Oonagh with sons 02

Give Your­self a Break

by Oonagh Delaney

These last few weeks (turned months) have changed us all. I hope no one in your life has been immutably altered by the illness of someone dear to you. As we continue to move forward in this unknown and strange period, you may expe­ri­ence more anxiety. We are respon­si­ble for those around us, and likely some of us are having to care for little ones as well as for older parents or loved ones. Taking care of others while social distanc­ing has brought massive new chal­lenges to the daily demands of parent­ing, whilst trying to meet our own needs. 

Recently I had a long Face­Time with a former student’s parent. She was exhausted, phys­i­cally, emotion­ally, and mentally. She had nothing left to give to anyone. She slumped forward in surren­der in tears that were not the cause of her own unmet needs, they were reflec­tive of her profound worry. She told me, I’m just so, so nervous of f#%^ing it up, I love him so, so much!” She then described a list of things that she felt she was supposed” to do. Her list included: some online learn­ing (but not too much), a good amount of time outside (but without getting too close to anyone), time playing the never-ending board games, card games, puzzles, reading, science exper­i­ments, and crafts. There would be a check-in from well-meaning teach­ers to make sure she was on top of her child’s work, which only added to the anxiety. She worried aloud that only some things on the list were getting done, and not done well, or only half-heart­edly, and that she was an utter failure. And, oh! The sheer monot­ony of it! Day in and day out! My God, will this ever end?

I’ve had these conver­sa­tions with parents before, many in fact, but never under such exten­u­at­ing circum­stances as these. I told her what I always tell over­whelmed and worried parents, and what I also want to tell you: Your child just wants you to be happy.” That’s it! Honestly! Nothing else! 

Do you remem­ber as a child a time that you were maybe on a family vaca­tion that should have been fun, but despite being at Disney­land or Six Flags, in Chicago or Bora Bora (no, me neither), that one, or both, of your parents was miser­able or angry, frus­trated or irri­tated, prob­a­bly by unmet expec­ta­tions? These are the moments that stick in your mind as a child. Not Disney­land, not Six Flags, not Bora Bora, but the sadness brought on by a parent’s unhappiness. 

You need to give your­self a break. In this current moment, this could look like turning off the news, reading a book without pictures, telling your child to go play in their room alone for a while, and then doing what­ever it is that makes you feel happy. Throw out the rule book, which was inci­den­tally thrown together four weeks ago by people also just making it up as they went along. Your child will gain more secu­rity, the ability to cope in adverse situ­a­tions, and the under­stand­ing that, yes, life does change, and we can adapt. They will be secure knowing that we are okay. 

The old adage, If Momma (or Daddy) ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” has never been more apt. Let go of some of your worries over the list of undone, ease back into some new normalcy that doesn’t include Zooming to help your kid finish their geography assignment. 

Oonagh is Waverly’s Preschool Direc­tor. She has one student in 12th grade at Waverly and two Waverly graduates.