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Hillary Ibarra gives thanks for the unexpected blessing of 2020: more time with her children.

A few months ago, a priest told me to thank God each morning for my husband and children.

In this crazy, anxious, turbulent year of 2020, I begin each uncertain, blessed day with a gratitude prayer, and gratitude expressed in prayer is more powerful than words in a journal; it regenerates one’s spirit, because it addresses the One from Whom all good flows.

2020 has for many months made me thankful for my children and husband, thankful for an abundance of people to love and bear me company during quarantine (even when they drove me crazy, and I had meltdowns to rival a 2-year-old) and thankful for spontaneous hugs and conversation. Yes, anxiety, aggravation, and heartache are the legacy of 2020, but this year gave me a gift packaged in an abundance of uncertainty and craziness: more time with immediate family.

My four children are not little anymore. As we celebrated milestone birthdays for each of them, I was powerfully reminded of that. In March, my youngest turned 10; my baby is double digits! In June, my oldest daughter celebrated her Sweet 16. In September, my giant of a firstborn turned 18, and I am now the mother of an adult. And just this month my youngest daughter turned 13, officially a teenager.

My four children are growing at accelerated speed, but this bizarre year put the brakes on our family’s hectic schedule, so I was able to appreciate keenly where they are now and where they are going. I cannot imagine when our family will have so much unhurried time together again: schedules cleared, so few errands to run.

Though we have each battled bouts of anxiety due to unique 2020 stressors and spent way too much time on screens, I am yet grateful for unexpected blessings this Thanksgiving:


More Reading and Game Time

My 10-year-old and I read a pile of books this year, most Nancy Drew Mystery Stories from our home library, while we snuggled in the morning, afternoon, or before bedtime.

Every day he asks if I want to play a game, and though it takes me too long to stop work and get there, the answer is yes, because who couldn’t use another Quirkle contest, foosball match, or round of bowling with baseballs and foam pins to relieve tension? My youngest is my game buddy, bringing fun to every day.


Sharing Fears, Hugs, and Strategies

Batman has been my spunky youngest daughter’s favorite superhero since she was a preschooler. Her room is a Batman Lego museum. There are Batman sheets and a comforter on her bed, and the Caped Crusader is one reason she studied Karate at her uncle’s dojo. Now she is growing out of that phase.

I sat on the edge of her bed many evenings during quarantine, listening as she shared her doubts and fears, offering my best tactics, ones I have employed myself, for how to manage them. She still needs plenty of hugs (as do I), and I give them often, though sometimes it annoys her, because I understand the middle school years are tumultuous even without a pandemic.


Long Walks, Music, and Table Tennis

While taking long walks around the neighborhood or hiking in the mountains with my oldest daughter, revived by the beauty and love of God reflected in every tree and rabbit, we had many conversations about her hopes to become a doctor and about romantic relationships. We sang favorite songs together as we walked, or I was silent and listened to her sing Leonard Cohen’s poignant “Hallelujah.”

During a break from one particularly stressful day of online learning, we played table tennis. I gladly provided comic relief as she laughed at my lunges and misses.


Conversations with My Senior

My oldest son read his college essays for his dad and me to critique, and I choked up, proud of him.

He seeks involvement in the political sphere and volunteered for a local political campaign. We discussed history, social injustice, and political issues during mealtimes, and I believe his passion for addressing the world’s problems will take him far with hard work.

He told me during the lockdown, “Quarantine’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Before I couldn’t wait to get out of the house. But now I’m like, ‘Hey, you guys aren’t so bad’.”

2020 gave me a gift packaged in an abundance of uncertainty and craziness: more time with immediate family. #catholicmom

I hope my son knows how much I appreciate these conversations with him before he leaves for college. I hope each of my four children knows how grateful I am for their company this year. They rescued strange, stressful, sad 2020 from the pit, brightening the days. Someday on Thanksgiving when they are grown and busy, with families of their own, I will remember that with a smile…and a few tears.

And I will thank God again for my children.



Copyright 2020 Hillary Ibarra
Image: Pixabay (2016)