Rule #4: Parenthood ain’t easy.
Most days, I find myself almost drowning in to-do lists and laundry and dishes, and I still going to bed feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing aside from keeping the tiny humans alive and (relatively) unharmed. Although Corey might have stabbed Brooke with his fork at dinner because she tried to steal his placemat. It’s hard to find the solid wins sometimes. To say that my Patience Panties are a tad bit stretched-out, over-worn, and past their prime would be a major understatement. It’s hard enough to parent two young kiddos, but then you sprinkle on a little Pandemic Pandemonium and all hell breaks loose.
I’ve talked to so many parents of kids of all ages who have said this past year has been their hardest in regards to parenting choices they’ve made. Remote learning? Keep the kids home from college? Which friends can they see? How do I explain why we are in quarantine while others aren’t? How can I keep the kids happy and distracted while we’re so isolated? The list is endless, and frankly, we all have a long list of grievances with the pandemic. I’m just talking about this certain Patience Panties Brand of issues.
The anxiety Covid has caused parents is, I’m afraid, a long-lasting one. It’s almost like wearing a tiny sloth backpack of stress that starts creeping up the back of your neck and getting heavier by the minute when Covid-induced-PTSD makes its appearance. The minute our kids start to sniffle or cough, I feel the blood drain from my face. I start having flashbacks of staying home with them for weeks on end, being their sole source of emotional, mental, spiritual, and educational input. Jon has always worked from home, so the swift change of remotely working wasn’t something we experienced. That meant business-as-usual for him (minus a lot of extra noise), and a complete overturn of the kids’ lives (and therefore mine). This isn’t unique to us because everyone has that little nod of PTSD when it comes to going back into lockdown. It’s downright scary. It’s borderline dangerous in regards to mental health and stability.
I’m writing this just two days after we had Brooke tested for the 4th time for Covid. In all honesty, I feel pretty strongly against getting the kids tested because the Mama Bear in me wants to protect their little hearts from that stress. Corey knows enough now that if “we have germs” that means life shuts down again. No more soccer games, no more baseball games, no more playing with neighbors, no more school, no more swim lessons. Nada. Just him, Brooke, and dear old Mom & Dad.
Not so great for a 5 year old. I hate that I can’t shelter him from the anxiety it causes. Brooke is catching on, but if I’m being honest, half of her life has been during this pandemic. She doesn’t know any better, but that also has worried me at times for social development. The different layers of stress Covid has caused will ripple through us for a long time I fear.
These kids can go from being cutie-patootie angel babies to spawns from the other end of the spectrum in mere seconds. It’s truly amazing. My brother and I were about 8 years apart, so I’m not used to the sibling rivalry in quite such an intense display of… “love“. One minute I’m thinking, “Oh my look how sweet! We could have definitely had another.” And the next minute I’m thinking, “Sweet baby Jesus, I am not cut out to be a mom!” Add in the stress of a pandemic and you’ve got the perfect storm of anxiety, heavy emotions, and a level of tension you’ve never experienced in your life.
They are completely opposite kids in so many ways, too, which makes parenting them equal parts easier and more difficult. Corey is the shy, serious, people-pleasing rule follower. He is the responsible, nurturing (unless Brooke wants his placemat clearly) big brother. He’s also the most sensitive, sweet little soul. He is easily injured by sharp words or rejection in any form – including me refusing to play Mouse Trap for the 804th time when we have at least 12 other games to play. His heart breaks if I don’t stop and “watch this Mom” every other minute. Little things trigger his huge emotions, and sometimes, I frankly have zero energy to give it. And that breaks my heart.
On the flip side, he is the compliant little buddy who helps me clean up, cook dinner, set the table, and even carry in groceries. He takes the best care of his little sister and our sweet pup, Penny. The flip-flop is tough on my Human Mama Heart. His treasure of a sweet soul are what keep me going on tough days. His hugs and “Mama I love You”s can make even the worst of my days suddenly brighter.
Little Miss Sassy Toes Brookie is the complete opposite of her big brother. She’s tenacious, stubborn, unbelievably independent, and doesn’t take no for an answer no matter how much timeout it costs her. (Now where could she possibly get that from?) She’s also ridiculously hilarious, full of charisma and wit, and has a heart of gold. She will be the one sneaking out of the house and giving me more gray hairs than I can get colored every 5 weeks. She already gets into things that Corey wouldn’t have even looked at much less decided to take apart and spread all over the house. Jon is still missing his hair brush that Brooke “borrowed” to brush her baby’s nonexistent hair.
Taking her to the grocery store or a restaurant is like rolling the dice and betting all your sanity on red or black, and typically having them land on green somehow. And then she puts a bucket on her head or gives her “funny face” look, and I melt all over again. She has a very keen sense of humor that she turns on at the most opportune times to turn the tides of her time out fate. I think my most recent favorite Brooke story is the one of her in chapel at school a couple of weeks ago. The chapel teacher was getting the group together (multiple classes), and said, “Okay class…” Brooke spoke up from the back, “My name isn’t Class! It’s Brooke!” I’d be embarrassed, except that I’m beside myself with pride. My 2 year old blonde baby girl has the voice for herself that I wish I had at my little ole age of 34.
Parenting ain’t easy. Keeping the Patience Panties on at all times can be downright exhausting in every way: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some days, it takes more than a little bit of Jesus and caffeine to keep my wheels rolling with a smile on my face. I hate the feeling when I go to bed and think of the times I yelled or got frustrated or walked out of the room just to get a minute and was followed (usually to the bathroom) by the very tiny humans I need a break from. Those moments are by far the ones I hope the kids forget, and the ones I definitely regret.
I also have a little voice in the back of my head telling me that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to let the kids see me lose my ever-loving shit every once in a while. They need to know I’m human and have my own set of feelings and emotions. They need to hear me apologize when I get out of line and let my frustration take over. They need to see me model the way to handle big feelings in the way I tell them to.
The idea that parents can hold it together and be everything for their kids all the time is a sick myth, but one that sometimes is pushed a little too hard from all kinds of places. I think the pandemic has squashed that idea of perfection a little bit, but still. I think any parent can admit that everyone has an opinion on parenting, whether or not they have kids or haven’t had young kids in decades. Giving advice to a parent of young kids while they’re at their wits’ end is like giving a drowning person a life preserver that they need to blow air into to inflate for themselves. It’s just not the best way to help. Objective listening is the greatest medicine in my experience.
So, here’s to keeping those Patience Panties on, moms and dads! Even when their elasticity is truly stretched to the max. Or when they get lost altogether. Buy yourself a new pair. Hell, get a pair with some sparkly glitter hearts or Captain America or a Bernie Sanders meme. Whatever floats your Patience Panties Boat. Just remember that it’s okay to need a minute. We’re all in this together. You’re not alone. You are seen and heard! Cheers!