Connecting With My Kids Was the Best Part of 2020 — I'm Going to Keep It Up in 2021
Perfect moms don't exist, I quietly remind myself as my 3-year-old son, Logan, is screaming with a high-pitched wail because "Liam took my red marker!" Meanwhile, my 20-month-old son, with the coveted marker, is scribbling all over his books, toy bins, table, and anything else he can get his hands on in the 0.2 seconds it takes for me to notice. Sigh. You would think that after months of being cooped up together to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), my kids and I would be better equipped for getting along. Spoiler alert: it hasn't gotten any easier. But even though my perfectionist self and my kids have struggled, complained, cried, and despaired over the uncertainty happening in the world right now (and the long, long days at home), I wouldn't trade the extra time with my family for anything. My one New Year's resolution is to continue enjoying life's simple pleasures in 2021, even when (if?) social distancing ends.
I know that I'm lucky. Both of my kids are too little to be in school, so I never had to worry about transitioning them to online classes while keeping up with my own work. I'm also already used to working from home, although my sister comes to nanny for me a few times a week. So, for us, the most challenging part about parenting in 2020 was the boredom, the tantrums, the frustrations, and the confusion. We tried explaining about germs and how we didn't want to get sick, but they still didn't understand why we couldn't go to the playground anymore. We tried explaining that church was online now, but they still kept asking to see their friends at Sunday school. When all that failed, they would beg us to go visit their grandparents, go to Target with us, and, oh yeah, when are we going to the beach, again? Little kids can be so relentless!
But after a week or two that felt like a month, things started settling in. We played in the backyard more. We went on daily walks around the neighborhood. Car rides became a fun adventure, where Mommy and Daddy got Starbucks and drove aimlessly around our city while the kids got to spend some time playing on our iPads. We made chalk drawings, silly TikToks, delicious cupcakes. We simply existed in this weird, blank void of time, where everything moved slowly with no end in sight and no big plans to look forward to. Sure, we still had work deadlines, but with hardly any plans, we got a chance to look in and really appreciate each other.
I learned my husband secretly loves ice cream, I'm not-so-secretly terrible at mastering dances invented by teenagers, and my kids are both obsessed with dressing up like superheroes. Most importantly, I learned that it's OK to not be perfect.
During this time, instead of worrying about what age-appropriate educational activity I could come up with during the global pandemic, I simply worked with what I had to have fun with my family when I could. My kids were happy just by drawing with markers, playing with stickers, and finger-painting on the back porch. Running through the sprinkler provided hours of entertainment, as did watching movies inside a pillow fort. I worried less about being a "good" mom and focused more on being a "present" mom. It was a nice change, one that I intend to carry with me in the future.
Next year, I plan on reminding myself that kids are adaptable — Logan loves to tell me that his favorite restaurant is closed on the inside, but we can still get some in our cars — and it doesn't take much for them to be happy. They take their cues from us, so when we are excited to buy cute face masks and wear them in the store, they are, too. When we make "craft time" a regular thing that isn't about perfectly staged pictures or results but rather simply enjoying the messiness of life, their smiles will reflect their happiness. When we think it's exciting to call our family and friends instead of going for in-person visits, they will, too. It's OK to have boring days. Sometimes, those are when the best memories are made.