To say that 2020 has been a whirlwind is an understatement. At least we’re halfway through the year…or wow we still have 6 months to go?!?! No matter how you look at the year of 2020, I imagine and hope that there are vital parenting lessons that we can pull from the good, the bad and the ugly. Here are six that I know I will take to heart:
1. SLOW DOWN
This lesson was literally forced upon me (and the vast majority of us) mid-March. One minute our Google calendar was in full technicolor with six people’s school, work, church and extracurricular activities. Then, over the span of a weekend, most color blocks on the calendar were deleted. Once I got over this blink-of-an-eye shift, the “forced” slow down has now become something that I know God desired so very desperately for me, and likely you. There is no need to overload our family schedule with activity after activity after activity. Even the good things can get in the way of the best things that God has for us. I have never been so grateful to “not miss” a moment in these weeks and months because our lives have simply slowed down. So even when things can and will return to the rat race, I pray that I will make the intentional choice to stand strong and slow down.
2. CONNECT WITH GOD
The uncertainties in our world have been countless. Only our Heavenly Father has remained steadfast and certain through it all. I wish I could say, after declaring myself a Christ follower more than 20 years ago, that I have developed deep daily habits of connection with God. Sadly, that was not the case as we entered into 2020, much less quarantine. But I have finally taken the consistent advice of our pastor to start and end my days with His Word first and then His Word last. Is it an inductive Bible study? Nope. Do I spend hours in multiple chapters? Nope. Some nights it may be a mere verse. But I am no longer caught up in the “right amount of time” or meeting a particular quota of Scripture so I am just reading to get it done. This simple habit has strengthened my relationship with Jesus in monumental ways.
3. SELF CARE
Throughout the COVID-19 season, taking on more hats than ever before with four younger kids at home, I have had my share of meltdowns. I adore my kids. I would do absolutely anything for them. And frankly, I feel like I have throughout this quarantine. Such to the point that I have melted down—exhausted, empty, emotionally wrecked and seeing no end in sight. Thankfully it has not been months and months of this. A light bulb finally went on that even though everyone is at home doesn’t mean that I have to lose my previous self-care habits. I can and should still get a workout in for my mental and physical health and even as a model of exercise to my kids. I can and should carve out time to connect with friends on the phone or Zoom. I learned to set boundaries on work. This was especially critical after some LONG hours those first few weeks in quarantine when it seemed like the emails, Zooms and phone calls started when I woke up until literally when I fell asleep…into the next day. At the end of the day, if I do not take care of myself, then I am only cheating my children by giving them an exhausted, partial version of me. My family, as do I, deserves the best version of mom, wife, friend and more. That is only possible with intentional self care.
4. FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS
It has been quite the rollercoaster in 2020. Pre-quarantine there were already lots of highs and lows, but frankly I lacked the time or energy to truly feel the feelings. We were so busy going and doing great things that I would not carve out the time to process and feel it all. When the feelings started to pour in from each family member and myself, it was a lot to take in at first. The slow down resulted in an amplification of emotions. My son was devastated to lose his spring season of his favorite sport with some great friends. My daughter was heartbroken to not be with her teacher and friends. My other daughter seemed satisfied and even happy to have more at-home time with me and my husband. My littlest mourned the sibling-free time now that everyone was home. My husband dealt with the stress of managing work now from home, not the easiest transition in this energy-filled space. I have had countless days of joy with more family time at-home. I have also had countless days of sorrow over what was lost in this season. I have had countless days of anger and disappointment, fears and frustration, and celebration and sadness. The list of feelings could go on and on. Bottom line, it has been so very freeing to not only feel the feelings for myself but to do so alongside and with my family.
5. CHERISH THE PRESENT
I have developed an intense love-hate relationship with my phone. On one hand, it has kept my kids connected with their grandparents who they used to see multiple times a week to now just quick drive-bys or drive-thrus. I have reconnected with friends and family unlike ever before. On the other hand, the work needs have been endless interfering with distance learning and connection time with my kids. The distractions that suck me in on social media detract from what is right in front of me. I am more aware than EVER before that I have to shut it off. I have to put it far away. Otherwise, I will miss the gift of these precious little faces sitting right in front of me. The phone is my vice, but maybe you have something else? Whatever it is, cherish what you have in front of you. As so many seasoned parents have said to us over and over again, parenting your babies to little ones will be over before you know it. Man, isn’t that the truth?
6. STAND FIRM
Part of our family’s intentionality in going to public school and participating in so many extracurricular sports was to be a light in the community. Otherwise, we realized our lives could be so easily maintained in the church bubble surrounded only by Christ followers. While that is comfortable and easy, we know it is not what God has for our family. So we started 2020 strong in coaching various sports team, hoping to stand firm in our faith. We must stand firm in what we believe is good and right and Godly. We have learned to stand firm in what we believe as we prepare for the uncertainties for schooling in fall. And it has NOT been easy or comfortable. It has been hard. It has been trying. But we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God calls us to stand firm, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Maybe one of these 6 lessons that I have taken away from these first 6 months of 2020 resonates with you. Maybe it motivates you to reflect and consider the lessons and takeaways you will pull from this first half of 2020. My hope and prayer is that you will not walk away from January to June of 2020 the same. Let this unprecedented (man, that word has been SO over-used, but at the same time it does succinctly describe ALL that has occurred thus far in 2020) time to do unprecedented things in your life, particularly as a parent. Let this season transform you into all that God needs and want you to be.