|Early Morning Sunrise*|
Being a parent, especially during a global pandemic, which we're still currently in, is all about figuring out how to let things flow. Today is Monday. Mondays have become one of my favorite days of the week now that everyone is back in school full time because it's the day I can count on to recharge from the busy weekend. It's a day alone to sit in peace and quiet. It's a day that I look forward to since about 2pm on Friday afternoon when I leave to go to school to pick everyone up.
The Monday after #daylightsavings is a tough one. Everyone had a hard time getting up and getting going but my middle son especially, needed some extra time. He wanted to stay home from school and he reminded me that I said at the beginning of the school year that they could stay home whenever they needed a “mask break” from school, due to the pandemic. And yes, I said that. I said that at a time where my daughter was already at home distance learning for 3 days out of the week. I said that at a time where I didn't have 5 days off to myself in a row with a set amount of hours that I could count on to be my very own for the first time in almost 13 years of being a mom.
When he said that this morning I was feeling very selfish. I was feeling selfish and protective of my quiet time and of my writing time. Especially since last week was a difficult one and I didn't get much writing done at all. I was also feeling selfish because it's cold today and I wanted to veg out in front of the TV, something I do not ever do when the kids are home because I want to catch up on the Bachelor or some crap TV like that that is not appropriate for the kids to watch.
And yes, there were early days in the year back in September and October that I did let them stay home here and there because wearing a mask all day at school was really tough at first and was a huge adjustment for my little guys. My elementary school boys have to wear them for outside recess too because kids get close together when playing and also during gym. They only take them off for lunch in their classroom when they can eat, but they can't talk. If they want to talk they have to put their masks back on. The teachers put something on during lunch for the kids to watch or listen to to keep the talking down. A complete change for a very social child. One of his first observations he made when school started back up is that everyone looked mad all the time because you don't ever see anyone smile anymore.
The teachers are doing a great job handling the pandemic and so is the school in general. This post isn't about me bashing the mask rules because we understand why and are in support of it, but it's March and we are just pulling out of a very long winter here in Wisconsin and everyone has spring fever and is ready to be done. But we're still very far from being done because we don't get out of school until June.
I am very pro having my children be aware of their mental health and to take mental health days. My son was on the verge of tears all morning and I did not want him going to school crying or start crying at school at any small thing that was able to shake him. I remember crying at school as an older kid and it's not fun. There are kids who tease you, kids who look at you shocked and ask you what's wrong? Expecting to hear about a stomach ache or a broken arm or something and when you "don't know what's wrong" you don't have an answer for them. Even though they are your friends and they want to help you. I even remember crying as a young adult in college. I cried in the classroom when the teacher called on me and I wasn't prepared and I was completely overwhelmed and beyond stressed and I should've just stayed home that day, but I didn't and I was terribly embarrassed after I did that and didn't want to face my teacher or my class after that. And I was 20 and had a "thicker skin," so I thought.
So, right when he said, "remember when YOU SAID that I could take a day off anytime I needed it to have a mask break because school is stressful?" I was annoyed inside, I'm not going to lie. Yes I remembered. But in an effort to not candy coat anything I was annoyed because I saw the colorful leaves of my quiet morning blowing down the street in a whirling windstorm and I couldn't catch them or even hold onto one leaf. I also could feel the burning, "That's not FAIR!" gaze of my 7th grader who was still getting ready to leave in a few minutes, who doesn't want to go to school ever on any day of any month, wanting to stay home too if her brother gets to stay home. I could also feel the jealousy building up in my kindergartener's mind - "How come HE gets to stay home but I don't????!!!!" And I can not have three children staying home on a Monday after daylight savings because they don't want to go to school.
My middle guy was visibly stressed all morning that never shook off like it normally does once he starts playing with his dogs downstairs and getting a bite to eat. In my mind, he had a reason. My other two were just feeling the Monday morning "blahs" that quickly go away once they see their friends and realize this is the grind they are on and it's Monday and the week starts again on Monday.
"Would you feel better if you just went a little late today? Like at 8:30?"
"Ok, we'll do that today, but I need you to go by 8:30."
"That's not fair!" "How come he gets to...?"
"He's going in late today."
When I walked back inside from loading my bookends (my oldest and youngest) into daddy's car, my middle guy was calm and quiet on the floor in a puddle of dog bliss getting some much needed fur therapy. I had called school and told them we were going to be late, and were going to come in at about 8:30 and I didn't give any reason why. Everyone doesn't need an explanation for everything. Especially if they aren't going to be supportive which just puts you on the defensive. He was feeling a bit better but once the conversation changed to school and that we needed to get going in a little bit, the lump in his throat returned and the tears started building up.
I should add that this particular child is my most social, which is starting to compete with the little guy who is also very social. My middle also loves his teacher this year, he enjoys being at school and was very sad during quarantine when school was shut down because he missed school and his friends so much. So I know the crying was due to stress and being overwhelmed. He also LOVES math. I mean like he wants me to give him really long division problems ON THE WEEKENDS JUST FOR FUN! (Insert brain explosion emoji here.)
So, this is not a regular thing that he wants to stay home. In fact there were some days during late fall and early winter where he was having a rough morning and I even reminded him of my, "take the day off for a mask break" last minute promise and even though he had tears in his eyes, he declined because there was something going on at school that he wanted to do. And even if there is a test that he's been studying for, he wants to go so he can take it. So I had to remind myself of this this morning in my annoyed, selfish state of mind that this is not the child who is always trying to get out of school. This is not the child trying to avoid life and being around people because he really loves being around people. But, just like mom, I think he's an Ambivert (I was more Ambivert as a child and teenager, meaning I walked the two paths of being both Introvert and Extrovert), so he does still need that recharge in quiet solitude.
As the clock was ticking towards 8:30, I was trying to get him to gear up to get going. I was picturing myself on the couch, curled up in a big blanket with a warm dog on my lap and a coffee in my hands catching up on TV in no time. It's gloomy and cold today and it's supposed to snow again even though everything already melted last week.
He came back downstairs from brushing his teeth and he was once again visibly sad. His socks were bugging him. His sweatshirt was bugging him. His hair wasn't doing what he wanted. I lovingly asked him what the biggest thing was that was making him feel upset right now and through tears and a shaky voice he cried, "the pandemic."
Damn, if that's not the collective feeling of all of us, I don't know what is.
I texted my husband and told him he started crying again and was having a hard time because I was thinking about just letting him stay home after all and he said, "let's just let him stay home today." We are almost always on the same page with our parenting decisions. Which makes things a lot easier.
So I asked him if he just wanted to stay home all day and he let out all of the stress he was holding in a breath and said yes. We gave the caveat that he had to walk both dogs and exercise them outside before it started snowing, as well as do his online learning games for the majority of the day. No Minecraft. No Roblox. No video games. No YouTubers playing or talking about Minecraft or Roblox or video games.
My mind then switched over to cleaning the house and continue to organize and go through the things I was doing this weekend. He actually took the dogs outside for close to an hour, because it's supposed to snow soon so I said he had to do that right now if he was going to stay home. Then cue us both looking over at two sleeping dogs who were all curled up in blankets and snoring rather loudly. Normally I would let it slide, but I didn't give him a choice.
But like any good dogs, the minute they heard the word WALK they both jumped up and were ready to rock and roll after a quick big stretch, two body shakes and a tail wag and off they all went outside for what was close to an hour. I did what I do best when I'm wanting to steal a quiet moment to myself and I ignored all chores, and quickly grabbed my coffee and my computer and sat down to write, which was what I wanted to as well as needed to do today anyway.
The mood since has been light and calm. I got over my selfish need to want the day to myself and reminded myself that I would have loved being able to take a mental health day as a child. To stay home from school as a child in the 80's, there needed to be a pretty big reason and that reason was always being too sick to go to school due to a fever or throwing up, etc. Never for being stressed out or overwhelmed or uncontrollable crying anything like that. And that is also "being sick" if you look at it that way.
No child should be stressed out, yet they all are right now. We need to help them through it and help them deal with it because we are used to it and have better tools to deal with it. I keep saying that my children's mental health is more important than school right now and I need to live by those words and not just talk them. Saying them is the easy part. Having it actually affect my personal free time is another thing, but one I'm willing to deal with to give my child a much needed break.
I also want to remind parents that the school counselors and school psychologists are available to your child right now at every grade level, even via zoom for distance learners, to check in about stress and mental health (for free.) Please call your school to set something up for your child. If possible, make a weekly or bi-weekly appointment for your child to have a meeting to chat with them and then provide them a quiet, safe space in the house (if you are still at home) to be able to do that. Have your child make a list of things to talk to them about and if you need to, you can even email them before hand with a list of things your child is having a hard time with or is dealing with so the issues get addressed. They are there for your child to talk about personal things like parents going through a divorce, a death in the family, a big move, missing family members and family holidays and birthdays due to no traveling, parents loss of a job putting stress on the family, having suicidal thoughts and wanting to self harm, as well as things that might be happening at school like bullying, online bullying, falling behind, missing friends due to the pandemic, stress from wearing a mask constantly, not having a way to get out of the house regularly for regular exercise, missing team sports, missing school clubs and activities, etc. All of these reasons are very valid and must be addressed before they become bigger issues.
Mental health matters and self care starts with self love. You deserve it and your children deserve it. No one has to suffer in silence.
~About the March Writing Challenge: I have decided to try to write a blog post a day for 30 days to get back into the swing of being a writer again, which is one of my true loves in this life, creatively speaking. I'm a mom during a pandemic, so we’ll see how it goes! <insert nervous laughter.> Please leave a comment below and tell me where you are joining me from and how you found my blog; IG, Google, FB, Blog follower, etc. Thanks for joining me!~
*The photo above is not retouched or edited in anyway. It was the actual colors of the sunrise from this morning. My kindergartener made me this heart at school for Valentine's Day. It reminds me of stained glass so I like to put them up on the window. They have made one for each holiday so far and I love them. I thought it looked beautiful next to the vibrant colors of the Wisconsin sunrise.