What to do as a parent/human/soul when the life lessons are coming at you too fast to count? These days, it seems like I can’t keep up with the conversations I’m supposed to be having as a parent, the news I’m supposed to be blocking from my kids, or the wave of emotions that keep slapping us in the face every time we turn around. It’s a lot and it’s not slowing down.
It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to fathom. It seems surreal and at the very same time, if you’re paying attention, it’s expected. I feel like my job as a parent these days is basically trying to avoid creating fear, creating empathy, and continuing to raise socially aware babies. Yet, my problem is that I’m trying to learn these life lessons at the same time I’m teaching them. It’s an explosion of life lessons and I, for one, can’t seem to keep up.
At one point yesterday my daughter came into the room to tell me news she had read on my computer. “Mom, there’s another strain of Covid and it’s worse! Is it coming to Texas, mom? What do we do?” I just stared at her.
I hadn’t gathered the information on this yet. I knew that to be true, but I had zero intention of discussing with her at this point, either. She’s 9 and she’s terrified of what this awful virus is doing to our world. At 9, I was worried about getting the grape eraser from the school store before anyone else bought it.
It may not feel fair that we’re navigating through these tumultuous times as parents, but it doesn’t matter if it’s not fair. The world doesn’t care. Life lessons don’t wait until the ideal time to show up, they just show up and then we deal. As parents, they show up and we deal WHILE helping little people deal. That’s doubly hard.
Last March, we thought it would be a few weeks. Then, a few months, then hopefully the end of the year. Any shred of hope, I shared with the children each time I felt it was safe to share. I wanted them to have a light at the end of the tunnel (primarily because I, also, wanted a light at the end of the tunnel). My biggest goal as a parent, from the very beginning, was to not instill my own fear in my children. (At least not any more fear than was necessary). But life kept rocking the boat, which was already sailing in choppy waters.
COVID-19, race relations, social justice issues, politics, politics, and then more stupid politics. All of it hit our family boat at once and the family dinner conversations got real. More authentic than ever before and so much richer than I was comfortable with for a while. I was terrified it was too much for my 9, 6, and 3-year-old. But it made me realize I was learning while teaching. And that’s okay, too.
Once I realized that I was going to have to learn alongside my kids with some of this stuff, I felt lighter. I felt like I could give myself some grace; and THAT is the key to this mess. Grace to learn. Grace to mess up. Grace to stop and think about how you feel before you share. Giving yourself grace is one of the best gifts in this world.
I realized it was okay to tell my kids that I didn’t know, or I didn’t know yet. It’s okay to tell your kids that you agree or disagree with what they’re seeing, hearing, learning. But tell them why. Know WHAT you feel and WHY you feel it. If you don’t know why, figure that out for yourself as the student and for their benefit from their teacher.
The hardest part for me was figuring out what the developmentally appropriate conversation was in the moment. Little “t” truth is one thing, but those little eyes and ears are also looking to learn Big “T” truth from you. That’s scary to me because I want so badly to get it right for them. For me, too. Don’t we all just want to get it right? I’m not alone.
So let them ask. Let them share emotion. Let them know how you feel, but make sure you’re giving them space to learn a bit on their own, too. What goes on in this world is beyond your control, but how you react to it is ALL you. It can scare us. It can calm us. It can give us hope. But beyond everything, you can always rest assure we are all learning together.