She’s watching me.

She’s watching the way I react to the news about the pandemic. She’s watching how I interact with people who don’t share my views on how to stay safe. She’s watching how I manage my stress and anxiety about school and work and family members and what calamity may strike next.

She’s taking her cues from me. When I’m tense, she gets scared. When I’m relaxed, she breathes easier. When I lose it, she looks defeated.

She’s watching me because I set the tone for her right now. I’m her benchmark on how to deal with stress, I’m her guidebook on self-care. I’m modeling how she will handle crises in the future.

She’s listening to me.

She hears how I talk about her teachers, her friends, other parents. She hears if I speak compassion and understanding or if I speak hate and distrust. She hears when my voice is raised and understands what it means when it cracks.

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She’s listening because she’s taking her cues from me. When I am understanding to others, she can be, too. When I speak with kindness and respect, she knows she should speak that way, too.

She’s hanging onto every word I say because she wants to be in the know and up-to-date, but also because I set the tone on how she feels about going back to school–or not. I am her lighthouse in a sea of unknown.

She’s looking to me right now. She’s looking to me for assurance, for security, for love. She’s looking to me to bring calm to this crazy storm whose wrath seems unending and without mercy.

She’s looking to me, and although I am exhausted and anxious and spent, it’s my job to get her through this challenging time.

Even though this is new to me, even though I don’t know what I’m doing, even though every decision seems harder than the one before it, I set the tone for how she deals with this mess, but more importantly, how she will deal with challenges in the future when I’m not around.

She’s watching every move and listening to every word, and although as parents, we don’t need any more pressure, how we handle the next few months will be a standard for how our kids handle problems for the rest of their lives.

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We set the tone, the standard, the example.

How do you want your kids to respond to disagreements? How do you want your kids to respond to people who think differently than them? How do you want them to respond when there are no good solutions and the world has gone mad?

She’s looking to me to set the tone.

So I take deep breaths, dig deep, and try to live out love.

That’s what all our kids deserve right now, no matter the choices of others.

She’s looking to me to set the tone. And I’m ready.

Originally published on Playdates on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.