that we are having an impact? Perhaps this pause has given me time to reflect. To pause with a giant deep breath, hold my child’s hand tight and go for a long walk. As we walk and my child wraps his pudgy fingers around mine I ponder, “ do I want to return to that hustle and bustle of life.” I do but perhaps with pause stops along the way and deep breaths to make the experience more authentic instead of the endless hustle and bustle we call life.
What is it like to parent 5 children during covid 19?
What is it like to have all your children's schedules and programming at a pause? What is it like to have your own life so different to anything you are used to?
In a few words It's- Challenging, Strange and so so Different.
But perhaps we can take a pause and reflect. Perhaps as we struggle to get through the endless day, we can find some silver lining and embrace that.
Take the time to savour it and learn something in the process. Join me as we all journey through this quarantine separate but together at heart.
I look forward to sharing my insights, lessons and thoughts as the days go on and on, and I want to hear your feelings, struggles and lessons.