There’s no Playbook for This Time With Our Kids

I’m sure like the rest of you, I’m feeling like we are living in a movie right now. And sadly, it’s not a rom-com, full of flirtatious laughter with a happily-ever-after couple leaning into each other on a beach at sunset.

I feel like I’m in a scary movie

It’s a somewhat scary, full of sudden twists and tumultuous turns, will-we-actually-survive-all-of-this bizarre combo of a drama, horror, and documentary film.

And for us parents, this strange period started just as so many of our kids were in transit – both physically; with spring break travel plans in full swing or set to begin – and metaphysically; high school and college students ready for big changes over the next few months.

We are in full scramble mode. (@darby via Twenty20)

The list of disruptions and cancellations for all of them is simply mind-boggling: trips, exams, sports, and the hundreds of “lasts” – the performances, proms, senior traditions, ceremonies, celebrations, the commencement speakers and the handing out of diplomas.

We are in full scramble mode

We are all now in scramble mode. Canceling and altering all kinds of transportation. Moving kids out of dorms and apartments in record speed. Trying to make rational decisions with irrational thoughts swirling around in our still-unbelieving brains.

In a matter of days, both of my flown children arrived back home, one from a campus 2 hours by car, and one from another program on the opposite side of the country. And both of them, within days, suddenly not knowing when they’d be headed back, nor for how long.

And like so many other empty nesters, over the past couple of years I have grown to love my empty nest and my routines. We’ve become accustomed to our children’s regular trips back, loving those brief visits, while also loving watch them flying back to their friends, and their schools and jobs. We’ve settled into our new normal and have felt the pride of observing successful launches, even with the occasional hiccups that are anticipated parts of their young adult lives.

None of us saw this coming

But none of us ever truly anticipated what is happening now. Each day is an unreal roller coaster of emotions that we were not warned about in any book on raising teens and young adults.

In a matter of hours, my daily thoughts and emotions can swing wildly from extreme gratitude that my kids are both home and currently safe under our roof to raw fear at the thought of my elderly mother in another state becoming infected and most of our family members not being able to be with her at the end.

Conversations in our house over the past few days have usually begun in one of these ways, “I feel so sorry for that group of people who…” or “How can that be accomplished virtually?” or “Thank goodness for the people who are still showing up for everyone!” Our realities all seem to be simulations put into motion, yet we never signed up to play this “game.”

And alongside our worries and thoughts of an uncertain future, we are dealing with all those daily logistics once again. Yet who can get mad at a wet towel on the ground or the cups all over the house, when we have a global outbreak to deal with? We can’t subject our older kids to a “Daily Schedule” whiteboard, with designated hours for quiet studying or outside activity with a parent, even when we really could use some structure to keep the stress levels down and allow all of us who are now working and learning from home to be productive. We are essentially all learning a new life together as we go.

We must focus on our silver linings and on each day that we are now being gifted with. My adult kids and I took a few hours yesterday to do what we used to do at the beginning of our long, hot summer in the desert, when we knew there’d be extra indoor hours to fill. It was almost like having an 8 and 10 year old again. We went to our half-priced book store and loaded up on paperbacks, then we hit Target and they gathered up some games and favorite snacks. I looked down into my cart and saw a box of Capri Sun drinks, watermelon gummi candies, and neon orange whiffle balls – items I had not purchased in years.

With tears in my eyes, I smiled and silently thanked the universe for this little gift of time travel, back to when my kids were home every night, safely in their beds, tired from playing and enjoying their normal childhood. We joked about pizza prizes for those who read the most during our social isolation season.

So, if nothing else great comes out of our current situation, I already feel blessed for what I’ve gained. But there will be many blessings and breakthroughs in the coming weeks and months, I have no doubt. And my nest will empty out again for another extended period of time, and we will re-adjust quickly, as will all of you.

Let’s do our best to push aside the fears and get through each day with an eye toward the future, when we know we’ll be looking back fondly on this unexpected gift of bonus family bonding time.

More to Read:

“Present Over Perfect” Needs to Be Our Mantra Right Now

About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing - as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her work on numerous websites and in two books. Find her on Facebook and Instagram

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