I touched on this in my last post, but parenting when you can’t leave the house and five people are on top of each other under one, relatively small roof is a challenge at best.
My kids have E-Learning (lessons on the computer) for “the rest of the school year”, which is apparently until May 15th. Two-thirds of my kids fight me on this daily, and they’ve only done it for two weeks so far (they recently finished two weeks of Spring Break). This is going to be a LONG month.
I’ve got one kid who sleeps for the first part of the day and then gets major anxiety about every assignment, quiz or test that’s sent to her. I have another kid who couldn’t care less about her schoolwork and insists that she cannot live without seeing her friends every day and that she is just going to ignore this whole social distancing thing (she’s not). I have a third kid who happily does his E-Learning but has a full blown meltdown when his Lego masterpieces break.
I’m trying to make this house not feel like such a prison, but I don’t know that I’m doing a good enough job. I’m trying to give them some sort of structure, which they don’t like at home but do just fine with at school.
But I am also trying to give myself some grace, as this is something that I have never experienced before. So I don’t really know what the fuck I’m doing.
I’m realizing through all of this that there is no wrong way to parent during a pandemic.
There, I said it.
It’s okay if you post a schedule for each day on your fridge and make sure your kids follow it down to the minute. It’s okay if you’re flying by the seat of your pants and just doing whatever you need to do to survive. It’s okay if you’re somewhere in between.
There have been moments where I have had to shut myself in my room, to breathe, to cry, to scream into a pillow because I feel like I can’t take one more second of the arguments and sassy mouths and meltdowns. And that’s okay, too.
I am trying not to harbor any guilt that might result from how I’m handling this situation. I take care of my kids and make sure their needs are met. But I also don’t give them my undivided attention. I can’t do that under normal circumstances because, newsflash, I have three kids. And a rambunctious 1 ½ year old Golden Retriever. And a clingy, vocal cat.
Usually when I need a break, I get out of the house. I go to a friend’s house, I go have a pint at a local brewery, I go for a hike while the kids are at school. But right now, hiking is really my only option and even then, I feel like I’ll be judged for going to the park. So since I can’t get a solid break, my frustration and agitation shows in my parenting.
I usually try to be kind. I’m still trying, but I’m not always successful. I am always apologetic when my behavior isn’t ideal, but sometimes I don’t want to apologize when I got mad because my kid was being a jerk.
You know how happy kids magically turn into giant assholes the moment that you walk into a grocery store? This is also what happens when they’re cooped up inside for days on end.
Right now, my priority is to keep them safe and healthy, especially since the girls are considered high risk, as am I. My priority is to keep others healthy, particularly the elderly and immunocompromised. My priority is to not contribute to an already terrible and scary situation.
My priority is NOT keeping them entertained all day. Or making sure all of their wants are met. No, they can’t hang out with their friends or go to the grocery store with me. Yes, they can do their schoolwork or read a book or play video games or Facetime with their friends. I don’t care if that’s what they really, really want to do. They have options to keep them occupied, so they can go do any of those things and stop harassing me because they are dying without seeing their friends.
And on that note, I don’t care that some of their friends are going out and not following the social distancing recommendations of the government. Okay, I do care. For their friends’ safety and the safety of others. But I can’t control what these kids do. Sorry not sorry (yes, I just said that in a blog post) that their friends are posting on Instagram and Snapchat about all of the fun they’re having with their other friends or on their Spring Break trips that their families refused to cancel. Again, not my responsibility.
But my family IS my responsibility. And I might not be making decisions that make them happy, but I am making necessary ones. And trust me, those decisions don’t make me particularly happy either.
At the end of the day, I’m doing the best that I can. And for me, this is the right way to parent. With love and common sense, with frustration and breaks to take deep breaths.
And I’m here to tell you that you’re parenting the right way, too. Even if you don’t feel like it is. Because there is no wrong way.