I was just straightening the pile of towels that the kids and I had folded this morning when it hit me: my kids folded towels, this morning. They are not folded in the perfect squares that make the control freak in me feel most comfortable, but nothing about our lives today, quite frankly, makes the control freak in me feel most comfortable.
I have so much to say about feelings and emotions, fears and facts, unity in a time of distance…BUT, I know better. I know that if you are a parent and taking a minute to read this then you probably only have just that. One minute. Maybe five.
Your life has been upended by COVID-19, and you are likely practicing some form of social distancing during massive school and community closures. It is new territory for us all and it is stressful AF.
For me, however, this will not be my first week home with my kids. Oh no, they were overachievers this month and we’ve been dealing with Scarlet Fever, and Flu B, and hypochondria, respectively. It could be sooooo much worse, and I am not complaining. I am just explaining. Having spent the better part of the last 3 weeks at home with 2 kids and 3 dogs and 0 other adults within 6 feet, I’ve learned a few things. Not all the things, but a few.
So, here are My Top Five Tips For Parenting During This Scary Time
1. Structure is your friend.
Routines, while they can seem daunting, will make your days at home much easier. I have two kids who are in very different life stages with vastly different needs. And yet, I have found that having a schedule, and some semblance of a normal structure around here, is helpful for us all. During a time when nearly everything in life seems like it is on its side or backwards or indecipherable, being able to nestle into the nook of reliability has allowed me to breathe. I might not know what tomorrow holds, but I DO know that at 10am we will be having “poetry time” in our living room and at 7pm we will be having “Story Time with Zeydie.” More on that, later.
What should be included in your daily plan is entirely up to you. It can be as simple as 9am eat breakfast 12 pm stand outside and spin around for 10 seconds and 8pm take a shower. It is something. And, to kids who are undoubtedly confused, if not frightened, it can be everything.
(Note: there are TONS of amazing resources floating around that give us ideas of things to do with our kids, from educational activities to museum tours, recipes to story hours with celebs. I am not curating a master list here.
My friend Jordan, over at Ramshackle Glam, came up with an awesome list that she will be updating daily and I highly recommend checking it out.)
Here is what my day looked like today:
2. That said, be flexible.
Today, kids, we will be learning about the term “oxymoronic.”
I know, I know, I just went on about the importance of a routine, but the last thing you need right now is to put more pressure on yourself.
This morning, for instance, I found myself scrambling, and jittery, and getting that frantic energy that sometimes creeps up on me when I’m particularly overwhelmed. It was 8:30 and my kids needed to be fed, and I needed to set up a Zoom conference for Belle so that she could attend the “morning meeting” her INCREDIBLE teacher was hosting for her INCREDIBLE class, and I already forget the other things that were weighing on me, but, at the time, they felt oh so heavy. As I raced to grab some almond milk from the fridge, Kenny stopped me.
He gave me the look he always gives me when I know he is about to say something entirely reasonable, and held my eyes with his. “There is absolutely no rush. Slow down. There is literally no reason to feel rushed at all.”
I told myself to be a palm tree, and not an oak tree, which is wonderful advice I was given by a therapist, recently.
Belle made it to her meeting, the almond milk made it into the matcha, and our “Mommy School Day 1″ was better than I had expected. Did we follow the schedule exactly? NO! Was it wonderful to have a schedule? YES!
(Above, my kids are doing an online live art class called “Draw Every Day” hosted at 2pm EST daily by Jarrett Krosoczka, author and illustrator and can be found at youtube.com/studiojjk. The peyote jar pictured may or may not contain actual peyote and I’ll never tell.)
In the earlier list photo you can see the things we crossed out and the little notes where we added things in (thanks, Belle!)
Which brings me to my next point, which is…
3. Chores are not always chores for kids!
You will see, in said photo above, that we had two different “Home Ec.” periods. We did not have yoga, because the laundry in the dryer needed to be folded in order for the new laundry I needed to do to be able to dry and so I changed our plans. Like a freakin’ palm tree.
Do you know what two children whose usual list of chores includes not much more than “make your bed and clear your plates after dinner” think about things like learning to load the dishwasher and learning to use the washer and dryer?
THEY. THINK. IT’S. SO. FUN.
It might not last. It probably won’t. But, for today, it killed several birds with one detergent pod.
We even did a folding lesson while listening to some good music, and in that moment, I felt proud.
4. Get dressed.
This is, once again, about personal preference, but is a HUGE tip I’ve learned in the last few weeks (and, also, as someone who always WFH). You don’t need to dress to impress. But, there is something about getting out of pjs and into pants with a zipper and a button that makes all of the structure and flexibility and chores seem a bit…I don’t know…better? Easier? More legit? Maybe it’s not that. Maybe that it just makes me feel better about myself, having dressed two kids and myself. When I walk by a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, I can’t say I am obsessed with the reflection, but I definitely feel better than when I first roll out of bed, and I’ll take any positivity I can these days.
I am sure there are studies about a correlation between getting dressed and an increase in productivity, but, for me, it is as simple as, like I said, leaning in to the positive.
Side benefit: Use this time to experiment with some new looks! Try that winged eyeliner you’ve been contemplating! Do that half up half down bun that all the cool influencers do but that scares you but that you like but that terrifies you but that looks so cute on them but you don’t know how but you don’t have to because no one will see you! BE COZY!
5. Stay Connected.
For the average human, I imagine this is a mildly stressful time. If not stressful, at least inconvenient.
I am not the average human, however, and have TONS of anxiety, and my particular breed of anxiety has specific components that all happen to intersect right around things like THE CORONAVIRUS.
Health, my kids, the health of my kids, being apart from the people I love…
I do not like this. It is stressful, I am not sleeping well, and it all feels so big.
I remain steadfast in my stance that this is not a time for block parties and playdates. I miss my friends and family members as much as you, but I also want to do my part to contain this virus and get back to some semblance of normality (November, I see you!). When people talk about flattening the curve, it is because that is really, really important. Maybe you are savoring this time with your family members all cuddled up at home with nowhere to be. Maybe it feels like torture. Maybe, most likely, it is somewhere in the middle, a combination of both, and in a gray area like everything else in life.
And, once again, like everything else in life, you are not alone. This is hard and scary (I know I keep saying it, but humor me: I have been in my house for 20 days and am nervous) and so staying connected to people outside of your home is a good thing.
If you want distance from the people you know, you are in luck! You can watch live-streaming videos of people reading books, or listen to podcasts that feel soothing, or watch cooking shows, or catch up on The Bachelor, because if you haven’t seen Barb-Cam yet then you need to disregard tips 1-4 and run to your tv and tell your remote to “PLAY BACHELOR SEASON 24″ now.
If you want to stay close to your loved ones without actually being close, we are so lucky to live in a world where we can FaceTime and video-chat and even just talk on the phone as opposed to texting.
I mentioned my daughter’s teacher’s zoom conference earlier this morning and the date with my dad this evening. Because we are staying away from my parents, my dad decided to do the most special thing he did for my sister and me as kids: his amazing bedtime stories. He would read to Emily and me and do all of the voices and we looooooved this time. Because my kids are Roald Dahl stans, he started “James and the Giant Peach” with them last night. When the video synced up last night I burst out laughing to see my 59-year-old attorney father in a bowler hat, but he was embracing his role. He read the first chapter to them and, just like Emily and I did when we were their age, left them begging for more.
At the end of the day (IS THE DAY ALMOST OVER, YET?) no one knows what will be, but I do know that connecting with you, even in this small way, has made my day brighter. An apology: I am sure this post is littered with typos, but do I have time to comb through each line before posting? I do not. I have an online tour of the Cincinnati Zoo to host, and so I must leave you.
Remember, this too shall pass. It always has. It always does. It always will.
With mad love and hand soap