My youngest child’s recent birthday marked a monumental moment for me and my husband. We are now parents of 5 teenagers. Five! No wonder life’s been a bit busier than usual.
No matter their ages, though, life’s always been busy for us. Some of the busy is good – it keeps us out of the house and active in our community. Some of the busy can sometimes be overwhelming, for both the kids and for me. For each of us, this year has had more stressors thanks to COVID19. Despite those stressors, well, and because of those, it’s been one of the most trying years ever. When life’s been flipped upside down, especially by someone or something else, it makes it hard to move in a forward direction. Getting to celebrate a happy birthday in the middle of one of our busiest weeks put the biggest smile of my face. That time to pause, to focus on life, and to celebrate it (with cake!) put things into perspective for me.
We’re still here.
We’re still doing things.
We’re still taking time to be thankful.
Being thankful for happy celebrations is easy. Being thankful to be living in a world where the new normal is anything but normal takes effort. When I look at what’s going on in the news and hear how others are living in fear, I see a world that I don’t recognize anymore. Society seems to have lost its mind with a novel virus that’s got a pretty high recovery rate. Terrified of humans and interacting with them, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!
Life, as interrupted and upside down as it is, must go on. My kids can’t do everything they used to with some places still closed, but they can pursue living outside of other people’s comfort zones. So they do.
They’ve participated on sports teams and excelled.
They’ve joined afterschool clubs and learned.
They’ve joined other families for get togethers and enjoyed it.
In the beginning, we all felt a little rebellious going against the hive mind. Television doctors told us to stay home. Politicians told us to stay home. Neighbors told us to stay home. We did that. Until we didn’t. Now, and for several months, we’ve gone into stores, into Church, and into restaurants because those places, too, believe that life must go on. Sure, online shopping, curbside pick-up and virtual Mass on Sundays could save us some time and energy, but humans need other humans. My children need their friends. I need my friends, too! It isn’t the old normal, but tiptoeing back into places we knew were healthy places and hanging out again with people we love was exhilarating.
We’re, of course, cautious when we need to be, and we’re honest at all times about how things are going in case we encounter someone who is fearful of catching an illness we don’t have. None of us like the extra talk of mandates and or losing more freedom when those conversations start. Those are tough moments all around. Nevertheless, we understand that not everyone thinks like us. Some people prefer restrictions and lockdowns, and they blindly trust television doctors who push experimental vaccines. We do not. Several restrictions are still part of some of day-to-day activities and do hamper some of the things we want or need to do. But that hasn’t stopped us from living completely. If anything, it’s made our family more creative in how we get things done. The kids have morphed when they’ve needed to, and we’ve been flexible in how we parent also. Both of us, the kids and myself, have gotten compliments when we do go out to the stores, restaurants and to Church. People tell my children how well behaved and happy they look. They tell me what a good job I’m doing despite all the stressors that exist. My favorite moments are when someone, many times a complete stranger, tells my kids what a great mom they have. They smile shyly, and I beam. I tell them thank you and that I appreciate them noticing how hard I work for my kids and their health. Nodding toward me, they tell me to keep at it. I promise them that I will.
I know that what works one day certainly may not work the next, but that’s true no matter what’s going on in the world. The world can be nutty, these days more so than ever before. But not all of it is on the brink of despair. Even though COVID19 changed a lot of things, and potentially still will in the future, I can’t let that get to me. I can’t let that grip my kids’ lives right now either. Like always, I will look for people who are positive and who can help us. I will look for places that are welcoming and that treat their customers – masked or unmasked, vaccinated or unvaccinated – with respect. I will make sure my children, all five of my teenagers, know to look for that as well.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.