A long, long time ago (last year) I wrote a column reminding all of you parents what a good job you’re doing.
Remembering to ask how the biology test went, even though you don’t get any actual detail about how the biology test went. Remembering to never put the black leggings in the dryer. Remembering to print out the school forms and email the medical forms and sign the Girl Scouts forms and download the internet safety forms. Remembering to buy a thank you card for the debate coach. Remembering to laugh.
Every day, I wrote, on the “L,” at the school pickup line, at swim lessons, in line at Target, in the bleachers of the floor hockey game, on the sidelines at the flag football game, in the auditorium of the winter band performance, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the elevator up to the orthodontist’s office, waiting for the bus, waiting for a table, I would see you approach parenting with thought and measure and patience and love and good humor and compassion.
Sometimes against remarkable odds. Sometimes while you were exhausted. Sometimes while you were juggling a dozen other things. Sometimes while you were grieving.
And I thought someone should tell you: Good job, parents.
Now a lot of that stuff that used to fill our days — the lessons, the games, the practices, the performances, the playdates, the parties — are on hold. It feels like a lifetime ago that we rushed from one commitment to the next/grabbed a birthday gift on the way/commuted to school on the “L” without worrying about a deadly virus.
But it wasn’t a lifetime ago. It was six months ago.
And now you’re parenting through a pandemic. And someone should tell you anew: Good job, parents.
Good job learning phrases like “synchronous learning” and “asynchronous learning” and “hybrid learning” and “Zoom bombing” and even sprinkling them into casual conversation over Zoom happy hours.
Good job learning how to host/join Zoom happy hours.
Good job finding creative ways to mark milestones and honor rituals and celebrate birthdays without the usual traditions at your disposal. The drive-by birthday parades. The living room proms. The cars headed to graduation (such as it was), covered in school color paint and school color balloons and school color posters. The self-addressed stamped envelopes to your daughter’s friends, so her mail reminds her how much she’s cherished. All of it. I see what you’re doing. It’s beautiful.
Good job learning how to attend a Microsoft Teams meeting for work and make a sandwich for an e-learning kid and answer a question about Spanish homework for another e-learning kid and grab the groceries off the porch and reboot the internet that keeps crashing all within the same 30-minute window.
Good job listening with an open mind and a full heart when your college kid made the case for returning to campus, even though it made you nervous as heck. Or good job listening with an open mind and a full heart when your college kid came to you and said he didn’t want to return to campus, even though that made you nervous in a whole different way.
Good job listening to your kids’ fears when you can barely hear over your own.
Good job absorbing your kids’ anxieties even as they’re compounding your own.
Good job helping your kid wonder aloud about a future that you can’t begin to wrap your own head around.
Good job remembering that no one has done this before — lived and parented through a coronavirus pandemic — and there’s no handbook and no end date and we’re learning as we go and we’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to say the wrong thing and we’re going to lose things we’ll never get back and we’re going to ache and we’re going to grieve and we’re going to gain wisdom that will serve us well and our kids are watching us the whole time. And the best thing they can see us do is try our genuine, loving best.
A woman from Connecticut wrote me a note after my original, long, long ago “good job, parents” column. She is a single mom whose two kids are in their 20s, both living at home.
“My son, age 23, has Down Syndrome and will likely live with me until one of us passes away,” she wrote. “My daughter, age 26, has worked her way through earning a Master’s Degree, but cannot find a job that pays her enough to live on her own.
“I work full time as a dental office manager and clean houses on the side to make ends meet,” she continued. “I had just gotten home from 2 cleaning jobs, cooked myself a grilled cheese sandwich while I washed the breakfast dishes and sat down to read the paper while I ate (because moms can never do only one thing at any given moment) before going to paint my bathroom. I can’t remember the last time anyone has told me I was doing a good job as a parent.”
Parenting takes so many different shapes, so many different turns. Some of them are terrifying. Some of them are joyful in a way you didn’t know was possible. Some of them are both, side-by-side. Some of them happen during a pandemic.
And in case no one has told you lately, in case you need reminding: Good job, parents.
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