OK, so I wouldn’t say that I’m handling it well exactly.
The truth is, I’m not handling anything well at all at this point, because after several weeks of sheltering in place (and more ahead still full of uncertainty), adding testosterone laden energy, smells, sights, and sounds to a house we have all barely left is an entirely new trauma for moms of boys. And we are used to some serious trauma!
Boys need to be engaged constantly
You see, boys are usually in constant motion, and that doesn’t end when they hit the teen and college years. Sure, they do plenty of sedentary things like play video games, but even that has become a loud and boisterous activity. (If you haven’t been woken up at 3 a.m. by a son screaming something illegible at his Call of Duty game, are you even a boy mom?)
So being stuck at home week after week after week, with little to no physical outlets is beginning to do a real number on everyone’s mental health here. Did I mention spring sports didn’t happen at all, and it now appears that quite possibly all summer sports camps (as well as practices for fall high school sports) may also be canceled?
There are neither enough video games nor sufficient wine for this doomsday scenario that could literally send mothers of all boys into a deep summer depression.
Truth is, my sons need to move, and move a lot. They need to be outdoors and on fields or courts or rinks, and in gyms running, tossing, catching, skating, kicking, swimming, cheering, etc., and in general keeping their bodies in motion to burn off some of the crazy that comes with trying to manage a male body between the ages of 13-23.
And for boys that aren’t so physical movement inclined, those kids need to be among peers; playing music with fellow band members, singing in show choirs, or hanging in the chem lab after school. Having to forcefully restrict the physical and social movements of an entire cohort of teen males for the last 6+ weeks (and most of the coming summer) has made things, uh, interesting to say the least for millions of male filled households, mine included.
As their mom, I try but I can’t fill every role
“The struggle is real” is a phrase I normally save for describing the mounds of filthy laundry boys produce or the hundreds of dollars of groceries they manage to inhale per week, but now the struggle is real has taken on an entire new meaning. It’s a monumental struggle right now to fill the roles and spaces of so many things that make my sons thrive.
I’m their mother, not their friend, or teammate, roommate, classmate, classroom, or field, and yet I feel like I’m all of those things right now. It’s quite a juggling act.
How that’s going for me? Not very well at all. There is a reason that during the teen years our children become a puzzle piece that slowly starts to unlock themselves from the larger family one. In big and little ways, they simply don’t fit snuggly into the family dynamic anymore. That has become so evident in my home right now. While other households may, in fact, be enjoying all this family together time, we have only occasionally felt that way.
My teens and young adults do not thrive at home anymore. In other words, they are not living their best life here at home with mom and dad breathing down their necks. Again, are we surviving and staying healthy? Yep. Are we all thriving back at home together? No.
And incidentally, there should be exactly zero guilt or shame in feeling like you haven’t handled having a houseful during a pandemic very “well,” so open the door and kick those feelings right out.
In the meantime, we’ve been doing plenty of “this is temporary” mantra chanting, and we’ve had more talks about mental and emotional health in the last two months than we’ve ever had. Somehow a world crisis managed to open the emotional floodgates of my once stoic and non-emotive male teens. For the first time ever we were all able to talk about emotions like fear, vulnerability, handling uncertainty, and what kind of emotional tools we should have for remaining calm in the face of chaos. (Thanks Covid for the unintentional parenting opportunities you’ve served up.)
Finally, as things slowly begin to open up in our state, I’ve allowed them plenty of freedom to move about their communities again, and have encouraged talk of planning “normal things” for their summer and fall. I have emphasized that before they know it, they’ll be returning to high school and college again, and to their independent lives.
For the sake of my grocery budget, the sooner that happens, the better!
More to Read:
Why Social Distancing is Agonizing for Adolescents