“I just CAN’T do this.” I whisper this sentence in a strained, hoarse voice to my husband after a long day. A day of watching videos from our district superintendent and texting with friends about what this school year *might* look like. A day of constantly quieting two screaming preschoolers by playing whatever it is they want. A day of breaking up sibling snack spats and wrestling a remote out of kids’ hands. A day of extricating my flip flops from a new puppy’s sharp teeth.
By the end of the day, I’m not only burned out from endless mommy-ing duties, but I’ve also had my fill of volatile debates regarding back-to-school decisions and mask-wearing. I go to bed feeling lucky and blessed that my children have a safe place to lay their heads at night and a mother who is able to stay home with them, but tomorrow, when faced with more of the same changes, I fear I just CAN’T all over again.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk for years now. Apparently, it’s amplified during a pandemic. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…
I can’t convince my 13 year old to give up You Tube videos as her primary source of information and entertainment.
I can’t stop multiple children from desperately needing my attention all day long.
I can’t handle one more minute of divisiveness and hatred on social media, yet I can’t put my phone down.
I can’t determine whether it’s safe to go inside the grocery store.
I can’t finish a sentence or make a decision without self-doubt immediately following…………..
Yeah, I could go on for hours.
Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to move forward and do what I feel like I can’t.
Thankfully, just as I recognized that this phrase started entering my brain regularly again, I remembered the previous blog post I wrote with the same title. I re-read my words about the impact one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff, had on my life two years ago when I was struggling during those *easy* days of pre-pandemic parenting. Bob Goff’s positive perspective was such an awesome reminder that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff wrote, “…[God] doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”
On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going, and with that little change in perspective, I’ve been able to reflect on the good during these last 5 months of forced family time.
Despite the chaos, we’ve managed to discover more ways to have fun at home together. We’ve connected with friends and family in a deeper way than ever before, even if it’s just been via phone or silly videos. We’ve learned to problem solve as a family unit, recognizing the importance of each voice in the decision. And we’ve practiced talking through the anger and the disappointments of 2020 often, following that up with intentional gratitude-sharing. We’ve leaned further into our faith and recognized the power of mindset and prayer.
The bonds built between my children, as well as with those who have walked alongside us during all of this recent uncertainty, has provided a renewed hope and motivation. In scanning through the pictures, texts, and posts from the last 5 months, I rest assured that one day, when I look back on the 2020 that was, I’ll be able to say to myself:
I just CAN.
Below is a list of simple activities and outings that have made this never-ending and challenging summer one of the most memorable yet, and these represent the good I hope my family and I will take with us.
1. Walks and bike rides to our local city park and swimming pool
2. Neighborhood scavenger hunts and backyard obstacle courses
3. Exploring trails and greenbelts close to home
4. Taking day trips to small Texas towns
5. Random science and baking experiments
6. Creative date nights in, like money dates and re-living our honeymoon through cocktails and pictures
7. Themed days, such as Pancake Day, Under the Sea, and Unexpected Christmas
8. Spontaneous family visits
9. Picnics with friends
10. Random acts of kindness between siblings and for friends in need
11. Slow mornings at home with coffee and quiet porch time
I’d love to hear how you’ve made the most of this time with your family. Please share in the comments below what you have found to be the most memorable about this period of pandemic parenting.