My son was really worried on the first day of Kindergarten – he was afraid to use the bathroom and it occurred to me that I’d never let him go into a public bathroom by himself. He’d never been to preschool and the first day of school was so new and stressful to him, the fact he had to go to the bathroom in a strange place without me was too much for him to bear.
When my kids were little I could comfort them
I was able to comfort him though. I told him everything would be okay and I knew it would be. I had confidence if he just went to the bathroom, locked the stall door, and saw he could do it alone, he’d be set and it wouldn’t be an issue.
I was right. He was beaming when I picked him up and he never spoke of it again.
When in 6th grade my daughter shared that her best friend said she didn’t want to be her best friend any more, I knew she’d get through it. I held her on my lap and told her that even though she may not have believed it then, there would come a time really soon when she would find another best friend and this wouldn’t even hurt very much.
Most of the time we are able to comfort our kids and even if they aren’t really listening to us, we know that in time things will smooth out. We know that what we are telling them is accurate and painting a pretty picture is okay because, having travelled this road before, we know that with work, time, and a different perspective, things are ultimately fine.
Two months ago I assured them this would pass quickly
So that’s exactly what I did two months ago when schools were canceled. I told my kids just a few weeks of everyone keeping to themselves would keep the virus at bay and we’d probably all return to normal quickly. I believed it with all my soul. Looking back, I never should have said anything like that.
When my daughter started getting stressed about not being able to see friends or celebrate her birthday, I told her it would all be fine.
When the gym closed and my son who had gone for a workout almost every day for the past three years asked when they would reopen, I told him it wouldn’t be long.
I tried to lift them up. I tried to lift myself up. I tried to get up every morning with “It’s a new day” attitude and bring it all day long.
I can’t sugarcoat the situation for them anymore
But I can’t do it any longer.
I don’t know what the future will bring. I can’t reassure them that none of us will get sick or they won’t lose a loved one. I have never experienced this before and I simply can’t reassure them that all will be well in time.
I want to more than anything because that’s what parents do – we reassure and protect our kids while we steer them in the right direction.
We try to absorb their stress when we see they can’t take much more.
We are supposed to have all the answers and right now I literally have none.
They ask me if school will open in the fall. They ask when they can see their friends. They wonder if we’ll be able to go to the beach this year and eat at their favorite restaurants.
And I cannot tell them if any of that will happen. I simply can’t pretend that I know what the future will bring.
I don’t want to scare my kids, but I have to be honest with them. They are teenagers and they are old enough to understand what’s going on around them. They can and do google anything they want.
I don’t have the energy to walk around like Pollyanna all day. It’s no secret that no one really knows when the pandemic will fully, if ever, be over and we will go on to live a life free of masks and social distancing.
So, I try to soothe their feelings with a hug and support, but I have to be honest about the fact that I don’t know if my son’s final year of high school will be normal. I can’t tell them they will be able to see their friends in a few weeks. I can’t say this will all shake out soon, because what if it doesn’t?
What they are seeing–in real life and on the news–is raw and real and there’s no way I can gloss over it. I don’t have the energy to do it, nor is it the right thing to do. They know.
Most days I struggle
Most days I am floundering. I’m sure you are too. I feel like I don’t know where to go or what to say. From time to time, we’ve all felt this way as parents but this is a whole other level. And we find ourselves in a place we’ve never been in before, struggling to find the words to assure but not whitewash.
One of the hardest things about being a parent right now is not being able to tell your kids that their future will be bright. Instead having to tell them that sometimes adults just don’t have all the answers, or any of them.
We each have to find our own way to talk to our kids. No matter how we are choosing to handle this you are doing the best you can. You have to hold on to that, because honestly, that’s all we’ve got now.