Just weeks ago, I was busy with gym classes, music classes, make-ups for gym and music classes, storytime, tummy time, outdoor time, quiet time, playtime, Play-Doh time, exercise time. It seems I had time to do everything except stay-inside-time. Chill-time. Relax-time. Unplanned-time.
Two weeks ago I had a 23-month-old daughter and a 5-month-old daughter who didn’t spend more than 20 minutes at home without being shifted to the next activity, birthday, meet up, play date or playground. They would melt down, fall apart, sometimes hit and were constantly on the move. I was always the one saying, “Stay-at-home mom? More like never-staying-at-home mom! We are always on the go.”
And we were.
It was more to do with me than with my children. I didn’t want to slow down. I didn’t want to take a breath. I didn’t want to stop. Because if I did, how would I get through the morning? The next activity? The weekend? Dinner? The whole day?
I once read that being extremely busy (by choice) is actually a sign of anxiety. Well, hello. That was me. If I moved fast enough, I wouldn’t have to sit with myself and my feelings.
Then came the quarantine forcing us all to shut down for weeks on end due to the spread of the extremely contagious and dangerous coronavirus. I was devastated and exasperated, thinking words I probably can’t write down in an article.
I went through the five stages of grief.
Denial: This isn’t happening. People will fight back. Tomorrow we will be back to our normal schedule.
Anger: Why is this happening? Am I being punished for something? Is this because I didn’t let that person in front of me at the red light?
Bargaining: Okay, okay, I’ll do this for two weeks, but that’s it. This is going to really suck. I get why we are doing it. But still.
Depression: This is heavy.
As the hours turned into days then into weeks, we started to fall into a quarantine routine. We moved a bit slower at first, filling our usual gym or music classes with outdoor play or walks outside. Then the rain came and we were forced to spend time inside our house. My. Worst. Fear. I had to sit still and I had to be the one to interact with my children. It’s not that I didn’t want to before, it’s just that I didn’t think I was good enough or exciting enough. I mean, I don’t want to sit at home all day, why would my toddler or infant?
But I learned something about myself and my children through this stage. I am more than they need.
Because when they roll over my stomach or bounce on my knees, I am their gym class.
When we sing every song from Frozen, Frozen 2 and Moana, I am their music class.
When we make spaghetti with Play-Doh and lick ice cubes, I am their cooking class.
When we stop to go outside in the rain and purposefully get wet, I am their science class.
I have learned more about my kids in these past few weeks than in most of their lifetime. I learned that my daughter has a wide gap in between her two front teeth, just like I had as a kid and my grandma had as a kid. I learned my infant daughter is going to have green eyes like her dad and his mom. I learned that my older daughter thrives when she is home with me and her sister. I learned that the less she interacts with technology, the more calm she is.
I learned that maybe all the “problems” she was having before was her way of telling me that it was all too much. Too loud. Too many rules. Too many people.
She just needed to slow down.
These lessons brought me to my final stage: Acceptance.
I have to say, I’m enjoying this forced time with my kids. Not every minute of it. Not even every hour—but most days, I am really finding time to enjoy it. And if it weren’t forced upon me, I don’t know when or if I would have ever slowed down.
The quarantine will end eventually, but I can’t say when exactly. What I can say with certainty that once the ban is lifted, many of these lessons we’ve learned during this time will stay with us forever. We will stay home more. We will be present. We will quit some or all of our activities.
Because you know what? I have stopped moving long enough to learn that the present moment is often just what my child needs.