Meg Herriot considers the challenges of parenting an only child during the pandemic, finding grace in a brief summer respite.
The title of this post sounds cliché. There isn't really a new "normal.” The word I seem to keep using with my husband is "sustainable.” Whether the decisions we make are sustainable. When we were trying to keep the hospital admissions down in March and April, we were quite rigid. We are adapting.
The initial precautions we took in March/April are not sustainable for the long-term for our family. The uncertainties of work, the wish to sustain relationships, all of these things need to factor into the decisions we make, besides keeping our family healthy. We are blessed that our family does not have anyone at extreme high risk of the disease, but we do have parents who are more at risk than we are. We also know that they sometimes take fewer precautions than we do.
With our son, I see the role isolation has taken in his life. As an only child (not by choice) he is forced to be with us all the time. He is becoming more of an adult ahead of his time, while at the same time becoming more engaged in video games (of the sports variety). We used to not allow much digital time in our house, but the need to get work done while keeping him occupied and realizing that he can't watch sports games on TV like he used to has changed how much we allow. (I am sometimes shocked at all the old games he finds on the TV. He will ask me if I was at a sporting event he's watching that happened in the early 2000s.)
We are trying to balance learning, play, and quiet time in a whole new way. We used to never have TV or anything on during dinner time. Dinner time was a time for us to connect. I can't remember how it was exactly said, but our family realized that we really are together all day most of the time, so instead of forcing more conversation at dinner, we've started listening to audiobooks together.
Fortunately, we were able to go to my family's lake house for a brief respite, and there were boys his age there. It was awesome. It was like watching my kid become a kid again. Interacting and socializing outside with his peers brought out a new joy. Swimming, slip and slide, baseball, and other lower-risk activities were a great way to connect. It reminded me that his childhood memories are not going to be like mine (I have no idea how he's going to remember this time period, but I can only hope he will remember the good parts of all this "togetherness" and not the frustrations).
Even though his childhood will have a memory of a huge departure from "normal" and a lot of disruption, he will still have memories of childhood. At this time, I don't think my role as a parent is to make life "normal" for my child. I think my husband and I have the responsibility to walk in faith, find room for joy, and not deny that there are some disappointments.
Jesus calls us to grow and these times are testing the soil we are planted on. Everyone needs grace at this time, and we are happy to find that in our Catholic faith.
Copyright 2020 Meg Herriot
Image: Archie Binamira (2017), Pexels