When morning comes, my chest tightens.
This is when I will have to put on a brave face for my kids. When I will have to think about how I’m going to navigate teaching them something—anything—today while also working and worrying. I worry about money, and my parents. I worry about what isolation will do to everyone’s mental health. I worry about what I’m doing to help stop this. I even worry over whether or not I’ve let my kids see any of this in my body language. In my face.
When morning comes, my daughters come out of their bedrooms with the same bedhead and rumpled pyjamas they had before all of this started. They have the same creases on their soft cheeks from the pillow. They look and sound and feel the same as they did before all of this. But I can’t help but wonder about what’s inside.
Inside, how are they feeling about the fact that activities and school are over, that they can’t give their grandparents a hug or play their friends, that the local park has been caution-taped, that they still need to learn school work from parents who are stressed out.
While we’re relaxing our rules on screen time, getting outside into fresh air (but away from others), baking for comfort and pushing our bad dreams deep down, are we doing enough? Are the kids all right?
I fell apart and allowed myself to cry this morning. I tried to hide it from them, but my kids could hear it in the way my voice cracked and wobbled. They could see it in my eyes, rimmed with red. My middle daughter had asked me about fractions and there was something in my brain that just stopped. The reasoning, the rational, the side of my brain that could push everything else away and just do a fraction was no longer there.
“I’m trying, but I don’t really know what to do,” I said. And then I cried.
I cried because who knows when this is going to end? Who knows if we’re doing enough? Who knows when frontline workers will be safe again, or when we won’t have to worry every day about our elderly parents and neighbours? Who knew how amazing teachers were? (I knew.) Who knows if you have to wash your groceries or not, or how far six feet is or if a walk outside is okay? Who knows how to do fractions anymore?
I cried and my daughter stood up from where she was on the ground and hugged me. She wrapped her thin little arms around my neck and buried her face into my shoulder and she cried a little, too. And then she was done. As quick as she was upset, it was over. Her eyes went round with excitement when she asked me if we could go out in the backyard and fill up our birdfeeder. She asked me if she could play Roblox with her friends later. She asked me if she should make her next drawing purple or red. And then, when I apologized for crying and being so stressed out, she told me it was okay.
“It will all be okay,” she said.
And it will. Because the kids will keep us grounded. The kids will keep us focused. The kids are resilient and stronger than we know. If we all do our part, this will all be over eventually and we’ll learn a new normal. It’s scary and stressful and unknown. But for now, I thank my lucky stars for the kids.
For now, I really believe that the kids are all right.