Well, that was a plot twist none of us were expecting. While gearing up to unanimously shout, “BYE, FELICIA!” to 2020, our team at Parent Life Network took some time to think about lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all become different people since March. Here’s what we’re bringing into the new year:
So. many. lessons. When the s**t hits the fan, the only upside is that hopefully some of it becomes fertilizer for personal growth. This year, I finally learned I can meditate (it used to make me itchy) and so can my kids, and it helps to curb anxiety and the sadness of missing friends and family. I learned that board games and climbing trees is enough for a Saturday. Plan less. And I realized that all we really need is love…as long as we’ve also got food, housing, and high-speed internet.
I was one of those you read about that moved back in with their family. I have a condo just outside of Toronto, but when lockdown measures were put in place, I decided to head home. I only thought it was going to be for a month, maybe two. But here we are turning the calendar to 2021. It’s been nice being a full-time son again. Helping my parents with everyday things, cleaning, cooking meals for them, and just doing my part to make life a little easier for them as they navigate this pandemic having to be extra careful in caring for my adult, non-verbal sister with special needs. We got hit really hard in April when my cousin passed away from Covid-19. I still find it unbelievable and overwhelmingly crushing to think about. So, throughout all of this, I’ve found a renewed appreciation and love for my family. And I am so f****** grateful for that. I’m learning to cherish the time we all have together and being there for each other no matter what. After all, family is all we got when this is all said and done.
I’ve learned that there’s a difference between day pajamas and night pajamas, not muting your mic during a Zoom meeting is the new “reply all,” and an alarming amount of strangers feel comfortable referring to my unborn child as a “COVID Baby.” Offensive? But really, the last few months have made me realize how much I DON’T need and how much time I’ve wasted sweating the small stuff. Healthy food, a roof over my head and quality family time are my only essentials now.
Balancing the needs of my family and my job has been a major challenge during this time. This goes for getting stuff done as well as keeping everybody reasonably happy and calm. I have learned that it’s okay to put my phone away for a game of Sorry, and then another game, and then another one, if it makes my five year old feel a little better that he didn’t get to have a birthday party with his friends. Also, I have learned to ask for help when I need it and to express my limitations when I’m bumping up against them. The most important thing that I have learned is that if you hide a few Sorry cards, the game is over much more quickly.
Since March I’ve learned Dutch, Cantonese, the piano, how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, and how to bake bread from scratch. I have learned none of those things, but I have learned that until we’re forced to, we don’t fully understand how adaptable we are. I got married this year. Our guest list went from 150 people to 7, but we still had an incredible day and I got to make the most important promises of my life to the most important person in my world and enjoyed the hell out of it all the same. My wife got pregnant this year! Despite not being able to be there for the first ultrasound, I still get to feel our baby girl kicking at her mommy’s belly and that’s more real than what I can see in black and white on a screen anyway. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” rings true in a different way now. It’s not about missing what you don’t have anymore, it’s about realizing how important what we’ve gotten to keep really is.
SLOW DOWN. Hard stop. This lesson has been repeated to me over and over again through the last 9+ months of the pandemic. I had so many grand plans for 2020 that included both professional and personal goals. We had so many plans as a family that have evolved numerous times. The consistent lesson has been slow down, breathe it all in, it is ok to be where you are right now. Just be there.
Pre-Pandemic, I don’t think anyone would have described me as a patient person. I like to be in control. I like to know exactly what’s happening next and when to expect it. But the pandemic has thrown my predictable world off-kilter. For me, the last several months have been a lesson in patience. Waiting for school to return, waiting in the grocery line, waiting for a COVID test (and then waiting again for the results), waiting to see my extended family again, waiting for the vaccines to arrive, and now waiting my turn to get one (I’m not a priority and I know it’ll be several months). Pre-pandemic me would not have been able to handle all the waiting and uncertainty. And while it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine for current-me, I’m working on my patience. I’m accepting things that are not in my control. And I’m doing my best to make sure my family is doing whatever still is within our control to keep our neighbours, friends, and family safe.
These past many months have been a constant reminder that what seems to be a small or insignificant gesture often has the greatest impact. Hearing pure joy in my grandma’s voice when I phone her, a wave and a smile from a person I meet on my walk around the block, a neighbour clearing my driveway with their snowblower early in the morning so I don’t have to contend with the cold, or unsolicited hugs from my teenage sons – each one brings me such joy and fills me with gratitude. I am also reminded each day to count my many blessings: my loving husband and beautiful sons, a wonderful, supportive family, the most amazing work family, and a home full of love. Oh, and I am also reminded that in a house with two teenage boys, there is never enough food 🙂
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.