Here we are.
I don’t know about you, but I hit a wall this week. My kids have been remote learning, every school day, for 132 school days. They’ve been home, or at least in my physical presence, for the better part of the past 278 days.
I’ve been the primary meal maker, snack-getter (and turns out when kids are remote learning they announce “I’m hungry” and ask “Can I have a snack?” constantly – and! that snacks that were delicious last week are gross this week). I’ve been a constant companion for my friend- loving, needs-a-buddy-to-play second grade daughter, I’ve been on the listening end of my football obsessed fourth grade son’s analysis of every single game happening in a week, I’ve attempted to keep the feeling tone around the monotony of distance learning days brighter. Which takes some doing – because, no matter how incredible their teachers are (and oh my word, they are) – being home and looking at a computer to see your friends sucks. Plain and simple, it just sucks.
I’ve held my sobbing girl, so frustrated by a digital world that she doesn’t want to be a part of. I’ve made so many spontaneous decisions on the daily – like sure! you can skip technology class, but you need to choose an activity that brightens your spirits and lifts you up! (cue christmas music and painting). I spend time searching for requests like “hey mom? Where’s that bracket I made of the 2015 NBA playoffs?” No lie. My child creates and keeps these things. And thinks I have the brain power and storage capacity to remember where they all are. And then asks me in bewilderment “How do you not know who won the 2017 Rose Bowl?” I have said ‘yes’ to way too many sugary treats, and ‘sure, why not?’ to far too many ideas that end in massive messes to clean.
I pay bills, try to keep up on mail and clothes that fit and household items we need, keep the kitchen decently stocked with food (and snaaaaaaccckkkks), half filled/half folded laundry baskets are a constant presence in some room at any time, and the knick knacks and art projects continue to pile up because the kids ARE ALWAYS HOME. There is no magical day when old projects ‘accidentally’ end up in the recycling and then the house is a clean slate once again. It just doesn’t happen. They see it all.
They hear every phone call, notice every facial expression (and call me out on it “Mom, you put a smile on your face but it isn’t a real smile, and I really don’t like when you do that.”), want extra snuggles at bedtime even though we’ve been together ALL day, want to talk about life immediately upon waking, and can’t understand why I’m not in the mood to play dollhouse sometimes.
And, conversely, I notice every facial expression, every time those tiny shoulders slump, each time they realize their idea can’t happen right now because “Covid.” I can’t ignore all their questions, comments, and frequent chatter – can’t block it out, my ears hear it alllll (which always has been one of my greatest struggles with motherhood – the onslaught of constant sensory stimulation) but these days the constant interruptions leave me with ringing ears and an overwhelmed headache and, by the end of the day, a deep deep desire to slide into my bed and pull my covers up for silence. And Hark! When I slide into that bed and go to pull the covers up, what do I find but my darling hates-to-be-alone (especially at bedtime) daughter who has snuck in and made herself at home along with her entourage of fourteen stuffies that she NEEDS to snuggle with. It’s a good thing she’s cute.
And then, here’s the added layer of emotion, placed ever so gingerly on top of all this. I know that I’m lucky. As the spectrum of Covid life goes, I’m one of the fortunate ones. First and foremost, we’ve been healthy. I have a partner who still has a job and we continue to have regular paychecks coming into the home. My work can be done with flexible timing – I bow down to all the mothers handling everything I’ve mentioned plus scheduled in their own back to back remote meetings. I have plenty of food in the refrigerator when the hungry child says “I need a snack!” I have the two sweetest children a mother could ever ask for…and whenever I get frustrated at them I have to sit back and feel it from their side – what a shitty time for a kid. Just shitty. So yea. They are going to be frustrated. And honestly, they have handled this whole situation with a level of grace and acceptance I find remarkable. Anyway. Two of the most kind hearted souls in the world chose ME to be their mama – and for that I’m grateful beyond any words could ever express – lucky, lucky, lucky. My home is warm and comfortable and I even get to live in a neighborhood that has stunning views of nature, a beach available to me each and every day, and eagles that soar by and remind me how big our world really is. I live near my sister, and our kids can swap houses, which provides a mini break here and there. We have friends on our street the kids can jump on trampolines with, ride bikes and play football with, have a sense of childhood joy and freedom that all kids need. So here I am, having hit my wall, but knowing full well that the majority of Americans don’t have the luxuries I do right now. Which makes me not want to complain at all.
And yet, complain I do, this week at least. Because this is hard. It is really really really hard. There’s no way around that. Honestly, it is beyond hard. It is unsustainable. Parents, and dare I say mothers especially, cannot be expected to continue to live like this. Constantly giving. Providing everything from tutoring to emotion coaching to inspired ideas for new kinds of adventure. We are tired. We are so so so tired.
But here we are – It’s Christmas! No time to be tired, for it is time to make magic. It’s time for sparkles and surprises and baking and planning, and all wonderful things. Things that take inspiration, energy, physical space and time, and this year, we are supposed to somehow pull off surprises – and – those kids who want to be surprised are literally…always there. It’s a tricky one this year. And again, I’m one of the fortunate ones, who finds myself able to afford the toys my children want, the extra traditional food, and the knowing that somehow, we will pull off another magical Christmas season. Honestly, the magic of Christmas is just about the only thing helping my tiny girl hang on right now. So, while I’m exhausted, bring on the Christmas cheer. We’re here for all of it.
Please, though, all of you beautiful beings reading this. Give yourself ample amounts of grace this holiday season. Will it look the same as every other year? Probably not. Will it feel like years past? Also, probably not. Do you have to attempt to do all the extra things to make it perfect? Definitely not. If you are too tired to bake all the cookies, so be it.
And if you’re not feeling particularly cheery, that’s ok. I hope, if anything, we’ve all learned to honor our feelings and make space for what they are trying to tell us over the course of this year. I pray we’ve all seen first hand that we don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectations or do things according to some other set of rules. This holiday season I am wishing you have all granted yourselves permission to do it your own way. To create what feels right, and true, and meaningful to your family, regardless of what anyone around you is doing. I hope we’ve all begun to listen more closely to the quiet voice within, and discovered what our souls need to feel nourished, nurtured, and whole.
May this season be filled with tiny moments that bring you joy, space to feel whatever you need, maybe a special surprise here and there. May we all be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. And may we set aside some of the constant to-do action in mom-life these days, and enjoy a few moments of presence and peace.
Above all, may we remember that the world is much bigger than us, to tap into the magic and wonder, and to know that someday, this will all have been a moment, a chapter in our lives. It won’t be the whole thing, forever. Even though, for some of us who have been in remote learning life since March of last year – it is starting to feel that way.
May you feel the grace of the season, the quiet moments of winter, the renewed hope that the spring does come every single time.
From my heart to yours, from my home to yours, wishing you space, grace, and hope this holiday season. It doesn’t need to be perfect – but only filled with heart.
And if no one has told you in a while, you are doing a beautiful job at this mothering during Covid-remote learning-holiday season time.