What a ride. Twelve months+ of uncertainty, fear, pain, loss, confusion. A year of living inside out and upside down and topsy turvy. A year where I used up all my adjectives – how many times can one say ‘unprecedented, unbelievable, impossible, inconceivable’ before those words lose their impact? I am happy to now pivot to ‘hopeful, inspirational, remarkable’ and retire the prior list. In the midst of it all, around the world, people continued to do what had to be done. Many ‘groups’ were especially hard hit by the pandemic – obviously those who lost loved ones, health care providers, teachers, teens, aging isolated adults, people of color in the U.S. For some it was, and continues to be, hard to access vaccinations, and community fear permeates decisions on a life and death basis. Parents raising children were a group who sustained a tremendous burden. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that there are thirty-nine million parents with children under 18 years, all trying to figure out how to work from home AND facilitate at-home-learning for their children. Parents trying to design the perfect blend of privacy and family time for themselves and their kids, trying to adjust to the reality of an empty nest re-filling, trying to ascertain how a five-year-old does ‘Zoom school.’ It was also hard for grandparents, who could no longer hug and comfort their grandchildren, and who often ended up isolated while trying to figure out the gift of Facebook Portal.
Parenting is tough under the best of circumstances. Our children fill us up like nothing else – and – also, they suck us dry and drain us. We worry incessantly and they call it ‘nagging.’ We set appropriate limits and they call it ‘oppression.’ We provide them with things, and they call it ‘smothering.’ It’s a hard full-time, life-long gig. And that’s under the best of circumstances. When all things are going well, when you have healthy children, extended family support, no financial woes, no health problems yourself, access to resources, and an educational system that is able to not only provide education, but also, a place for the kids to be, physically, for eight hours a day. Throw into that mix parenting during a pandemic, and it’s clearly ‘the worst of times’ with a challenge to find the moments, even in that mix, that are joyful and sustainable for your children and for your own sanity. Adulting is also hard, under any circumstance: It’s hard when you have to ‘go backwards’ to move in with your parents, who had converted your bedroom into a gym, and who, while happy to have you back, also see you as a 15-year-old, not the 25-year-old you’ve aged into. It’s hard when you are making your own way, and stuck in your own space, and not able to see your parents and family. It’s tough.
As a clinical psychologist of 35 years and a mom of three young adult (fabulous) out-of-the-house children, I found myself writing during the pandemic. There was no particular rhyme or reason as to when I wrote – it was more that the words found me, and my fingers tapped on my keyboard and captured the moments. Often my musings were related to work, in providing therapy on Zoom, and in offering, hopefully, a safe and soft place for people to land, to reflect, to cry, to worry aloud.
This book is a collection of some of the COVID-19 pieces I wrote. They do not correspond 1:1 to cover the 15 months of March 2020-June 2021 but are presented in the seasons as we experienced them together – spring, summer, autumn, winter and back around to spring.
I ponder. Lessons learned? We are more resilient than we know, more connected than we thought, and stronger and kinder than we anticipated. We managed to move from strength to strength, despite the difficulties. Lessons yet to learn? Get along with those who are different and think outside your own box and bubble. Develop empathy and kindness at every age and stage, and practice using it, the way we practice breathing.
All in all, the little notes in this book are a reflection of a specific moment in time, during an unprecedented pandemic, and a time of many national challenges. May we continue to move about more and more freely, while also retaining the internalized sense of safety some of us felt inside our little household caves.