The Unexpected Blessings of an Unprecedented Time
I wanted to be happy for them.
I wanted to smile when they came into the room. I wanted to open my arms when they came near instead of shrivel up like an overripe grape. I wanted to bounce to and from activities, enjoying their smiles, making them laugh, throwing myself into their imagination world.
But mama was spent.
The events outside of the home—and the stressors inside the home— were pounding me into mush. I tried to stay strong for my children. I tried to hold it all together. But sometimes the weight of it —the constant presence of responsibilities, the constant needs children have (to no fault of their own) —pummeled on my being until I only existed as “Mom”. So I would distract myself, my mind wandering, trying
to grasp a footing. Sometimes it was books, too often it was my phone, and not often enough was it my faith. I hoped they wouldn’t remember my short fused irritation. I hoped they wouldn’t remember the aloof look on my face when I listened to another one of their long-winded stories. Instead, I hoped they would recall the small bursts of play when I purred and swished like a cat on the floor, and played "What time is it Mr. Wolf?" with theatrical alacrity.
Mama was holding the world at bay so that it's worries wouldn't touch them yet. I was taking the hits, holding back pressure, and shielding their eyes from the pain so one day, when they looked back on the pandemic, they wouldn’t remember fear and panic and tragedy along with lonely birthdays, masks at the zoo, strangers side stepping on sidewalks, long weeks of no friends, and canceled plans at every turn. They took it all in stride. They trusted me. Yet at times when they voiced their displeasure, I would snap in anger—not because I was angry with them but because I was sad for them. I wanted to give them big birthday parties, play dates with friends, and the average kindergarten experience. I wanted them to live free and wild with the birds. But instead, they had a cage and I was it's reluctant keeper. Their time for flying was calculated —their boundaries strictly elevated. I would tell myself it could be so much worse, but why didn't that help me feel any better?
My Pastor has been known to say that it is hard to be both grumpy and grateful. So I began to count the days of isolation against the array of possibilities; the previous weeks and months against the promising years to come. I saw each season as a vignette of my children's imaginations — winter was Elsa, spring was Moana, summer was Bolt —each turn bringing new songs into the house and new life into their eyes. And I watched them dance and sing, imagine and explore, make binoculars out of toilet paper and a video camera out of a paper tissue box. It was then I realized this was the childhood I wanted them to have all along, with play as their job and ingenuity as their guide. We had no deadlines; we were never running late. And although I continued to be a bystander, I found peace in seeing my children define childhood their way.
The soccer practices and library visits could wait. Childhood was calling— unabridged and self defined.
I went back to counting, but this time in a new currency. And ever so slowly, like the gradual rise of the morning sun, the weight of the world abated just enough for another day.