PollyAnna-ing Your Way Your Way Out of a Pandemic, by Heidi Barrett
The news has been grim with no school, no Mass, social distancing, and 3 out of 4 Americans locked down because of the coronavirus. It is easy to get caught up in the endless new cycle of despair. With so much unknown, it has caused a spike in people's anxiety and depression. Mathew 6:34 tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow and let the day's troubles be enough for the day. But for some, the thought of making it through the day is too much. There are way too many hours in the day. What is a person to do when the hours are long and the home confinement does not have an end date in sight?
Spending all day in bed, eating cold nachos is only acceptable for the first 96 hours. Break down the day into more manageable pieces. If a day is too long, can you make it through a half-day? If so, do not think about more than those hours in the half-day. What will the next 12-hours be filled with, hopefully not spent in bed eating cold nachos. If a half-day is too much, break it down again. Can you do an hour? What exactly do you need to survive the next hour? Wine seems like a reasonable answer, but we are nation in a national emergency, and the wine does not flow freely, so pace yourself.
What do your children need? Kid's needs are basics: shelter, food, clothing, and love. Are you able to meet their needs? To meet your children's basic needs might mean you need to work from home, and that becomes a priority in your family (funny how that plays out needing to work to earn money to buy food. It is a strange world we live in). If you are an essential worker, God Bless You. We thank you for the sacrifice you and your family have made. At the very least, you should be given a lifetime of toilet paper for your sacrifices.
As a special needs parent, your child's basic needs might involve daily exercises, physical therapy, speech, etc. - you have got this! It is just one more thing to put that on your list. I am pretty sure not long ago you were complaining the hours were endless. Do not worry about enrichment. If schooling your children is too much on top of working at home on top of having a special needs child, then throw school out the window. Everyone can agree we are in extraordinary times, and we are all in survival mode. A two-month hiatus is not going to set your child back for a lifetime. Besides, there is a lot of passive learning that goes on in daily life, from helping in the kitchen that can stand in for a math lesson to even watching TV. I learned from Phineas and Ferb that the plastic or metal piece at the end of the shoelace is an aglet. Don't judge me! You were the one not long ago who was eating cold nachos in bed.
Are you able to do more than making sure everyone's basic needs are met? Then add prayer. For some, the motions of making sure everyone is fed, sheltered, and clothed is the limit to what they can do. God knows this and meets your family wherever you are in life. If you can do more, then add regular prayer into your day. I was tired of the little ditty of Happy Birthday sang twice while washing my hands (happy birthday no longer has an appeal to me now that it has lost its copyright). I now say a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. It takes me about 22 seconds to say both prayers. A little extra hand washing never hurt anyone (although my dry, cracked hands might argue that point). Several times a day, I take pause and escape for 22 seconds in prayer while washing my hands.
No one in my family notices that I am missing in action. It is such a short time, but it has given me an extra boost to my day. If it were more then 22 seconds, every member of my family would notice that I was gone. I am pretty sure an emergency alert is sent via their phone on the 40-second mark of me being out of sight, ATTENTION MOM HAS TAKEN 30-SECONDS TO HERSELF THE UNIVERSE MIGHT STOP SPINNING IF SHE CONTINUES TO BE ALONE! TAKE CORRECTIVE ACTION. IT IS UP TO YOU TO RIGHT THIS TRAVESTY. My husband would cry out from another room, "Where are you?" as if we lived in a mansion instead of an 1,800 square foot house, and that my mere presence gives him the will to live. The 12-year-old would be at the bathroom door, whining, "Mom, mom, mom," each mom getting louder and louder "Do we have milk?" She is perfectly capable of opening the fridge as she walks passed it to get to the bathroom door. It is much easier to ask me then to look for herself. My daughter feels that it is her duty to find things for me to do just incase I might bored or have a moment to myself. She is such a loving and thoughtful child. I am blessed. So, for now, I have my trifecta: 22 seconds of paradise of being all alone, prayer to God, and the cleanest hands I have ever had.
After the basics are met meaning your children are not feral, you have added prayer, and you are taking it one day at a time and not freaking out about your child's lack of education or 500 hours of screen time in one day, take stock of where you are at. Are you just going through the motions of life? Or can you give a little bit more and find joy in your life? Laugh at your child's antics. Blowing milk bubbles out one's nose takes talent. Take the time to admire the dediction your child had to learn that skill. Ask yourself if they had been in a classroom all day would this skill have been developed? Sit back and appreciate the drawing on your wall made by your two-year-old.
Give thanks that the 2-year old used permanent marker, so you have a lifetime to enjoy the artwork. A glass of wine served with a stinky cheese will elevate the viewing of the artwork. Consider wearing heels to give the occasion what it deserves. Stained t-shirt, sweats, and heels will be the spring fashion rage in no time. I am sure I read some where that Picasso got his start the same exact way, drawing on the walls of his family home with a permanent marker. Hopefully, in our lifetime, there will never be a repeat of social distancing and being quarantined. Never in our lifetime will there be unfettered access to family time, so much family time every hour of the day (I think I might need to wash my hands). Embrace your family time, embrace your inner child. Play games with your children; live in the moment even if you are into the 100th hand of Go Fish with your 5-year old. Don't forget to laugh. Give thanks for what you have. It might be 6 of you crammed in a 700-foot house with access to a yard covered in snow or a 500-foot apartment in the city. There will be time later to question your life choices.
Do not get caught up in the "wish I had game." No good will come out of this wishful thinking. No matter how much you dream of an 8-hour school day for your children away from your house, it just is not going to come true. Be grateful for what you have. My destressor is looking at real estate listings of homes we can never afford. As I was cooking dinner recently, I struggled in my spice cabinet to get out a container (life's mystery: why is every spice I need in the back of the cupboard?). At that moment, I wished I had another house. I needed a home with a differently designed kitchen, which gave me access to a better spice cabinet preferable said kitchen would over look the ocean on some faraway island. Enough room in a spice cabinet is a real problem, or so I had built up in my brain. I bemoaned my predicament of life. It is a cruel, cruel, cruel world we live in! How could I possibly go on with living having a kitchen with a cabinet that does not have enough room for all of my spice nor a beach view? I was complaining, in essence, of having too much food. It is a real problem, apparently. Luckily in short order, I was revolted at my thoughts. I laughed at my first world problem and gave thanks to God for a roof over our head, a yard that I can escape too, enough food to nourish our bodies, and endless forms of entertainment to sustain us during the quarantine.
One day this pandemic will end. Life will return to a more normal time by the grace of God. Until that time, go easy on yourself. No one is keeping score. No one is having a perfect day during this crisis, even if there social media account says differently. I don't care that Jane tweeted that she wished the days were 48 hours long because she just loves every second spending so much one on one time with her husband. Jane is a liar. No one likes Jane. You and your family will survive, and perhaps down the road, you will look fondly upon the time you were quarantined.