Many times I have talked with mamas of adopted or foster children and a huge key to the daily success of these children is a predictable routine. Knowing not just what they are doing, but knowing what they will be doing next and for the rest of the day gives the child security and allows them to be more at ease within themselves.
Well, I don't know about you, but I didn't realize just how much I also thrive from a predictable routine, knowing what is going on and what will be happening next. Now that the Coronavirus has trapped us all in our homes and thrown both our "mom routines" and our children's schedules out the door, I think we all are struggling to find peace, joy, sanity, and sometimes hope.
Now that our world has turned upside down as mothers, if we take a moment to reflect on it, we can get just a small taste of how hard our children have had it. We don't know if our family living in other places are going to be ok. We don't know if our job is secure. We don't know if our bills will get paid, we don't know what we will make for dinner with the odd collection of the-only-food-we-could-find at the store is what we have to work with. There is so much uncertainty... Doesn't it sound like a less dramatic version of what our kids went through before they found us?
Our kids lost their homes, they worried about if their loved ones would be ok. They had to wonder if you would keep them, if they would keep the roof over their heads. They didn't know if they would be liked, let alone loved. They had to adapt to new routines, new foods, new siblings... I am just starting to actually FEEL how unsettling it must have felt for them. Wow. So hard for a child to endure. Can you actually relate on a new level now?
In my home, my kids feel pretty secure during COVID. They don't know that dinner is a bit different because I was a culinary genius and figured it out. They don't know that Dad could lose his job tomorrow and our bills not get paid. They don't know that I am worried sick for the loved ones I have in Ethiopia who don't have the medical resources to battle this illness. What they do know is that their routines are shattered, their entertainment options are less, and they miss their friends. For them, that is enough to create all sorts of unspoken feelings and ugly behaviors.
So raise your hand if this is you (pretend I can see you)! You are a hot mess with all that is going on both inside and outside of your home routine BEFORE you add in the ugly kid issues from what they are dealing with... yup, everyone's hand went up. Mama, this is expected. And yup, it sucks.
So what is the first thing we need to address? The battle starts in your mindset. Anger and frustration come from failed expectations. You expect to wake up and have peace in the home. You expect to go the fridge and find the deli meat you scored at the store. You expect that your kids will go outside and ride bikes for a half hour to give you a break. And when none of these things happen--- well, the tension rises and your peace and joy have been replaced with anger and frustration.
What if, you let go of the expectations? Or even expect things to be hard and unpleasant? When you see your children fighting over the tv remote rather than frustration that they aren't getting along, you will recognize it as the obvious consequence to too many rats being locked in a cage for too long. And rather than allowing it to rob you of your peace, you can consider it expected, address it (or not) and move on without your own personal emotional consequence.
How many times have you asked your child to brush their teeth since school was cancelled? In my home it is daily and sometimes more than once. The routine is off... so the normal things don't happen even with my 15 year old. I am exhausted by having to tell my kids to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. It is like their brains were sucked out of their heads one night while sleeping. It is horribly frustrating and yet, it is my reality. Add on enforcing the time limits on electronics, the lack of desire to get out and exercise, the sibling arguments and honestly I just want to run away from home. (I didn't tell you to raise your hand, you can put that back down. I do love your participation though.) The key to survival, other than self-care time which no doubt all of your friends are encouraging you to do on your Facetime calls for sanity-- it is shifting your expectations. Don't let it frustrate you. It is EXPECTED and temporary and one night in the not-so-distant future, the kids will get their brains back. With any luck, us moms will get ours back, too.
Our kids dance classes will resume, parks will reopen, sports teams will practice again and our kids will get back to the safety and comfort of their routines. Breathe, mama. You can do this. You will get through this and your kids will, too. Expect chaos. Expect behaviors. Expect locking yourself in your room for periods of time to get through it. Love you, Mama. I know it's hard. And I know you can do this!
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