Backpack-bound and smiling, my girls pierced the silent serenity of my car talking over each other and fussing over who would sit shotgun as we pulled away from their dad’s house. They were instantly chattering about the topic of the day – the topic now of every day – coronavirus.
We hit the highlights: How was Susan’s son who lives in New York City? Are grandma and grandpa being safe when they go to the grocery store? Did I hear the annual Okoboji soccer tournament was canceled and Sophia would miss her last year? Has Traci (our ER nurse friend in South Carolina) had any patients die?
The impact in our tiny part of the world seemed so far-reaching in just a few minutes. Quiet descended into the space between us. I glanced over at Sophia in the front seat. Tears were streaming down her face. “Oh my goodness, what’s wrong?” I placed my hand on hers instantly realizing how stupid I sounded. Her big brown eyes looked at me and reached my soul with the pain I saw. I held her hand tight.
A few moments later I checked the backseat for Anna. She was turned into the window and I knew from her posture, that she too was suffering. “Anna?” She wiped her eyes before returning my gaze.
No one spoke for the remainder of the ride. When we got home, I formed a hug huddle with them. “Come here. We are going to get through this. I know you are scared. I am scared. I know you are disappointed. I am disappointed. We are a family.” The gushiness brought them back to life and they pulled away groaning at how cheesy I am.
Anxiety, inconsistency, and uncertainty abound – all around, all day. Their mom is strictly quarantining and has moved all of her employees except the bare minimum to remote work. Their dad goes into his medium-sized law office every day, fully staffed, and with no changes to his daily routine. They are not allowed to go to their friends’ houses and cannot understand the social media snaps of other friends hanging out with each other. Their grades don’t count, yet they have to continue doing schoolwork.
How am I supposed to parent through this? How am I supposed to provide calmness, stability, and structure when my own mind is constantly racing about doing everything I can to keep my firm literally alive and well, when I cry in frustration about my seventy-something aged parents not being bubble wrapped until this is over, and when I am telling my best friend he needs to sing Kenny Roger’s “Lady” at my celebration of life – just in case.
The answer? I just have to. I have to remember gratitude and remind them. I have to hold the space for their pain and not ignore my own. I have to take it minute by minute. One tiny step at a time as we navigate this and seek sense in it all.