I hope that all of you mama’s had a wonderful Mother’s Day. Mine started out fabulous! My husband came home with donuts and coffee in the morning and my family showered me with cards, flowers and a new puzzle that I can’t wait to start.
Every Mother’s Day I ask to take a family walk and/or be outside and every Mother’s Day it rains. In fact, the day before it was hailing! I call it Bipolar Buffalo weather. We can go from snow one day to sunny and hot the next day. I just try to laugh and go with the flow. Seth says that Mother’s Day should be moved to nicer weather later in the month. I don’t know who is in charge of the calendar, but someone needs to move Mother’s Day!
I got my whole family in the car (I can’t tell you the last time my whole family has gone anywhere) and we ventured off to a new set of nature paths that my dear friend told me about. I warned Seth that I went with her in the Fall and that we got lost. He was confident in his boy scout sense of direction and he was right. We walked around with our dog Tanner and had a great time for 30 minutes before the rain started. Seth started guiding us back to the car and I prayed we didn’t get poured on. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if we got lost and sopping wet. Seth got us back to the car and the rain got lighter and lighter!
My parents stopped by and then Seth’s mom and husband stopped by and it was so wonderful to see them. However, it was literally painful not to hug them. On a normal Mother’s Day, we would go to brunch with Seth’s mom and husband and go to dinner with my parents. It was an odd day not having our normal Mother’s Day routine. I was so excited to see them and yet so sad that it was short and sweet and from a distance.
I don’t know what the right answer is right now. Am I being too paranoid? All I know is that I want to keep our parents safe. I am protecting them. It is painful and it sucks, and I question if I am doing the right thing. I know there are a lot of people going about their days very differently than I am. They are still having family over. They are still proceeding in a more normal fashion.
I see children having play dates. I see families having people over. I question myself. I often wonder if I am doing the right thing as mental health is important too. The bottom line is I most want to protect our parents. That is most important to me.
Speaking of mental health, lets talk about our children and how they are doing. The good news is a lot of us are home with our families. We are not alone. I have my husband, my three children, my dog and my two cats with me every day. We have our health and we are together. I focus on this regularly to help my mental health. Some days are better than others.
It was last Tuesday night and I just happened to look over at my daughter Ella sitting on the couch. She didn’t look right to me. I knew something was wrong.
“Ella, are you okay?” I asked her.
“I’m just feeling sad. I don’t know why,” she explained to me.
“How can I help? Do you want to do something with me? Do you need a friend?” I tried to think about what would make her happy.
“I need a friend. They don’t always answer when I call them. I just need to talk to a friend,” she requested and was looking for me to help her make this happen. I texted the mom who is a very good friend of mine and we got our girls onto face time together. They talked and giggled for an hour and her mood dramatically shifted. As I stood in the kitchen listening to her giggle on the couch talking to her friend, I couldn’t have been happier. I have to look out for my kids. I have to watch how they are behaving and step in to try to make things a little better. I know how much Ella is missing seeing her friends. I know how much she misses dancing into her theater classes and being surrounded by so many friends who love the same things as her. I know the zoom classes are wonderful and helpful. I also know that it’s not the same as actually being with our people.
I check in with Ella a minimum at bedtime every night. I tuck her in and give her a kiss and ask her what she thought about the day. She told me that talking to her friend really helped her. I need to make sure she is talking to her friends more often.
The next night at bedtime I checked in with Ella again. She told me it was a fabulous day. I was so perplexed as her mood was so different. “What made today so wonderful?” I asked her so that it could help me make more days wonderful for her. She told me it was one of the best days she had in a while. This was wonderful news but why was this? Ella told me that it was because she got out of the house. First, we went together to her school to pick up her Drama Club t-shirt that had come in. The shirts were all labeled in the lobby and we walked in, crossed off her name, said hello to her teacher, grabbed her shirt, and ran off to the car.
Later that day we walked down the street to wish a neighbor who is also in Lillie’s class a happy birthday. His mom got a DJ who was playing music in the street. Neighbors, friends and family members stood around dancing to the DJ and wishing him a Happy Birthday. We kept our distance and my girls danced for a while before we had to run home for Ella’s voice lesson. It was so great to hear the music and dance and see people. We got to see our friends from a distance too. Ella explained that getting out of the house was so good for her. Mental note to get her out of the house more often. We don’t realize how much we are staying home. We don’t realize how much a drive by birthday car parade, a drive through, a curbside pickup, a walk outside, are all so good for us. Ella told me she needs to get out more and I will keep tabs on this for her. I will also watch her during the day and check in on her. She is the one who gets the most quiet and keeps to herself. She is the one I need to check on! Sometimes she will walk the dog with me, and she says that is very good for her too.
Max is in an interesting schedule right now. He is 13 years old and he wants to go to bed after me. We are trying to get him to bed at midnight which is when Seth and I have been going to sleep. Today at noon I tried to get him up and he asked me why I was waking him. He is so funny. He wants to sleep a minimum of 12-12. I am glad he is getting his rest! He does his schoolwork and then he wants to game with his friends. I hear him talking and laughing and I know it is his connection to people. I don’t like him gaming for hours on end, so we pull him off a lot and make him jog, practice soccer or spend time with us. He seems to truly be doing okay. He loves doing schoolwork at home and tells me he prefers it over going to school. He seems ok. I will keep watching him and checking on him.
Lillie is my social butterfly who truly misses going to school and seeing her teacher and her friends. She is on face time with her friends a lot and I know it is helping her. We went to drop off gifts to her teacher with her best friends and I warned her that she was not allowed to hug them or get to close. She told me I am too overprotective. Maybe she is right? I’m actually impressed that she knows that word. We dropped off gifts and she saw her friends and she got in the car very sad. She told me she didn’t care about anything she just wants a play date with her friends. She is 7. This is hardest for her to understand. I love hearing Max try to explain things to her. Yesterday on our walk she kept putting her mask under her nose. People would walk by us and she wouldn’t cover her nose. “Lillie, pull your mask up and cover your nose I yell from ahead of her.” Max walks over to Lillie and says, “Do you know why you have to cover your nose Lillie?” he asked her so calmly. She said she had no idea so he explained that the virus could enter through her nose and mouth. It didn’t even occur to me that she didn’t even know why we were wearing masks. Good job Max!
All in all, Lillie is doing well. She is doing her schoolwork and playing games and talking to her friends all day. She is perfectly content playing with her baby dolls for hours. I am keeping my eyes and ears open, but she seems to be doing pretty well.
Things could change overnight. Max who has seemed to be doing well the whole time may look sad tomorrow. It’s my job to watch my kids and make sure their mental health is okay during this time. Their health and their mental health are most important to me. I have to keep my eyes open and be checking in on them regularly. I need to ask them how they are doing? I need to ask them if there is anything they want to talk about? I need to ask them if there is anything they need from their dad or I? They may not know how to articulate their feelings, so the most important thing is to observe their behavior. Are they eating? Are they sleeping? Are they smiling? Are they connecting with friends? Are they spending time with their siblings and parents?
When this whole quarantine started Seth was very stressed out. He always wants to protect his family and he kept ordering boxes of food. Once he found out that Wegmans would stay open his stress dramatically decreased. He has truly seemed okay through all of this, but I am checking in on him too. When he has work issues I listen and try my best to help him solve them. I am so extremely thankful that he is busy and working more hours. I see him busy working, talking to people all day, and enjoying his hobbies of reading, practicing magic and practicing his guitar. He is also doing Krav Maga more often and is doing online classes. I am watching him too and making sure that my husband is okay.
Checking in on myself is a different story. As you all know writing is one of my greatest coping strategies. I am in another world as I write all of this. I love to read a good book, watch a good show, take a long walk, work on a puzzle, or bake something with my girls. I need to connect with people too via text, Zoom and face time. I have things that I enjoy to do. When I am feeling sad, I text or call someone. When I go to stir crazy, I take a walk or take a drive. Even going to get a coffee at Tim Horton’s Drive thru helps my mood. Starbuck’s has opened back up so Ella and I will be having an outing to Starbuck’s Drive thru this week. My fabulous friend the wine fairy just dropped off wine and oreos and made me smile. I loved getting to see her face even if just for a minute! I am checking in on myself too and I talk to my husband regularly about my feelings. He is wonderful and tends to chill me out. I can get anxious and worry and he always tells me to relax. We balance each other out. I certainly didn’t want to marry someone like me. We are very opposite, and it works out really well. When he drives me nuts doing something, I remind myself that my way isn’t the right way. Just because he does something totally different from me doesn’t make him wrong. It makes him different and I need him to be different.
The point of all of this is for us parents to remember to regularly check in on our children. I know Max and Ella will probably roll their eyes at me, but I think Sunday night family meetings are a great idea. Just to check in with everyone and see how they are doing. What is working well? What isn’t working well? My kids will tell you that they are so done with school. I keep telling them that they are almost done! They can do it! They are almost finished! They have one more month of school!
What to look for:
- Are your children eating?
- Are they sleeping?
- Are they able to fall asleep?
- Are they sleeping all day?
- Are they connecting to friends?
- Are they spending time with you?
- Are they finding joy in doing things – drawing, gaming, reading, playing, bike riding, games, baking….
- Are they smiling?
- Are they angry all the time? On edge?
- Are they able to concentrate and get their schoolwork done?
- Do they have physical complaints?
- Do they seem fatigued / low energy most of the time?
What to ask your children:
- How are you doing?
- How are you feeling?
- Are you happy?
- Are you okay?
- What makes you happy?
- What could make you happy?
- Do you want to spend time together?
- Who would you like to spend time with?
How can you help:
- Check in on your child regularly.
- Weekly family meetings to check in with every family member.
- Be a good role model. If you are okay, they will more likely be okay! Max thanked me in his mother’s day card for handling everything going on well. That melted my heart and reminded me that I am their anchor.
- Spend time with your child. Ask them what they would like to do with you? Ella wanted to watch The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with me. Great movie if you haven’t seen it!
- Help them connect on the phone with supports – grandparents, teachers, guidance counselors, friends. Sometimes I will need to help by contacting Ella’s friend’s mom’s to help me connect her with her friends.
- Listen to your children. When they want to talk to you stop what you are doing and listen.
- Try to be patient and understanding. My 7 year old has good and bad days of doing schoolwork. She is out of her school element. She misses her teacher and her friends. I need to understand how she is feeling and do my best to be patient and help her.
- Encourage new hobbies. I like to bake with my girls and do arts and crafts with them. I see kids learning to sew, bake, play an instrument…..ask them what they are interested in and tell them this is a perfect time to take up a new hobby!
- Remember to take time for yourself so that you have the strength to take care of your children. I needed a one hour walk by myself today to regroup.
If you think your child is suffering from depression or anxiety, please reach out to someone who can help you. My children’s guidance counselors have been checking on them. There are also social workers at both schools that I could talk to. They can also guide you to a therapist who can help. If you can’t help them alone, reach out for help.
I hope you are all hanging in there and doing well. I know this is a very strange time right now. I know people’s mental health is being taxed. Stay safe, stay healthy and hopefully this will all pass soon, and we can get back to a more normal life.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R