The kids and I have been pretty much house and yard bound for 56 days. I have gone to the store twice, and they were both not wonderful experiences, but I did sorta enjoy the excursion. We are blessed in the fact that our day-to-day hasn’t changed as much as other people’s: we have no fun activities, sports, or pretty much anything that we looked forward to before, but the structure of our day is the same. This feels like a homeschooler’s February (this is the worst month of home ed for our people. I don’t know whether it’s the grayness, the winter, or the lack of excitement, but it’s often during this month that many of our kind are ready to throw in the towel.)
So. Now that the chaos has worn down a bit, and you aren’t watching the news biting your nails, here’s some ways to get through- and maybe even thrive.
Get Dressed Every Day
They said you could save the world by staying on your couch. Well, okay, but your mental health will plummet. You will lose all desire to get anything done, you will feel like hot garbage and if you don’t feel good about how you look, it will come through in how you deal with things. This is not the time to cut your hair- but you can try and style it differently. I used to wear not as nice clothes everyday, and save my good clothes for going out, but honestly, we don’t go out all that often and I hate seeing myself in photos wearing a tshirt and jeans. So now I have a couple nice tops that I wear around the house- and don’t care too much if they get stained from life.
Routine, routine, ROUTINE
Not a schedule, but a flow. I know I’ve said this a million times. It’s better for everyone when they know how the day goes. If you stay up late watching a movie together and sleep in- that’s fabulous! So start the day from there. What schoolwork needs to get done, and when is the best time? Make sure that’s when you sit down to do it. The worst days for me are the ones where the phone rings and I answer it first thing in the morning, and the kids go off and do their own thing, and I start doing my own thing (clean the kitchen in peace, whatever) and then have to get everyone back to the books later. It’s so much harder than just doing what I know we do best, even though at the time it feels good to get something done.
By now everyone has probably identified the hardest part of this life- it’s literally more than full time. No breaks. We don’t do a lot of screen time and the screens we do have I use for my maximum benefit. In the afternoon, for a specified amount of time, is when they can watch a show. Then I have a bit of a chance to catch my breath. No snacks. No talking. Little kids use the bathroom before, and then it is Quiet Time with capital letters. They need a break from each other and from me. Now that our house is bigger, I can even split them up to go to different areas, which they enjoy. When it’s over, it’s very common to find four or five of them playing soccer in the backyard, or starting a game. They’re ready to play together again.
The second hardest part? Your child’s welfare depends on you. Their education, health and well being is all on your shoulders. This can be very stressful- or it can be liberating. You are the one who knows your child best, and knows what they can handle. If they aren’t doing well emotionally or behaviorally, it’s probably best to take a step back and see what’s going on. Maybe they need more time with friends, or you. Maybe they need less screen time in general. Maybe they need to be able to run outside and get their frustration and energy out. Maybe they need more worksheets (just kidding! That’s literally never been a thing!) I cannot stress this enough. Depressed kids don’t realize they’re depressed, and they certainly don’t use that language. They either act out or withdraw, commonly. By the time that you notice, there is typically a bunch of red flags that were missed, and it’s really hard to get back to basics. Hindsight is 20/20. Many times it could have been avoided by minimizing stressors, getting more interaction with mom or dad, or having some good conversation with friends. We need to advocate for our children and keep them healthy.
Look for FUN
We started some fun things. Dropping little gifts off at people’s houses. A weekly lego contest (not my idea.) Scavenger hunts. Mailbox adventures. Soooo many walks. Lots of jokes. Mainly, I’ve learned that when the kids get a fun idea, we need to just run with it. Don’t try and make it plausible; don’t put it off; don’t make it perfect. Just let them do their thing and help if needed. The most fun things in our house the past couple months have not been from me, but from the kids. Makes sense if you think about it- they know what they enjoy more than Pinterest does.
If you don’t need to, great, but chances are someone needs you. As an introvert, I feel really guilty that each time that something gets cancelled, I have a little spike of relief. I know that’s terrible. Part of me loves staying home: I always have so much to do! My home life is a never ending story. It is a fulltime job keeping up with laundry, meals and dishes. I am perfectly content to do what I need to do around the house each day and occasionally text a friend. But, I believe very deeply that God has created us for relationships and community. So when I’m doing okay- it is literally the perfect time for me to reach out and make sure that others in my life are also okay. When I’m not doing okay, I need to call a friend and ask for prayer and encouragement.
This is a new word to our family, brought to us by the year 2020. When something isn’t working, we pivot. Change course. Change direction. Our home and education is not ruled by a bureaucrat in an office, it is decided on with wisdom. When things start going downhill with fractions, we pivot: read together, and try again tomorrow. I could tell so many stories of certain math or language concepts that simply took a few days to sink in. I could have kept pleading, trying and fighting, but real education will not come from that place. So many days I have died to my own plans and goals, because we had to camp a little longer on a step in the middle. Is that failure? It feels like it at the time, but in the end, when a concept is fully grasped, it’s worth it. Having many children at different ages means that sometimes I have to put something off until later when a little one desperately needs attention too. That’s not a fail; that’s pivoting to meet real needs first. God knows how many hours we have in each day, and it’s just the right amount. I pray often that I will bow to His plan in the moment, and not my own- and certainly not to someone else that doesn’t even know my children!
Put First Things First
Amidst all the chaos, conspiracies and information of this weird time, my “mission” has never changed. The mission I have chosen is to be a disciple of the Lord, to in turn disciple our children, and to be a light to the world however I can be. I have literally no interest in whatever is going on at “higher” levels: I have access to the highest. I’ve always known that evil reigns right now, but it won’t forever. It’s all good. My focus is on my family and my community as a whole, and how I can best show them the love of Jesus. Anything else is just white noise to me. Maybe one day I’ll have time to dive in and really research it, but right now I’ve just got too much on my plate. I have to prioritize, as I just don’t have the mental space for more than that.
Look for the Blessings
There’s been so many amazing little and big things that have occurred. We’ve had a slower schedule, which we needed. I’ve been able to reconnect with my family, and I didn’t realize how much I had let that slip. The handsome hubby and I have enjoyed creative date nights. Don’t get me wrong- some things have been very, very challenging and devastating for the kids, and for me, but we’ve been able to see the blessing too. Our church family is amazing, even without a building to meet in. Our son has been connected to the youth group he met up with on our cross Canada trip, and we are so thankful for that. There’s been a lot of hard, but there is some sweet in there too. We must grieve for the things we lost and are losing, but when the blessings are there, it’s good to notice them and appreciate them for what they are. I’m out of work, and I miss it, but I am enjoying gaps on the calendar too. Some days are harder than others. Some days I genuinely don’t want to go to bed because I don’t want to wake up and do the whole thing over. It’s hard, but I’m thankful for the new things we have experienced.
You’ve got this, Mama! And you’re doing well! What has been hardest for you? What have you enjoyed?