“Who’s Schooling Who?” What Young Children Can Teach Us About How to Deal with COVID
I am certain you are reeling from the fear and anxiety of the past few weeks as a result of the coronavirus. The risks this epidemic poses to our health and livelihood are overwhelming.
I returned from a training gig in South Carolina on Tuesday and have been huddled in the fetal position under my desk with a bag of cookies since then.
I will be visiting with you in the near future via this blog about ways I can support your relationships with young children. You may be jumping into distance learning or continuing to care for children in your center or home so that parents can keep working. Yours may be the overwhelming task of parenting 24/7 while simultaneously worrying about the fate of the world and future of your children.
All of your efforts are important and heroic, and I want you to know how proud I am of you already.
However, let’s first pause for a moment and remind ourselves of a few things our young children can teach us to help us move forward with our “new normal” in the days ahead. I challenge you to have a chat with Three-Year-Old You and reclaim these simple truths that you may have forgotten.
Playing is always a good idea. Those of you who have never enjoyed a snow day are new to the gift of a day with no plans and expectations of you. Consider the COVID epidemic to be The Worst Snow Day Ever. You can still choose to fill your time with playful pursuits that make you happy. One friend of mine is taking guitar lessons online and sent me a lovely videotaped performance of herself playing and singing a cool ditty. I accidentally interrupted another friend who is learning to paint via YouTube art lessons. She promised she would FaceTime me later. I have actually dusted off my piano and started practicing a few Chopin and Satie pieces for my own enjoyment. Your three-year-old self will help you learn how to elaborate upon your play and remind you that play for the sake of play is always a wonderful thing.
Stop with the “what-ifs.” I am a planner and doer. I have been living for 62 years under the mistaken impression that I have a great deal of control as to how my life unfolds. Through will and skill, I shall by-gosh-and-by-golly be the driving force of my destiny.
Not knowing what life holds in store for my family, community, country and world is terrifying and sometimes immobilizing to 62-year-old Anne.
Even my adult children are doing a better job than their mother of avoiding catastrophic thinking. (“Do you boys think you will lose your jobs? Were you in a crowd of more than 15 revelers on Saturday night? Do you own any eggs that haven’t expired?”) They are taking COVID and all of its accompanying complications in their stride and living life with grace and hopefulness.
We all need to take a lesson from our toddlers and preschoolers. There was never a more chill group of mindful human beings. I giggle when I think about how often we as grownups decide to intentionally teach young children this thing called mindfulness, or living in the moment. Quite frankly, toddlers and preschoolers invented it! They are keenly focused on what they will have for snack in 30 minutes and if you would be willing to read Pete the Cat one more time before they take a nap. They will likely not bring up the topic of whether the sky is falling in the unforeseeable future. They will, however, be able to tell you that the sky is blue and contains birdies, butterflies and airplanes when weather permits.
Grownups have great faces. Your children have likely spent a great deal of time with their caring adults since our quarantine began. This makes them extremely happy. They live for the attentive and adoring gaze of their Big People. There is nothing better than sitting on the floor and playing Hot Wheels with someone good at making car noises (You say:"Vroom Vroom"). And what could be better than jumping from pillow to pillow scattered on the floor while your grownup watches and applauds your impressive motor “skillz”? We know that children learn through face-to-face interactions with caring adults. I am hopeful that young children are spending more time with their favorite adult faces these days.
And about our stupid cell phones. Those things are just going to deliver us more scary news and quite frankly are way too noisy with their dings and pings for our central nervous systems right now. Hopefully we are all leaving our phones in the kitchen and doing more pillow jumping gymnastics and floor play with our children. Let’s make a note to ourselves to ignore our phones for the rest of our lives after this storm has passed and focus on the really great faces of our kids.
Be more like a three-year-old. Do things that bring you joy. Choose to focus on the blessing of time spent in the company of your family (your “COVID buddies”) or embrace your solitude.
I offer these words to you and your Littles in anticipation of the days and weeks to come:
We are safe. We are calm. We will be fine.
And we can do this hard thing together.
Anne Meeker Watson