I’ve started calling them Quaran-Teens.
Quarantine has triggered a frightening metamorphosis in my 14-year old daughter. With her social butterfly wings clipped, she has defied all basic science and has devolved to a full-blown cocoon: all rolled up, wrapped in her blanket, immobile and permanently affixed to the couch. It’s frighteningly Kafkaesque. And it’s only Day 10.
Scrolling back through my phone, you can see immediately that my younger daughter triggered concern. Here are the actual texts I have sent in the last week:
K is freaking out about not having multiple social engagements
K gets her energy from being around other people. There’s a lead balloon on my couch.
K still in bed.
K is alternately depressed and stir crazy.
K definitely struggling. She needs to be with people.
K is flipping the eff out because she gets her life energy from being social.
K is going NUTS.
I don’t think K can handle the quarantine.
K is the wildcard. She needs her friends.
K is walking the fine line between full depression and manic hilarity.
This is going to be the most difficult on K.
Before the quarantine, my job was to spend my days teaching 77 middle-school students how to read, write, and think. I’m down to one middle-school student (and one sophomore and two cats). And, I promise you, this ONE child is making me tap into all of my training and expertise to help her navigate these days of uncertainty.
To be fair, I am a lucky mom. My middle-school kid can be wise beyond her years. She can be the light in the room. She is smart. She is hilarious. She is compassionate.
But, she can also be angry. Really angry. The kind of angry that can spiral into a dark, angry place. She is also hurting. She has sadness in her heart that has nothing to do with the quarantine. Like all of our kids, she is a complex ball of emotions.
What’s terrifying about quarantine is that we moms are on the front lines with these complex balls of emotions, monitoring their mental health. And none of us have been here before.
My years with middle-school students have taught me that there’s no one magic intervention that will help my child. And what works for her today might crash and burn tomorrow. And what helped my kid might not help yours.
Nonetheless, I will keep trying and trying to find the best ways to take care of the social-emotional needs of my students and my children – especially that middle-school daughter, currently rolled up on the couch watching another season of “New Girl.”
Here’s what I have done and will do:
Listen and Respond
I will listen to her irrational thoughts and the conspiracy theories she’s read on social media.
I will listen to her mindless chatter and repetitive stories.
I will listen when she’s disappointed about rehearsals being canceled and summer camps being in limbo.
I will listen to her singing and monologues.
I will listen with an open heart.
I will reassure her that she is safe.
I will find credible sources, and I will be honest with what I know and what I don’t know.
I will assure her over and over again how much she is loved.
I’m admittedly a little crazy. I’m “that” mom who has messed with the settings on my kids’ phones to impose screen time limits.
I will ease up so that she can ramp up her virtual social interaction via Facetime and Zoom and Snapchat and YouTube. I will remind her about the best and worst of social media.
Which reminds me — I will also relax when it looks like everyone on Facebook is having perfect family time with their color-coded organized schedules and full-blown family game nights.
I will take a deep breath and do the best that I can.
As much as I love sitting in this cushy chair right now, alone in my bedroom, cat on my feet – I will hoist myself up. I will go for a walk and force my kids to come as well.
PLUS – we just unearthed our archived “Just Dance” games – which they are either completing dreading or secretly anticipating. I will remember that physical activity is proven to help ease depression and anxiety. #Science
Again – as much as I love sitting here (it’s honestly ridiculously comfy), I will get up and peek in doorways and check in on my kids. I will not let them go hours without a face-to-face interaction.
I will ask them questions. I will tell them I love them (again and again) – even when they give me the look of death for interrupting their Very Important Activity (such as learning a TikTok dance).
I will remember that I am not alone.
I will continue to reach out to K’s mentors to help her. We will Facetime my fabulous dad to feed off of his long-distance laughter and love. I will continue to reach out to my friends to support me and my own mental health.
I will continue to seek strength from my college roommates – spread about the country – an invaluable source of guidance and joy. I will virtually lean on my village to help take care of my wonderful 14-year-old girl.
Onwards, to Day 11. Below me, there’s audible evidence that the cocoon has broken open, and some sort of creature has emerged. God help me; I’m not sure what to expect. It could be Happy K, Apathetic K, or “Guess what? You’ve never met this version of me before!” K. In any case, it’s banging around the kitchen for its 3:00 P.M. feeding. Wish me luck. I’m going down to check on this precious creature.
Be safe, be kind, be well.