Here’s a no-brainer: moms wear a lot of hats.
There’s one particular mom-hat that is absolutely crushing our skulls in these days of pandemic parenting. I like to call this hat the I validate your pain but also I promise that the world is not conspiring against you so listen to your trustworthy mom as I provide some encouragement while an inspirational medley of “Don’t Stop Believing, Eye of the Tiger, and The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” plays in my head.
For ease of communication, though, let’s just call this The Positive Hat. It’s the go-to accessory of moms when we want to help our kids find the positives – the lessons learned – the silver linings in their teen-problem clouds.
To be clear: the purpose of the Positive Hat is not to shelter your kids from pain. It does not compel you to revise reality by creating false narratives full of Skittle-colored rainbows.
We moms are still in the business of equipping our children with the skills they need to navigate life’s hardships. When we wear the Positive Hat, we acknowledge their hurt but try to provide them with positive frameworks to process their losses. We use our words to buoy them up lest they drown in despair.
In our “old normal” life, the Positive Hat was not a daily accessory. It was reserved for big-ticket items like first heartbreaks, frightening family health concerns, or getting cut from teams. We wore it on an “as- needed” basis only.
What we are learning in 2020 is that Positive Hats are not designed for extended wear.
Overuse by moms can cause the following side effects: an inability to fall asleep, teeth grinding, labored thinking, anxiety, loss of energy, and an increased consumption of potato chips by the bag and red wine by the box. Perpetual wear can cause a perpetual headache. It’s sort of like wearing an overly-tight ponytail for 24-hours straight, but instead of a ponytail, it’s actually a 75-pound football helmet, and instead of 24-hours, it’s five months and counting.
And so you see how the Positive Hat has become so dangerous. I challenge you to find a mom who has not worn this blessed headgear on a near-daily basis since the spring. As each semblance of teen life normalcy started to crumble around our kids, moms tightened the straps of their Positive Helmets and got to work.
We’ve been cushioning the blows of the losses of proms, graduations, sports seasons, theater performances, summer camps, trips to the pool, Sweet-16 parties, visits with grandparents, hanging out with friend groups, and vacations. When each new alarmist TikTok video or Instagram post surfaced about the latest Covid news, murder hornets, conspiracy theories, or Bubonic plague, we adjusted our caps and kept our teens from a current-events spiral. When my daughter was rightly outraged by racial injustice and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I worked to keep her from wallowing in despair and tried to inspire her to connect with resources for positive change.
This is not easy work. This is exhausting work.
Month after month after month after month, the barrage seems to have no end. Now there’s the disappointment of online school, canceled marching band seasons, the hiatus of athletics and theater, half-functioning colleges, and predictions of Covid-resurgences. We mothers are relentlessly trapped wearing our battle-scarred Hats of Positivity.
How heavy it weighs on our precious noggins.
It’s both with relief and trepidation that I take off my hat each night and place it on my bedside table. Yes – at last – my optimism filter can be turned off. However, now I am unprotected as I face my own suppressed pain and panic that I have managed to keep at bay all day in my relentless role as a spin doctor of hope. Moms who point out light to our children sometimes find ourselves spiraling in the dark.
I wish this were a problem-solution essay, but it is not. It is flat-out just a Problem. I don’t even have a beautiful lesson or uplifting advice to share. Sorry that I’m not wearing my Positive Hat for you! My “You’ve Got This!” reserves are draining.
I fear one morning I will awake with no energy left to cheer my teens to the tantalizingly evasive finish line of Covid life.
But I do hope that all of the depleted moms out there might find some solidarity in knowing you are not alone as you love and lead your children through these strange times.
And since I’m failing at finding my own words of encouragement, I offer you the words of Dr. Seuss. One of his less-familiar books is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. If you don’t know the story, here’s a synopsis: the king demands Bartholomew take off his hat in deference to the throne. Bartholomew tries to comply, but every time he removes his hat, another hat appears. Mayhem ensues, but (Spoiler Alert) 500 hats later, he is eventually able to remove his hat. And so, Dr. Seuss writes:
Slowly, slowly, Bartholomew felt the weight of the great hat lifting from his head. He held his breath. . . . Then suddenly he felt the cool evening breezes blow through his hair. His face broke into a happy smile. The head of Bartholomew Cubbins was bare!
Hats off to you, Moms – especially the heavy ones you bear. I long for the days when we will feel cool breezes blowing once again through our unburdened, hat-free hair.