I see a lot of signs supporting health care workers as I’m riding my bike to the hospital. I think these signs are great, but I also think it would be great if there were some signs supporting parents since they are the unsung heroes of this pandemic crisis. It must be such a challenge to parent younger kids right now. I talked with one mother in the park who said that she couldn’t wait for her kids to grow up and become more independent. I thought: be careful what you wish for. I recalled what a colleague once said about parenting, “That the days can go so slow and the years can go so fast.”
I imagine the days must be going slowly for any parent who is trying to work remotely while also managing their kids throughout the day. If I were in these parents’ shoes, I would still try to refrain from wishing for time to move more quickly, since time has a way of moving fast enough. I had a close friend who used to refer to life as a short ride. His ride ended less than two years ago when he was sixty-eight. I miss him.
One thing that I have come to appreciate about the parenting ride is that you don’t need to do it perfectly to be a good parent. In fact, if you try to make your children comfortable at all costs they’ll never get around to learning how to deal with discomfort. (You can watch the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for some humorous examples of this.) One way to teach someone how to deal with discomfort is to deal with it gracefully yourself. Dealing with a challenge gracefully doesn’t mean that you can’t feel scared—only that you have to keep your composure without letting your fear do your thinking for you.
I remember I was once camping with my sons and two of their friends in Yellowstone National Park in the pouring rain and lost my composure. I couldn’t get a fire going to make dinner because the wood was all wet. It was one of those days when the Universe just seemed to be messing with me. I knew they were all hungry and I hated the thought that I couldn’t take away their hunger. My youngest son finally looked at me and said, “It’s okay, Dad. We’ll just have a big breakfast in the morning.” His eight-year-old composure felt like such a precious gift. Somewhere along the line he must have learned that just because something doesn’t happen right away, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen at all. These pandemic times sometimes remind me of camping. When you have a camping mindset, not everything has to go perfectly for you to have a good time.