“It’s OK if you need to let it out; be sad, be frustrated, say out loud that you’re scared or nervous, or even mad. It’s definitely OK to cry if you need to. BUT, know that we’re in this together, and this will pass. In the meantime, I’m here for you.”
Nope, these weren’t words I said to a friend. These were the words I had to give to my 10 year old last night. She had been, up until that point, generally upbeat and incredibly well-adjusted to the whole quarantine situation. She and her 8 year old brother have been a God-send to me in this time of crisis. They’ve given me joy and a sense of purpose through this very surreal experience where any sense of normalcy has been all but abandoned. But, it was bound to happen, the asking of this question. As we headed into the 6th week of sheltering in place, she asked me over dinner:
“Mommy, when will this be over so we can be with everyone again?”
And, my heart broke a little as I replied:
“I’m so sorry, sweetie, but I honestly don’t know. I can’t promise you anything because I just don’t have the answers…as much as I wish I did.”
Her eyes welled up and she finally released the tension she didn’t even know she’d been holding. My response was a blow for her in more ways than one. You see, our kids rely on us, as parents, to KNOW… all the things. To guide them and to have definitive answers about the world around them. They look to us for how to react, how to process, and how to move forward. They take their cues from us in every way. And that’s why it’s important that we approach parenting from a place of honesty and compassion.
When I gave her this reply of honest uncertainty, it was just another blow to her already tenuous hold on normalcy. She cried, and they were not the tears of a kid with a scraped knee. These were tears of grief as real as any adult’s. These were tears of frustration over a situation she could neither fully understand or control. These were tears of longing for her family, friends and teachers. And these tears just about undid me as a mom.
And that’s why I gave her what I could: permission to FEEL. Permission to be sad so that she could then figure out how to move forward. And then, I gave her reassurance that she wasn’t alone. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can do, right? Acknowledge our hardships and then keep going, with the support of the ones around us. So, whenever you can, please give your fellow citizens this same consideration: we’re all processing as best as we can… and we can all use a little empathy and support.
I KNOW we will get through this. We, as a global community, will move forward. We always do, because we are resilient. We are strong enough. But, being strong doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel the hardships as we go through them.
I’m sharing this because I hope YOU will allow yourself to be sad/mad/frustrated/anxious or WHATEVER emotion you are experiencing. I hope you’ll allow yourself this and know that we’re all feeling the same things. Maybe at different times, and maybe we’re expressing a little differently, but we truly are in this together. And that is precisely how we’ll get THROUGH it, too: TOGETHER.
With love and support-