Though the pandemic parenting has been very, very, ultra, super hard….my kids have been coping like absolute gold-medal champions. Not sure if it’s their ages (8, 6); their demeanor (go with the flow); and/or their lack of life experience thus far (so they’re not knowing what they’re missing out on?).
But, all good things usually come to an end.
I’ve been watching my kids come increasingly undone. And it’s heartbreaking.
Of course, they have been confused on what’s happening, in general, throughout the pandemic. And lonely here and there. And bored, of course. But I sense a deeper, and longer-term sadness setting in.
My usually sunshiny 8 year old has had increasing difficulty socially. First it was getting a hold of friends virtually. I don’t know for certain…but from the ones I can see on social media, I suspect the disappeareds have started socializing in person. Or have literally left for the summer. Then she has learned that her BFF is not coming back to Arizona because of our state’s scary as hell COVID cases – with almost a quarter of tests coming back positive. And the local friends I have asked to bubble up….all have said no. They have already bubbled up with their respective local families (often taking care of older parents, immunocompromised kids, and so on). Being an academic, we don’t have local family; we moved here for my husband’s PhD and then got trapped here ever since. So….we don’t have family to bubble up with.
She’s coping by increasingly withdrawing. I can see her losing interest in things. Declining FaceTimes from the two who do call her daily. Bored out of her mind, lying in bed more and more. Asking what she can do, and turning down all suggestions. She’s started expressing that she’s sad and lonely. Yesterday was very hard for her, and for me to watch.
Little dude is starting to come apart too. Maybe he watches her for a barometer. But increasing irritability, fights with her, tantrums, and so on. He pleads with her to play with him, but he’s overreliant on her, as she’s all he’s got. Partially his younger age, partially that he’s a different kind of kiddo, he just doesn’t do virtual playdates. His friends I know for certain are play dating together in person. Even usually asocial, he has started to have nights where he just cries because he’s lonely and feels forgotten by his friends, asking “Why don’t they ever FaceTime me?”
As a parent, I’m helpless. I know it’s not my job as a parent to fix things, but instead to bear witness to their sadness. But to watch them come increasingly undone hurts. Badly.
And knowing there is likely no end in sight, with our state’s horrible numbers, and teacher friends expressing they have ENORMOUS doubts that there will be any in-person school come “fall” here…makes it harder to watch it unfold, as this is likely only the beginning.
And navigating this parenting during a pandemic, with so little known, and definitely no exit strategy is beyond overwhelming.
I have an autoimmune disease; with so little known, I just don’t have any real good way to know what’s safe. Most in person things I think really haven’t resumed at scale. And the other parents I ask who I trust say absolutely not to things like gymnastics, dance, and other indoor things.
Guess what? I live in Phoenix where EVERYTHING IS INDOORS UNTIL OCTOBER.
I feel helpless. Trying extra hard not to add hopeless here, too.