It’s February and we’re coming up on the one year mark of when we all started Pandemic Parenting. If my great-great grandmother were alive, I could ask her about parenting through a pandemic, and the corresponding anti-mask societies that had popped up then. No one likes a pandemic and we all rebel against its restrictions, sometimes to our deadly comeuppance. Or to the unintended deaths of others. Because cause and effect, it turns out, are never more apparent than in a pandemic.
But she is not alive. And so we forge ahead untethered.
And in this period of blind progress through time, I am sitting here, almost one year in, feeling a lot of grief. “I feel like we’ve taken one step forward and ten steps back,” I said when I was chatting with my husband in the bathroom last week.
I have grief about parenting through a pandemic, about how my anger flares up so quickly, about how I wish my children wouldn’t remember me as a screamer but how I watch myself cementing those memories week over week.
We are 11 years–a bachelor’s and a Master’s and a Ph.D.–into parenting, and here I am unmoored from the dock and I find myself lilting in the wild, open seas. All the parenting books and classes and child therapists we’ve seen, nothing has left me prepared or feeling like I’ve passed the course.
I recently took the parenting anger management and kid anger books off the shelf and dropped them off at one of our little neighborhood free libraries. Those clear-cabineted giant birdhouses that hold literary gems and cast-offs. In fact, you may drop any parenting books that you feel might transform my life off on my front door, and I shall find homes for them in the little book birdhouses nearby.
I find myself taking a radical new tack. I am centering my own wholeness and healing and liberation. I started to find hope through a transformational ending racism course I took, and the amazing mentoring of my business coach, Shamaka Schumake. Two avenues that are not focused on children. For me this comes as a shock and aha!
We’ve gone about parenting struggles as if they were child-centered and solving them focused on solving the child with parenting strategies. I remember myself as a compassionate and thoughtful person who didn’t yell before I had kids. So it seemed natural that kids were the root of my turmoil. But perhaps they are a beloved mirror, the original #unfiltered. They’re showing me my whole self.
I asked my husband to take an ending oppression workshop with me in March. It’s premise is that all people are good and all people are hurt, that oppression hurts everyone who participates in it, and that we must heal and discharge trauma so that we don’t keep perpetuating it. We were weighing whether we could afford the course for both of us. “We would spend this much on an intervention for one of our children,” I said.
My oldest is two years past the halfway mark of his time with us, our middle child is halfway through, and our youngest is almost a third of the way. I have time. I can show them that I’m growing and learning and capable of transforming even under circumstances that only my great-great-grandmother would remember.