I am a Mom. Just an average every day Mom. I have things I think I do pretty darn well and I have things that I have definitely dropped the ball on. That said, I am happy, and I think my kids are happy, and I am elated with the young men I’ve helped to shape. You’ve probably heard it yourself. Parents will say, “I just want my kids to be happy.” Deep down we want them to find love and be successful of course, but outwardly we just want them to be happy.
I’m closer to the end of the journey as far as raising kids. Don’t freak out. I’ll be their Mom forever and here for them for anything they need. It’s just close to time for them to be independent and learn many more of life’s lessons on their own. They don’t need me for the day-to-day things and that is great!
Then COVID-19 came along. All of a sudden the rules have changed. No one has been through anything like this and, frankly, no one has the answers. Maybe some short-term answers (and that’s a big maybe) but certainly no idea what is to come long term.
So my role as Mom is changing. The decisions I thought I could start letting them make are ones I have to weigh in on. I would love to let my youngest, who is going to enter his senior year of high school, decide if he should go in person or do online classes, but he is a bit biased. He sees more video game time in his future if he does online classes. Who can blame him, right?
I would love to let my oldest, who is supposed to leave for college next month, decide if that is best for his health and safety. I need to educate myself and weigh in on that too. Because if he goes to a dorm or class and gets sick, guess where he is bringing it home to?
All of a sudden it’s not about them being happy anymore. It’s about them being safe. Right now being safe is more important than happiness. Parents have made decisions for years to keep their kids safe over happy. For example, what time their curfew is, or what rating video games they can play, or even what type of car to buy. These are small things we consider all the time to keep kids safe.
Wait! Is it safety over happiness? This roller coaster of emotions is even too much for me. Pre-COVID, we had to let them do things that we knew were risky. We couldn’t keep them under our roof 24/7 to protect them. We had to let them ride their bike around the neighborhood with their friends. We let them play on playgrounds, we had them in sports and other activities where injury is always in the back of our mind. We have had them go through bomb threats and active shooter drills for heaven sake. We did that because we wanted them to be happy by being able to go to school and see their friends. We wanted them to be happy in the activities that they enjoyed.
I reached out to my Facebook network and asked fellow parents to ask their kids what they miss most during COVID and what they love most. I received great comments, but even better, I received personal messages about the joys and struggles families have been enduring these past few months.
Almost unanimously kids miss their friends. They miss doing things in person. Everything from playing Pokemon, to going to dinner, to visiting museums. Whether they are age 5 or age 17, they miss people. They miss them A LOT and they are sad and confused. They are experiencing a range of emotions even greater than many of the adults I know.
What do they love about COVID? They love staying up late, more video game time, more family time, and more free time. In reading these responses though, the answers were not near as passionate as what they miss. Not even close. It felt almost like an afterthought, being forced to answer a question. I don’t mean to downplay it. The message was just very clear: they are hurting (just like many adults).
So knowing how much they miss people, I journey back to my original struggle. Do I take the cautionary road and keep my kids safe? Do I tuck them under the bubble of my roof and protect them or do I send them out in the big bad world and pray? Right now I have until August 14th to decide and I don’t have a clue. By then the schools may have decided for us, but until then I continue with the struggle. Keep them safe or keep them happy?