The first rule of Facebook these days is to get off Facebook, because it’s not going to make you feel better about much of anything.
However, I often find it hard to take my own advice. Because sometimes you find something you didn’t know you needed to read.
In my case, this was a post from an overwhelmed mom who was looking for inspiration to get through the days ahead. And the dad who answered her said this: “As having the kids around 24/7 was starting to affect my mental health and drive my depression to an even lower low, I had to make a choice. The choice I made was to embrace the time. How many times do we say stuff like, ‘They’re growing up too fast,’ or, ‘There’s never enough time?’”
Simple enough, right? But to me it was radical.
Like many people, I have spent hundreds of hours with my school-aged children since March. Math is not my forte, but I estimate it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 waking hours. So. Much. Time. I’m less certain how many of those hours are me saying, “Not now, can’t you see I’m doing something,” or, “Here’s your device,” or, “No, I wasn’t hiding in here, the coat closet needed reorganizing.”
My kids aren’t even little anymore. They’re not particularly needy and they are often a lot of fun. But they still require parenting.
That’s where I’m running out of juice. I’m the car on fumes hoping to coast into the gas station. I want my own life back between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., my own dreams, my own work, my own little piece of quiet while I can be glad that they are off living their best lives off in the world. We have had all this time, but it hasn’t always felt like a gift.
When I read the Facebook post above, I thought about something I tell my kids to get them to try new things – be afraid but do it anyway. What if I wordsmithed it a little and applied it to myself? Be over it but show up anyway. Be overwhelmed but be present.
Because they are growing up too fast.
One day we’ll be busy again and there won’t be enough time.
Stop. Listen. Help. Play. Love. There are countless choices I make every day. Parenting is a choice, too. Because I’ve been doing it on autopilot, I almost forgot.
Then the universe got serious about testing me.
This week marked the beginning of a new school year in Houston ISD. In past years, this would have meant the obligatory back-to-school photo in the front yard and a quick, inconspicuous side hug for good luck before they went to school and I went back to an empty house to celebrate by watching something completely inappropriate on Netflix.
The 2020 version was a photo in the front yard with their laptops before they came back into the house to log on to their online learning platform while I planned to sit down and write this article about how I’ve now got this parenting thing whipped.
Instead, the online learning platform was overwhelmed. The early part of the day was spent much differently than anticipated. There were some tears shed. They might have been mine. And I’m up way too late finishing this piece.
Tomorrow is another day. I will choose patience and kindness for myself and everyone else. The next hour I will probably have to choose them again.
In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Phil Connors eventually uses the time loop to become a better version of himself, after going the opposite direction. He heroically saves the residents of Punxsutawney from horrible accidents, becomes fluent in French, sculpts ice, learns to play the piano and finally wins the heart of his producer, Rita.
I’m not nearly that ambitious. If I can get from point A to point B with intention and grace, it will be more than enough.
The rub, I think, is that there is no definite ending to any of this. If there was, it would be a lot easier.
I really like a quote from author and professor Brené Brown in Daring Greatly: “The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.”
If I wordsmithed it a little for the present circumstance, I’d sub the word better for braver. Not that bravery isn’t needed, too.
Like so many of you, whether at home with your kids or scrambling to find care for them while you go to work, I’m just pushing through.
Stop. Listen. Help. Play. Love.