I was eight years old, sitting in elementary school computer class with a friend (no doubt playing KidPix, Oregon Trail, or some equally riveting, old-school goodness), when he turned to me. “My parents are acting weird. Are yours?”
I shrugged, suddenly thinking of the larger-than-usual pile of canned goods I had seen in the corner of the laundry room that morning. When I asked my dad about the cans later that night, he told me the food was there “just in case we need it” and that was that.
It was December of 1999. Y2K was quickly approaching. Things were a little out of the norm, but I felt at peace.
Not quite two years later, I walked into my fifth-grade classroom on an unassuming Tuesday morning. The bell hadn’t even rung yet when my classmates and I were ushered into the auditorium. Our teachers looked solemn as the principal informed us that there had been a plane crash.
I don’t remember what my parents told us when they checked us out of school early that day. What I do remember is feeling safe in their presence.
It was September of 2001—September 11th, to be exact. I knew something bad had happened, but I wasn’t afraid.
This morning, my four-year-old son climbed into bed with me. “Are we going anywhere today, Mom?” he asked.
I shook my head no and told him we could play outside, but we wouldn’t be going anywhere else. That in fact, we would be spending more time at home for a while. He smiled, nodded, and ran off to play.
He didn’t ask questions; he just trusted that Mommy had his best interests at heart. And I did. I always do.
In that moment, I realized that the reason I always felt safe as a kid had very little to do with the events of the world, and everything to do with how my parents guided us through them.
They didn’t shelter us and they answered our questions age-appropriately, but they also knew all the best ways to reassure us that everything would be okay. Their actions told us, “we’ve got you.” And we never doubted it.
So here I find myself: momming in the age of Coronavirus.
Something big is surrounding us now. Something unknown. Scary. Unnerving. Devastating. Inconvenient.
Life today looks and feels nothing like it did a month ago—heck, a week ago. So much has changed. And as a parent, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been handed some kind of sacred baton of responsibility.
The responsibility to preserve my kids’ innocence in a time when the world is especially overwhelming.
To make them feel safe, valued, and cared for even when I don’t feel terribly secure myself.
To teach them to be brave in the face of the unknown.
To model resilience through health, mental, economic—and so many other kinds of—stress.
To show them that drastic times call for drastic kindness, generosity, and love.
When so much feels out of my control, the one thing I have some say in is how my kids feel through this season and how they look back on it later.
So even though nothing about what’s going on right now is “business as usual,” I’ll do my best to keep “home life as usual” and reserve my own worries and fears for behind closed doors where my kids won’t pick up on them.
We’ll still build Fruit Loop towers at breakfast. They’ll still bicker over toys and argue about who touched who. I’ll still wash the laundry (and not put it away, because ain’t nobody got time for that). We’ll still take in every bit of fresh air and sunshine we can. Their daddy and I will still tuck them into bed each night with a story and a kiss.
Because those are the things we can control.
While the world spins madly around us, we’ll keep our home as a sanctuary where our kids feel safe and secure. That is how we will survive this.
We’re not the first ones to raise children in uncertain times. Our parents had to navigate similar waters, and their parents before them.
They made it through, and so will we.
But now more than ever, it’s our job to carry the weight of the world so our children don’t have to.
Now is the time to parent in a way that says, “Hey, we’ve got you.”
Because we do.