Parenting in a Pandemic

I have turned my alarm clock off.
The sun starts to come in through the bedroom window and I wake up, haphazardly looking at my watch to see if it’s actually time to start the day. For a second I try to remember what day it is. This is an important question because certain things happen on certain days, but none of the days are that different so as to really make the question moot.
Having determined which day it is, and that I really can’t stay in bed any longer, I drag myself out and start the day — greeted by a bouncy child before my coffee has had the chance to awaken the frazzled nerves that have taken up residence in me.
After breakfast and the daily struggle to get through the morning routine (seriously, why is there always a fight to brush teeth and sit on the potty? We do this literally E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y), I trade off my child with my husband and retreat to my office where I try to amble through complex theology with the din of screaming and crashing “towers” in the background. Eventually this gives way to lunch, naptime, and then the afternoon shift of playtime. At the age of three, Jack is mercurial but sweet. The lack of outside play spaces and other similarly temperamental children (e.g. his preschool class) only heightens these aspects of his personality. He is as likely to tell me that he loves me and wants a hug as he is to scream at me for telling him “no.” Life in quarantine with an extroverted three-year-old is exhausting even at its best. Would this be easier with more kids? He would have a built-in playmate; that would be useful — but prone to drama. Would it be easier if he was older? He’d have more of an attention span and structure (and be fully potty trained), but then would we be responsible for more structured learning? Would it be easier if Jack and I had different work? Possibly we could justify taking him to daycare or having a nanny, but those both pose extra health concerns. It would be easier if we had a backyard. Of that I’m certain.
I don’t know if I’m doing any of this correctly. Jack has taken to telling me that he “misses me.” I playfully tease that “missing” someone happens when we aren’t near that person or thing (he often tells me this as he’s sitting on my lap). We have been together continually for over a month. In the back of my mind I have started to worry that he is using “me” as a word substitute for everything he does miss. Or worse — that part of him believes I will disappear if I don’t know he will miss me, the way everything else seems to have disappeared.
I’ve been leading a study of James Bryan Smith’s “The Good and Beautiful God,” and there is a chapter that states that the attributes of God, as described in the Lord’s Prayer, are the attributes we should aspire to as parents; to be near, giving, loving, protective, etc. The chapter does not outline how to achieve these characteristics in times of pandemic. Instead, my mind has been turning to Mary. Did she worry about every little thing, or knowing who Jesus was, did she worry less? Given that scholars assume the flight to Egypt happened when Jesus was a toddler, did she find herself exhausted in the uncertainty of starting over with a small child in the unknown? Did Jesus throw tantrums and, if yes, how did she handle them? How do you correct the behavior of God?
I want Mary to be my template for parenthood but the Gospels are relatively silent. The best we have is her resolve to trust in God and to hold things close to her heart when confronted by uncertainty and fear. Jesus turned out to be pretty okay. Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear more about his childhood. Mary (and Joseph) trusted God and trusted things would be okay. Maybe that’s the best we can do as parents right now — hold on to the faith that eventually things will be “okay.” Be tired and anxious — I am positive Mary was both — and rest in God’s parenting of you; even as parents stumbling in the dark we have God reassuring us He hasn’t left us.
– Claire Hein Blanton

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