About a week ago, my seven-year-old requested permission to have a camp out with a friend from the neighborhood. She assured me that they would sleep in separate tents – six feet apart – therefore making the adventure entirely safe.
Unfortunately for her, it was 40 degrees that day and raining. And we don’t own a tent.
After hearing that the plan was a no-go, she cried for an hour straight. At about the twenty-minute mark, as she sobbed in my lap, I realized that this was not about the sleepover. It was so much bigger than the dashed hopes for a backyard camp out.
All the tiny disappointments, frustrations, and sacrifices layer on top of each other until finally we crack. My oldest daughter had a hard time giving herself permission to abandon her Lenten fast from sweets. After succumbing to an emotional support chocolate donut about two weeks into social distancing, she cried because she felt like she had failed. I was quick to assure her that she was giving up plenty this season, thank-you-very-much and that Jesus would not begrudge her a donut.
My youngest hadn’t cracked yet – a fact I confess I hadn’t even noticed in the day-to-day mayhem that is our current existence. She was overdue for a breakdown.
This is all just so hard on the tiny humans. It’s hard on the bigger humans, too, but I think it’s easy to forget how much our kids suffer from the constant stream of disappointments. For me, the canceled piano lessons free up an hour on my Tuesdays and $150 a month in my budget. For my older daughter, her inability to see her adored teacher is a weekly reminder that the world is broken.
The periodic Zoom meetings with her best friends cannot replace the hours spent chatting on the playground at school, and I can see how much she misses the easy physicality of her friendships, which always used to involve regular hugs.
You’d think we would have settled into a routine by now – and we have, somewhat. The daily flow of schoolwork is working pretty well, but my mind is used to looking four steps ahead. Zen is not my gift and I expend a lot of energy on planning and preparing for the future.
Except that right now I can’t.
It’s hard on me and it’s hard on the kids. I can’t answer their questions. When can they see their friends? When will this all be over? What will the summer be like? What about the family reunion, planned for July? Will they get to go to school in the fall? Will our loved ones in other states be safe?
It seems like every day brings new disappointments. Another summer camp canceled. Another gentle reminder that no, they can’t have a friend over for dinner. For an adult, the daily disappointments are frustrating. For kids, they are devastating. I suppose we’re building resilience, but mostly I just see sorrow.
I’m trying to find new goalposts for us to aim for – small moments that we can safely anticipate. The strawberry plants are blooming wildly and we can look forward to a bumper crop in a few weeks. The increasingly beautiful weather makes dining on the porch a near-daily occurrence. The new fence around the backyard allows for exuberant romping by both children and dog. All family members can now competently navigate on bicycles, making it possible to mount small expeditions around the neighborhood together.
I’m trying, but it’s hard. I don’t want to gloss over the hardship in my attempt to find the silver lining in every situation. This is hard – and it’s going to be hard for a long time.