Has 2020 been a year to remember, or what? I think it earns the distinction of being the one that most people think they would rather forget.
Call me a Pollyanna, but I always try to find the positive, even in challenging situations. While I didn’t request a pandemic, I have discovered much about myself and my relationship with my kids during this trying time. Here are seven parenting lessons I’ve learned in 2020.
1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. What happens when your shift starts in two minutes, but your internet has been out for 20, and you can’t reach a representative to save your life? You get skilled at writing apology letters, and you meditate—a lot—while drinking gallons of green tea. There’s nothing else you can do.
2020 has taught me not to sweat the small stuff. I’ve embraced the “will it matter in five years” rule regarding unforeseen inconveniences. After all, when each new sunrise brings a fresh batch of hurdles to overcome, your only alternatives are to pull the covers over your head or square your shoulders.
Pro-Tip: when you have kids, the bedsheets never hide you for long. Straighten your crown, take a deep breath, do the best you can and forget the rest.
2. Expect the Unexpected. If there’s anything certain in 2020, it’s uncertainty. While you can’t prepare for every contingency—I doubt many saw this pandemic coming and had a stash of toilet paper at the ready—you can take steps to protect those you love.
I don’t want to think about dying, but nor do I consider myself immune to novel coronaviruses or any other bug—or out-of-control drivers or hurricanes. Although I cut expenses like everyone else, I made sure to keep my life insurance paid. I don’t want anyone dipping into my kids’ college funds to pay for my casket.
3. Flexibility Is a Must. If you think showing up for work late is bad, try an internet outage when it’s your child’s show and tell day at their new virtual school. You may have heard Justin Timberlake sing “Cry Me a River,” but you never witnessed it until you have a disappointed 6-year-old.
If you want to win Mom of the Year, you need to think on your feet. What if you’re sure the teacher will allow a make-up, but your child remains unconvinced that anyone will care about her presentation after the big day? Take her to the park, find the most rockin’ thing you can find—even if it is an interesting rock—and delight her with her new and improved share-time treat that everyone will be dying to see.
4. Exercise Burns Frustration. I’m surprised that I have any pillows left with stuffing intact. Why? One of my family’s favorite ways to relieve stress is by whacking the ever-loving poop out of our mattresses with them.
There’s something soothing about screaming, “I. Am. So. Angry. Right. Now” while beating the fluff out of an inanimate object to punctuate each end mark. My kiddos took to the idea like ducks.
We express our frustration in other ways, too. Sometimes, we’ll put on tunes and dance like dervishes until we collapse, exhausted, on the living room rug. Hey, we’re burning calories along with frustration, and we aren’t hurting anyone. Plus, the exercise bathes our bodies in feel-good endorphins. When tough times call, let science answer.
5. Yoga & Meditation Are for Everyone. Every mom needs time to herself, and I used to get a bit tense when my eldest wanted to practice yoga with me. 2020 taught me that mindful activity benefits everyone, not only those over the age of 18.
Since she’s young, she’ll meditate for one minute for each year of her age. I can see the improvement in her behavior. I’m glad that I introduced her to my practice, even if she only partially participates. It gives her valuable coping skills for later in life.
6. The Best Things in Life Are Free. We loved our local library before the pandemic, but we adore the curbside pick-up options since it broke. While it’s not as fun to browse virtual bookshelves as real-life ones, I know that doing so keeps us safe.
Although we’re doing okay financially, we aren’t rich. We did cut back considerably to save cash during these trying times. However, my eldest now adores playing her kid-sized version of “Chopped.” I consider myself a culinary whiz, but it’s even more impressive to see what she does with the leftovers in her “basket.”
7. Cherish Every Precious Moment with Your Little Ones. If there’s one lesson that 2020 taught me more than anything, it’s to cherish those I love. It’s not the first time I thought about the importance of always telling family members you care before leaving in the morning. I felt nervous after each school shooting. However, while you can see a gunman, you can’t visualize a microscopic virus or where it may lurk.
There are no certainties in life, and another day with your precious loved ones isn’t guaranteed. Instead of groaning at another day of cabin fever, cherish the increased time you have with those you hold dearest. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that you never know when you’d give anything to have those moments back.
And while I’ll be glad to see 2020 end on January 1, 2021, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. What has this crazy year taught you and your family?