Confessions of Pandemic Parenting: Navigating Conversations with My Son
Like many parents, I have been shakily navigating the unchartered waters of raising children during a pandemic.
Trying desperately to paddle this boat without a paddle. Without a compass.
My son is almost 4. He’s an observer. Intuitive. Smart. Curious.
The other day our conversation at the gas station went like so:
Son: “Mommy why is they wearing masks?”
Me: Silent. I knew the day would come. Deep breath. Hesitating. Kicking myself. Deep breath. I’m a child therapist I should be a pro at these moments! I help parents navigate this stuff. ALL. THE. TIME. Still silent. Deep breath. Ok finally, “So they don’t get sick.” Well, that was stupid.
Son: “Do they have a cough?”
Me: “I don’t know. But they wear those masks to try to keep safe from getting sick. Remember when you were sick and wore that mask?” (He had the flu earlier this year).
Son: “Yea. And I watched Cat in The Hat. That’s my best new being sick show.”
Me: “I remember… Right now, there is a big sickness going around and people are doing their best to stay away from it so they are wearing masks.”
Son: “Are they going to go to the doctor.”
Me: “Maybe. Doctors are here to help when people get sick.”
Son: “Next time I go to the doctor I am NOT getting a shot!”
Me: “I don’t know if you have to get one the next time you go. But you will probably have to wear a mask. I don’t like getting shots either but sometimes I have to. And I will wear a mask too.”
Son: “Can I have a lollipop?”
Phew. That was slow and painful. Lots of deep breaths.
Another conversation, during his virtual preschool:
Son: “Mommy when can I go to school?”
Me: Had to mute zoom and hold back a flood of tears. Deep breath. “I don’t know. Remember that sickness I told you about? Kids can’t go to school right now because of it.”
Son: “But I want to!”
Me: Pause. Deep breath. “I know. You miss school so much. I want you to be able to go back too. I know how much you love your friends.”
Son: “Can I have a chocolate treat.”
Moral of the story? My kid is learning to self sooth with candy?
No, but really, I’m not sure.
Or maybe, it’s that this is hard. For ALL of us.
This is new.
This is NOT normal.
How we approach every situation is going to be a tentative learning experience. An experience of trial and error. Maybe an opportunity to learn to give ourselves grace. To forgive ourselves for our imperfections. For our mishaps. For our huge mistakes. To accept the opportunity to try again.
What I do know is, parents are the experts on their own children. I have to remember to remember that myself. To trust my parenting gut. In doing so, I find myself getting better at helping others navigate trusting theirs.
And in the end, my son learns that I will answer his tough questions even if I don’t know how. And that he can keep asking.
And I learn to take deep breaths.
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Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extended beyond what you are currently able to offer them? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, RPT, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. And she now offers virtual therapy sessions. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, email@example.com and www.jenniemazzajones.com