Lightening Their Loads

“Mom, I miss people,” my 10-year-old who loves alone time and video games shared with me the other day.

My heart suddenly felt heavy.

You see, at the beginning of the pandemic, it was easy to think optimistic, to make plans, and to explain how staying home meant protecting those we love. Yes, we see it as an act of love.

But here we are…a year in. And the weight on our kids, well, it’s big, and I fear it’s getting heavier than they can carry.

For many of us – as adults – the pandemic has been hard. We miss hugs. We miss our friends. We miss filling up our dining room tables, chatting around islands, enjoying sports functions, meeting friends for coffee without notice. But, we’ve found routines. We “get” the why behind it and we can use the tools at hand to power through in many cases.

But, hearing these words from my kids. Well. It made me realize something: they’re having a hard time looking forward (as they should. They’re not equipped for this!).

“I know,” I answered him. But, then I started thinking.

It’s my job to help lighten their loads. We made a list.

In our home, an “end” to this is in sight: I’ve been vaccinated. Both sets of parents are vaccinated. Those in our circles who are most vulnerable have been vaccinated. Many of our other friends have recently come through COVID, lowering some exposure risks. More and more pharmacies are opening up and folks are starting to think forward.

Our kids have been cyber schooled since March of last year. March 13 to be exact. During the summer, they were able to play outside at a distance with their friends, and we still send them out whenever we can. But, this winter is harder than expected. But, there has to be SOMETHING more we can do.

My husband and I started making a plan, and for our home, and our risk acceptance level, we’ve come up with (and started doing some of the items) a list:

  • Book club. We’ve introduced our oldest to the classics. He’s completed reading Robin Hood, and is now halfway through Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea. I’ve also started buying more physical books instead of electronic books so my kids don’t see me staring at another screen: they know when Mommy is reading.
  • Snow tubing. Living in the Northeast we’re blessed to be surrounded by ski resorts. Snow tubing was a nice – pre-booked, socially distant outdoor activity that was an absolute blast.
  • Sport lessons. Snow tubing led to an eye-opening new world. Two of our kids have requested snowboard lessons. We have obliged. Slopes, here we come.
  • Running. Free! As runners ourselves, we’ve noticed two of our kids seem especially drawn to the sport. We’ve started running with them – at their levels – 3 times a week or so. A great time to chat.
  • Airplane mode nights and weekends. I’ve made a commitment to put my phone on airplane mode after work and on weekends. I still need it to be a camera. But, this has led to more and more conversations – especially surrounding spirituality – than I could have imagined.
  • PLANNING forward. We’ve booked a few getaways for what we hope is a more “post-COVID” world, that we talk about with the kids (minus one surprise). We want them to see there is a future here. We’ve also allowed the kids to think about things they’d like to participate in later in the year (so far we have piano lessons – free, with Nana, dance, and lacrosse on the menu).
  • Pointing out the good. While we are planning forward, we do not want our kids to look back on this time as all negative. We share the positives. We say “yes” when we can. We think about how we can make the most of RIGHT now – none of us is promised tomorrow, after all. We look for ways to bless others so we think a little less about ourselves.
  • Asking questions. We’ve made a lot of decisions for our kids this year. That’s our job, it’s our job to steer our families in the ways we think we’re meant to. BUT, at least for me, that’s meant a lot of dictating. I’ve tried to ask more questions on their opinions. In doing so, I’ve learned they’d like to return to school next year should we find that appropriate. We’ve identified some faith struggles. We’ve also gotten to know more about our kids’ hearts and that alone is a huge, ginormous gift.

This list is tiny, but it highlights how I think we can help our kids see beyond the hard of right now – and let’s be clear – the hard is real and to them it’s even bigger than it is to us.

I cannot open up the doors and allow things to go back to “normal,” not yet. I can’t allow big sleepovers and a free-for-all… not within the precautions we’ve decided upon to our family. But… I can change. And boy, did my heart need to.

The Importance of Listening

That last item on my list, while just a bullet point, is so much more to me, and – I think – to my kids.

I’ve learned I’m not great at listening – especially when I feel as though I’m operating in crisis mode, and – I don’t think – I’m alone. How often do we make decisions based on what we feel is right, without inviting input?

I want to be super, super clear that I’m not letting my kids take the reins. They’re not running the house – they’re not meant to. BUT, they must feel valued, especially during this time, because they have enormous value. They were created in the image of our Creator in the same way we were, and it’s our job to help them recognize it. In the way we crave being heard (and being given direction), so do they.

I’m making a commitment in our home to do better at this part, and I see this as a gift that has come out of this crazy time. I’m going to do better at really listening to my kids, and asking questions to get below what I tend to see as grumbles and complaints. In doing this, I believe we can come out of this strange, difficult year stronger, with more in-tact family relationships… and – just maybe – our kids’ loads will feel just a little lighter.

It’s a lesson I’m learning as I go, and I’d like to encourage you – if you struggle the way we do here in our home – to do the same. Best of all, we don’t have to go at it alone. Our God promises us mercies for each day, and strength to move forward. If we’re working to seek his will, he promises we will not be alone or forsaken.

What hope we have!

Here’s to a future where we listen more, and focus better.

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