Who’s Helping Who?

I’ve written before about parenting in a pandemic and how our kids are actually helping us (read: the adults) cope with the way life has become. I’ve noticed that younger kids, specifically, have seemingly slid into this new normal with relative ease.

For example, my youngest son (just shy of 18 months) is happy to wear his mask and often asks for it before we get out of the car (disclaimer: he still takes it off after a while but remembers to hand it to me so he doesn’t lose it. I consider this a big win).

My middle son remembers to grab an extra mask when we leave the house, “just in case I need a new one while we’re out.”

And my oldest son is quick to point out when people aren’t wearing masks and come a little too close, or if they aren’t wearing their masks properly (“Grampie, you should have your mask over your nose…”).

It makes me sad this is part of our normal behavior, but equally as proud that we don’t have an argument about this every time we leave the house.

In fact, we had a conversation this weekend about wearing masks and why some people “just don’t do it.” My oldest pointed out, “it’s so easy and really doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

Oh, my heart.

Kids are resilient little creatures. And they have so much to share to help us grown-ups learn how to develop our stamina and grit so we can show up smarter and ready to handle life’s challenges and changes.

Here are three things my sons have taught me about adjusting to change.

  1. It’s not really that different. Even if the change we’re experiencing is a big one, I’ve been amazed at the ease with which my kids seem to accept change (and they certainly don’t greet change with open arms). Big changes like when we grew from a family of 3 to 4, then to 5, or when we had to stay home because of the pandemic. Or even little changes like removing the big kid toys from the playroom until their little brother could be trusted to play with them. They just roll with it, accepting it as the new normal and seeing it as a thing that has to be done. This approach has taught me that even when you experience a change, even if it feels uncomfortable for a minute, it will just become normal to you if you let it. Acceptance of what is gives room to decide how to accommodate it. Fighting with what is just makes life tougher than it needs to be.
  2. Control yourself, especially if you can’t control the situation. Kids are basically instructed on what they can and can’t do; it’s part of growing up. They learn the rules of what constitutes acceptable behavior. But somewhere along the way of growing up, we forget these rules and often find ourselves angry and frazzled at the world when change is thrust on us. I previously wrote about one ER trip with my middle son: my boys couldn’t control the situation, but they could control themselves. Instead of being upset or angry that our routine was interrupted, they saw the trip to the ER as an adventure and were visibly vibrating with excitement. This constantly reminds me that despite whatever life shares with me, I will not always have control over the situation, but I will always have the requirement to manage how I think about it. The situation may not be mine to control, but my attitude about the situation will always be mine to control.
  3. Make it fun! Sometimes a change can be hard and, try as you might, things still feel uncomfortable. Without realizing it, I made a snide remark in front of my kids about my store-bought mask that kept slipping off my face. Their response: “why don’t you make one that looks like ours? Can you!? We can all match!!” Done, kids. Done. We are now a family of homemade mask wearers and, because I’m a mom of boys, we have matching construction, race car and Avengers masks (coming soon: Paw Patrol, Red Sox and general sports themes). Always ask, what could make this better? or what could make this fun? Even tough situations are hosts to new and fun things if we can learn to see them.

Life is what you make it. If you choose to fight against every change life shares with you, you’ll be miserable and uncomfortable. But if you allow yourself to see the opportunities that come from change, you’ll find the adjustment period doesn’t take long at all.

Take Action
Reflect on a recent change you experienced. How did you respond to the change? What worked? What didn’t work?

Recognize when you fight change because you feel like you have a lack of control and instead see how you can control yourself. The result will be a happier and, admittedly, a more relaxed version of you.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Rebounding from Tough Times Starts With You

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