I turned around from the driver’s seat and looked at three flushed sweet smiling faces in the back of my car. We had just raced into the school to grab all our books to start teaching from home. COVID-19 concerns had forced school closures and we were now one of literally millions of families who faced a lot of unknowns.
As an owner of a small business, I began to quickly prioritize how would I support my employees, serve my clients, and care for as well as teach my three small children: Caroline (10), Lily (8), and Harrison (5). Speaking with other working moms and female friends, I quickly learned that all our homes had become funnels of distraction, making it even more challenging to focus on any one thing. Trying to be productive at home — with family members twirling in here and there, school papers flying, computers and tablets out on demand, and phones running with online classes — requires high-level concentration. Turns out, our homes are were not set up for managing this new type of whirlwind.
One day I received an email from the CEO of one of my company’s clients. He was kindly checking in to see how our team was doing during all the corona pandemic confusion and he ended his email by asking, “Holly, just curious what have you been learning through all of this?”
“Learning . . .” I thought. “I’ve been doing a lot of teaching and attempting to manage chaos!”
Reminding my fourth grader how to tell the difference in pronouns and synonyms, reviewing my second grader’s multiplication facts, patiently tracing my four year old’s first and last name neatly, educating my husband on how to place a Shipt grocery order, and guiding clients through crisis communications had been the order of the day.
I was working late into the night to answer emails in a timely manner and tackle business projects. I was surviving, trying to keep my head above water with a list a mile long, but as I sat and stared at my client’s email intently, it convicted my heart. When my kids think back on this time in 10 years, would they remember my husband and me spatting about whose turn it was to fix their three homemade meals? Would they remember their parents complaining how much we had lost in our retirement fund or hushing them constantly while we participated in endless Zoom work meetings?
I really hoped that would not be the case. I realized I still had time . . . not to instruct them but for all of us to learn.
I have always been a “teaching moment” type of mom, but I stepped back and realized crossing off tasks, pushing through submitted work to school, and trying to create a structured environment really had turned into barking off “to-do’s”. My efforts may have resulted in some normalcy; however, they were not making the kind of moments I really wanted to create.
Little by little, I asked my kids to watch what was going on around them in their small circles. I told them to write down what they were observing, what others may be feeling. I took the focus off pressing our family forward to an unknown corona ending and took a telescopic dive into asking my kids lots of questions.
My oldest observed that although it was difficult not being with her friends temporarily, it was much harder for a close peer whose family was in the process of moving to a new city and never got to finish out this school year. Her heart hurt for this dear girl because she would not have the opportunity to be celebrated at school with lots of hugs and bittersweet goodbyes. Now, instead of Caroline being focused on herself and her disappointing COVID version of a spring ballet recital, she began to create ways to express to her friend how much she would be missed once she had moved.
My middle child, Lily, watched intently on social media for her tumbling gym to get the green light to reopen. The nightly updates from the owners on Facebook ended in disappointment week after week. My husband and I made it a point to be off our phones and computers so she could watch each time her coaches led Bible studies and, most importantly, shared their hearts on social media. She was glued and soaked it all up like a sponge. The happy child who never shed a tear, cried with them and for them. We had long discussions about running a family business and the government’s role in a health pandemic — heavy stuff for an eight year old. She now looks up to these leaders in her life in a new way.
My four-year-old son, Harrison, who was thriving on running in circles around our kitchen island, ended Skype calls with his teacher saying, “I hope my teacher knows how much I miss her, I know she misses me. I am going to make her a letter and mail it.”
Their observations, combined with down time to watch and listen to the world around them change, drastically transformed their tender hearts. Our prayers at night before now had always included endless “thank yous” for blessings from the day; however, their evening “tuck-in discussions” became longer, focused, and more thoughtful. They asked questions about the restaurant owner who greeted us on the sidewalk while walking by with a plea to please order “to-go” or he may have to close his decade old family business. They shared thoughts about the much-loved babysitter who could not participate in her college graduation.
A transformation slowly occurred; the theme of their nightly prayers changed from them to others. My husband and I were not purposefully training them how to feel or what to say — they were learning by being in a quieter environment and experiencing what others were facing, handling, and conquering. More than achieving good grades during homeschooling or providing our kids with the false feeling that things are fine when they are not — they have watched real-life truths unfold at a young age.
When you live through something not only looking inwardly but at how others around you are affected, you truly learn. Because of the COVID pandemic, my children have gained a new perspective that they will share with generations to come, and for that I am grateful.