On a Tuesday morning, I woke up and went to Target. I was annoyed, my plans had changed, an appointment was cancelled and instead of having a free morning to work I was stuck at home with my two little boys (ages 3 and 1) with nothing to do so I decided to make the best of it and take them to buy a new toy. This is my secret guilty mom hack for surviving long days with no plans and bad weather. The next day was a very ordinary preschool day and the next day we decided to lock ourselves into our home and not come out again for the foreseeable future. And that’s how a lot of us experienced the second week of March here in the US.
A nefarious sounding illness abroad called Covid 19 had been percolating on my news feed and then suddenly it was here and our lives changed forever. It seemed like it took 24 hours to go from “not a big deal” to “the most significant moment of our lifetime.” And in the wake of its continuous destruction, the Coronavirus has left millions of parents questioning how to possibly continue to create little worlds of safety and happiness for their children at home.
I have yet to tell my boys much of anything about what’s going on, but I’m not sure how long I can say ‘not today, bud’ when my son asks to go to the grocery store. Last Friday, after our preschool Zoom class (there’s something no one said before 2020) he cried and asked me to “bring them all back” to the computer because he wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet. I’m not ready for real hurt and sadness to enter his little world, this wasn’t part of our plan.
It’s been over two weeks now since my family and I have begun our social distancing life of self quarantine isolation. I don’t know what stage of grief I’m in for all we have lost – for the friends who are sick and dying, for the financial security we have depended on that’s now gone, for the normalcy and routine that’s been shattered, for the unknown, for the physical closeness of friends and family, for everything and everyone suffering. What I do know is that at no time in history has anyone in an unfathomable situation survived it by not believing they could. So every morning just before I open the door to my son’s room I say to myself ‘we can do hard things’ (my favorite quote at the moment). Then I open the door, smile and say, “Good morning my love bug, are you ready to have a great day!”
This is the Jewish way, this is living the prayer we recite each morning; “modeh ani lefanech,” thank you God for returning my soul to me, to see another day. So we try to look for blessings and light, even in the darkest days. That’s our role as parents in a time of pandemic, to help our children each morning find new hope and healing from all the hurt they might have seen or felt the day before.
It’s incredibly exhausting and emotionally draining – to play silly games when you just want to read the news, to see meals be met with huffs and puffs when you’re worried about access to food. It’s OK to cry, for your children to see you cry, for them to know that there is bad out there, just remind them there’s good here too and when they’re scared and sad they can hold on to you.
One blessing of this horrific reality is that for once there’s no bad guy. There’s no evil villain plotting against us. In fact, the whole world is working together to try and find a cure, a vaccine and an answer to limited supplies. We are living in a historical moment of global unity and for once we can tell our children that millions of millions of people are all staying home in an effort to save those most vulnerable and most precious to us. And while there’s no bad guy, there are so many good ones, the nurses and doctors, emergency workers, grocery store employees, pharmacists and everyone else who is braving the unknown to make sure we are safe. We can teach our children to say thank you to the heroes too.
That’s the macro, and now for the micro, here’s what we do to make it day in and day out to make it through. First, we stick to a routine but not a schedule, for example we always go on a stroller walk in the morning but it’s not always at 10 a.m., sometimes it’s 10:30, or 9 or even 11. Second, I let it go, but I don’t let it go all the way. I allow an extra Sesame Street episode here and there but we still don’t use iPads or phone games. Third, I don’t don’t pick battles. If they want to wear PJs all day, so be it, and if they want to spend an hour throwing toy cars in a backyard mud pit, I go with it. I find the less I need to interrupt or nag the better for me and them. Ultimately I prioritize kindness above all, being kind to our siblings, to our dogs, to each other, so that’s what I lead with and that’s when I intervene – I don’t prioritize a sparkling clean house and all toys put away, so it gets messy here every day, and that’s OK. I also bake almost every day with the boys, I’m literally filling us up with sweetness! That’s my micro of parenting in the time of pandemic.
I hope to someday very VERY soon write “Parenting AFTER Pandemic – How to Get Back to Normal” be’ ezrat hashem, stay tuned!
Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLifechannel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLifepage where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is currently writing a book on Judaism and pregnancy titled “Expecting Jewish!” released Winter 2019. She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeo and has an MBA from Georgetown University.