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Listen to the Children

A mother and son sat on their front porch steps. He rolled his red Matchbox car across the concrete porch while they counted the days until his first day of kindergarten: seven more days.  “Will the corona be gone then?” he asked.

            “I wish, but no, it probably won’t be,” the mom replied.  This young one clutched his car in both hands, lay on the porch, curled into a ball, still and silent. When I heard this story, I wondered what other children were saying and doing so I asked Facebook friends to share.

            A five-year-old girl sat in her mother’s lap and sipped from her drink, but when her mother wrapped her arms to hug, the mother was pushed away.  “Moooomaaa!  Six feet apart!  Remember, the corona?” the girl said.

            “This virus is a trouble maker!” said a four-year-old when he was told that because of the COVID-19 his nursery school had closed.

            My Grand, age six, told me to not touch a spoon he’d just touched.  “Gran, you’ll get the CORONA!”

            Another young one used kitchen tongs to hand her mother something and said, “Now you don’t have to worry about corona virus.” Laster she asked, “Is it always gonna’ be like this?”  She was assured things would change.  This child misses her good friend, but doesn’t want to talk to her on video chat. “It will make me sadder,” she explained.  Her older sister, age eight, wanted to buy a litter picker-upper for $1 to protect herself from touching things. Her mom wasn’t sure this purchase was logical, but since it gave her child peace of mind, it was a good investment. 

            While watching an episode of Peppa, a preschool animated television series, a four-year-old said, “MOM! They’re too close to their friends!”  He was assured it was filmed before March.

            A nine-year-old kid girl said, “We can’t do anything fun with the COVID going around.” 

            A little girl was playing with her dolls.  She set the table for them and served lunch and told her grandmother the names of each of her babies.  Little brother, age four, was drawing with crayons on paper, and he held one finger over his mouth and whispered, “Shhhhh! I’m in a meeting!”  His sister and grandmother continued talking.  Again, brother whispered, but this time more loudly, “Shhhhh!  I’m in a MEETING!”  When asked what kind of meeting, he said, “Drawing!  Shhhhh.”

            The daughter, age 6, of a nurse practitioner reminds her mother to put clean clothes in their garage so after work her mom can change out of her scrubs in the garage and not take the corona in the house.

            A four-year old often asks, “Is the sickness gone yet?  This is taking ages!”

            “Is the quar-um-team over yet?” asked a three-year-old.

.           A pre-school age girl prays, “Dear God, please help all the people get well and the virus go away.”             Will young children remember this pandemic?  Yes.  How they remember it is determined by how we adults respond to their words and actions.  And by what we say and do when we think they aren’t listening and watching.

Salute to Parents of Young Children

“One good thing about being retired and this age is that I’m not home with young children all the time,” my friend said.  We’d been talking about what we were doing during this stay-at-home time and how life is different for our children, the parents of young school-age children. 

            I agreed with my friend.  I’m content being home with just Husband and having in-town Grands and their parents come for supper occasionally.  When one Grand spends the night, I’m happy to play Uno and throw a ball and build Legos and do what this child wants to do.  I cook whatever is requested for breakfast:  pancakes or fried pies or bacon and eggs and biscuits.  And I’m just as happy to help Grands pack their bags to go home.  Happy to give them a good-bye kiss and hug.  A 24-hour visit is easy.

            But full-time parenting is difficult, and right now it’s not what parents usually experience.  When our children were six and eight, my mother told me that this time and the next few years were the best of years as a parent.  There was less physical responsibility because our kids dressed and bathed themselves and they could entertain themselves.  And our kids still liked us and didn’t feel peer pressure yet.

            Mom was right.  Those were good years and they were happy, busy times.  There were ball practices and dance classes and piano lessons and birthday parties and trips to the library and family vacations.  Most days, I took our children to school and helped with their homework.  

            That’s not how it’s been since mid-March for parents whose children are with them all the time.  Parents are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Three meals and two snacks a day.  Early morning awakening time to bedtime.  Parents who never wanted to teach have been expected to do more than check homework.  And some of those parents are working at home, trying to do the job they normally do in a quiet office and with co-workers. 

             Last week, I asked a mother of three children, ages five to nine, how things were going.  She took a deep breath and said, “I guess as well as can be expected – considering there are five people together all the time who usually aren’t and one is trying to work his job and three are always hungry and seem loud and there’s nowhere to go.  We play outside a lot, when it isn’t raining and cold and sometimes when it is.”

            So, if there ever was a time to salute parents of young children, it’s now.  We just celebrated Mother’s Day and will celebrate Father’s Day in June, but parents deserve more than a one-day recognition.  I don’t know how to do that except to say we grandparents appreciate you and know you are doing the best you can.

            My guess is that young children will have happy memories of spring 2020 when everyone was home and they played a lot, sometimes even outside in the cold rain.

Practice Patience

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” The title of a poem, written in 1836, by Ralph Waldo Emerson is printed on a small flip chart entitled Bright Sayings, a collection of quotes, Bible verses, and inspirational thoughts.  Every year, I read Emerson’s words on March 31st and this year those words struck me hard, to my core.

            Even now, writing this poem title, I take a deep breath.  Patience, as defined in the dictionary, is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  My patience has been stretched during this pandemic.  I’m ready to get on with my normal life: attend church and club meetings, go to monthly hair appointments, eat lunch with friends, take Grands on field trips around town, visit friends, and all the other many things that filled my calendar.

            By nature, I’m not a patient person.  I keep a book to read in my van because I might have to wait somewhere for 10 minutes, and I’ve fallen into the habit of looking at my phone for entertainment to fill even a few moments of idleness.  Last week, I purposely practiced patience. As I sat in the public library parking lot waiting for a library employee to bring me the books I’d requested online, I didn’t reach for my book or phone.  I watched branches sway in tall trees and saw a few people walk in Dogwood Park, at safe distances from each other.

            I’ve practiced patience as a teacher, parent, and grandparent when children learn new skills or complete a task.  A teacher’s greatest pay is when a student reaches that ‘Ah, ha moment’ of understanding or mastery.  I’ve said, “Push your patience button,” to encourage students, who were loud and wiggly, to be calm while standing in line. Recently, when my five-year-old Grand searched for a jigsaw puzzle piece to complete the border of a 100-piece puzzle, I sat on my hands to avoid pointing to the needed piece.  

            Every day there are times that I need to be patient. But, maybe like some of you, I struggle to wait, to accept, to be tolerate for the easing of restrictions, for face-to-face contact with family and friends.  I tell myself if I had a snotty cold or the flu, I’d keep my distance, and now I could carry the COVID19 virus, but not show symptoms.  I don’t want to make anyone sick.

            Emerson’s eight-stanza poem describes the changes of seasons, and I know from experience that each season unfolds in order. Emerson writes, “All this is provided at a sure and steady pace. Nature is perfect, there’s never a need to race.” 

            Often as I wait, I know the sure and steady pace.  With this virus, I don’t.  Is that why being patient is so difficult?  I’m determined to practice patience. To limit close face-to-face contact with other people.

            Emerson begins his poem with these words: “Walking in Mother Nature, God’s natural kingdom with awareness, will bring you insightful wisdom.”  Seems like good advice as I wait.