These days I’m doing a lot more for my kids than I normally would. I find myself saying, “What can I do for you?” often because they are managing so many new things that are hard to navigate during these precarious times.
My freshman and Senior both recently transitioned from full-time virtual school to a blended educational model. They are on a new rotation of one week in class, then one week online to limit student attendance, making room for safe social distancing.
Starting their first and last years of high school would normally be exciting, but instead, it’s been discouraging and stressful. Now entering into the actual school building, walking the near-empty halls to their near-empty classrooms, and keeping their distance from every student they see while constantly wearing their masks, feels foreign, abnormal, and uncomfortable.
School looks nothing like it did before.
My freshman has been trying to figure out distance learning with a much harder level of coursework and there has been a lot of questions and frustrations with it all. He’s on the soccer team, playing several games a week, along with practices too, so he’s often up late just trying to keep up with his homework. Sadly, trying to make new friends is almost impossible without all the school events and dances, team dinners, and social gatherings that have all been eliminated from his high school experience.
My senior has been challenged by the same issues with school while working two jobs to save money for college. On top of her busy work schedules and managing her hard classes, she is filling out college applications, having college interviews, and talking with counselors to decide on her plans for her future, which brings a whole new level of pressure and anxiety to her already demanding days. She is missing out on all the special events and social activities every senior deserves to have, and there is no hope things will change any time soon.
Although we’ve been in “crisis management” for months since this pandemic started, although I’m exhausted with constantly trying to navigate all the unpredictable changes and challenges that continue to shift our daily lives causing uncertainty and overwhelm, my greatest priority is to be there for my kids. They need me now more than ever, so I try to help them through this difficult time as much as I possibly can.
When they complain about how hard things are, I listen with empathy and concern, hoping my support helps them feel heard and my encouragement empowers them to persevere.
When they don’t have time to do their chores, I do them myself, knowing it’s just too much to add to their lives right now, and I’m okay with that.
When they are rushing out the door to school, I pull together breakfasts and lunches, so they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat.
When they mess up or forget to do certain things, when they’re in a “mood” or they need my constant reminders over and over again, I try as hard as I can to be patient and remind myself how much they are coping with, in their lives.
When they come home from school or work or practice or games, I check-in and ask how they are doing, praise them for how they are handling whatever challenges they had to face, and then ask them once again, “What can I do for you?”
My kids are grateful for my support. They usually thank me, which is always nice to hear, but I also see the relief in their faces when I tell them I went ahead and hand-washed their masks or folded their laundry. I’m showing up when uniforms need to be washed within 24 hours, or when they need more folders for their schoolwork. I try to do what I can to help make their lives a little bit easier and the heavy load they carry just a little bit lighter.
All our kids are trying the best they know how to find their way through all the unpredictable twists and turns into the unknown. Being a teen is already full of so many hard things, and the countless stressors of this pandemic, adds several more layers of difficult decisions and profound emotions they must manage now too.
I can’t do a lot of things for my kids at this age- they are making their own choices and paving their own path that can be rocky and rugged and finding their footing has never been so hard. I can’t walk the arduous journey with them. I can’t be present in those pivotal moments when they simply must figure it all out on their own.
It’s up to them to choose their friends and do their schoolwork and work hard in their sports or other activities they’re in. It’s up to them to figure out what the right choice is when faced with so many dangerous and destructive options. It’s up to them to handle the pressure on the field in a heated match or in an interview hoping for a job. It’s up to them to follow all the new rules and remember all the new ways they now must navigate their lives. It’s up to them to decide who they want to be, where they want to go, and what they want to do in a world that is full of uncertainty and confusion.
When their world feels scary and unpredictable, overwhelming, and stressful, when it seems they are untethered to any anchor of consistent control, I want my kids to come home to a safe place, where they can count on comfort and security, order and certainty. And hopefully, they know they can count on me for that.