I’m making it a point to remember March 13, 2020 for the rest of my life. Not only was it one of the most intense (and I’ll admit scariest) days of my life as COVID-19 made its way to Wichita, but it was also the day I humbly had a life lesson in perspective as a mother.
That day was our first day of spring break, and as a teacher I live for these days that I get to be away from my classroom guilt-free and be able to focus all my energy on my own babies. We always have the best adventures around Wichita on our breaks: we visit our local libraries, meet friends for ice cream, enjoy play dates where I can have a warm cup of coffee while catching up with friends, and carefree trips to our favorite local shops. I feel like a good mom during these breaks, with lots of undivided attention for my kids and the ability to do things we don’t normally get to do while they are at daycare and I’m at work. Their smiles melt my heart and my soul feels refreshed.
Sadly, all of my expectations came to a screeching halt. At the announcement of our local and national state of emergency, I felt a sense of worry come over me that I had never known before. The days leading up to this were telling, but now I knew we absolutely had to protect ourselves and protect others by staying at home for spring break, possibly longer. Desperately searching for some answers about what to do or what was being done to help, I’ll admit my eyes were either on the tv or on my phone a large part of the day. I’m a planner deep to my core, and focused a lot of energy on checking my pantry and freezer inventory to meal plan, thinking of scenarios in which we stayed home longer from school than just a week, and the lingering “what if someone I love or myself gets the coronavirus?” question. At times my anxiety got the best of me and I snapped or said something harsher than I would have liked.
By the time my kids needed to get ready for bed, I just felt heavy with failure. Remember how earlier I said school breaks are near magical for all of us? I had started our first day of break so poorly and I was beating myself up for not giving more of myself to my children instead of the media and my needs of having a perfect plan in place. Despite the fact that it was important for me to be informed, it was still the start of the stay-home-days break they had been counting down to for weeks and I felt like I had disappointed them for something they didn’t understand.
But as I rounded the corner to our playroom, I heard both of my littles giggling and shouting “This was the best play day ever!”. I leaned against the wall as tears filled my eyes. To me the day had been difficult and definitely not what I had hoped our first day of break would look like.
But to them? They got to stay in their jammies longer, since we weren’t going anywhere. I let them color with markers (a special treat in our house!) in our living room while I watched the news. The kids made a “restaurant” with their play food and because there wasn’t really a need to clean it up right away they played nicely together for the longest time. They remembered all the fun of the day while I was stuck on what hadn’t gone right. They chose to make the best of what they had while I worried about things beyond my control. Although they are young, their example was enlightening for me.
I can’t say that suddenly the idea of social distancing became exciting or that I didn’t still have anxiety nipping at me about the unknown, but I did take a lesson from my children and refocused my perspective. Maybe our normal break activities weren’t going to happen, but who said we couldn’t make some new traditions by getting creative at home?
While my concern over the coronavirus was valid, there was no reason I couldn’t use that as teachable moments with my oldest about staying healthy and helping others when we can.
This experience was also a teachable moment for me, as I know we will probably run into obstacles in the future – trips cancelled by bad weather, illnesses postponing birthday parties, work obligations that require us to miss something fun, or even days that just don’t go like I hoped.
Life can change our plans but I can still choose to find the positive perspective.