I have this little page-a-day memory book my husband gave me when my boys were born that lets me write down one thing they each did every day (if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, I highly recommend this). Every night before bed, I reflect on the day and write down one thing for each of my kids. It could be something funny, a big milestone or something particularly challenging that we’re working through. Just one thing.
And as I’ve been writing down memories, I’ve been keeping track of the number of days in quarantine. When I realized we were at day 45, I made the intentional decision to stop writing it down. As I wrote “Day 45” in my memory book, it suddenly felt like I was making tick marks on the wall, like a prisoner would.
But that feeling of being trapped is far from what I’ve been feeling. I sat there with the pen in my hand, allowing myself the moment to reflect on what the last nearly 2 months have been like. There have been so many lessons learned, so many new memories, so much growth.
Big things, like watching my boys figure out how to solve disagreements on their own, with WORDS. Sure, there’s plenty of yelling and pushing and wrestling, but I’m hearing more discussion before, during and after the brawl. Progress! (Which, by the way, is also a lesson that big progress is the sum of regular and recurring small progress.)
My boys are learning how to recognize the importance of being self-managed. That just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you can be mean or rude to others (read: hangry is a thing that happens to Mom and none of you like it). That just because you’re tired doesn’t mean it’s ok to hit or scream because anything else is too hard. That just because you want something doesn’t mean you can just take it. Forced to be in the same space, these lessons are rising to the top and we are dealing with them at an accelerated rate compared to what we would have been doing in the old normal.
Even I have learned so much, like the importance of accepting the fact that I can’t do it all at 100% all day, every day. That the kids need me to be as tuned in to them as they are to me, so it’s important to take that block of time for self-care so I can be present for them. That the days may sometimes feel long and challenging, but it’s just a fleeting moment and at the end of the day, it’s a chance to spend time with my family in a way we likely never will be able to again. “This moment matters” is something I now find I regularly tell myself (even if it’s sometimes done through gritted teeth).
But I think the most incredible lesson I’ve learned that I want to share with you as a parenting coach is that talking goes a long way.
I often share with my clients the importance of asking questions to really understand what’s being said to you. And kids are naturally good at this. They’re so curious about what’s happening around them, they ask questions ALL DAY LONG to get more information to make sense of their world.
So I started taking advantage of this.
I ask them questions, too. I ask them to tell me what they see as we’re out for a walk with the dog (basically a game of I Spy). I ask them about things we’re seeing on TV or in books. And I encourage them to ask me lots of questions because not only are they learning about the world for themselves, they’re showing it to me through their own eyes.
Ask yourself: how could you lean in to those questions from your kids instead of ignoring them or telling them to wait until you’re less busy? A question is an opportunity for discussion. And maybe this moment is the only moment you will hear this question and create this conversation possibility. How could you adjust your approach to discussions to stop talking so much and listen instead?
April showers bring May flowers. That better be true because April came in like an overtired and underdressed toddler in New England this year. We’ve had more rainy, cold days than nice ones, forcing everyone to stay inside more than we’d like. And since I really don’t like having my kids in front of the TV all day, I’ve learned how to leverage the movies and shows we do watch as teachable moments. To lean in to the questions to encourage greater conversations about what we can learn from what we’re seeing.
So, I’m going to shift the Quarantine Diaries slightly to focus on lessons in movies. Because let me tell you, when you take the time to stop and notice what messages are being shared in any movie, you get a faster view of the bigger picture – you don’t have to wait for life to send it in its own terms. This creates the space and the opportunity to actively listen and engage instead of passively hear and ignore. You learn how to start a conversation with others – including your kids – to encourage them to see the bigger picture, talk about it and even get a little creative with it.
So stay tuned for the first installment of Lessons in Movies, coming soon.
Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”
Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28