Today, it finally happened. My strong, resilient, self-sufficient, independent, loving, strong, caring, 10- (almost 11)-year-old 5th grader finally broke down.
This entire time (67 DAYS!), since she unknowingly walked out of her elementary classroom for the very last time on March 13, all the way up to this 9th week of being quarantined and physically isolating from every single person she knows (aside from our little family of five); my baby finally allowed her emotions to pour out of her sweet soul and truly feel all of the feelings that her young mind has been overwhelmed with the past few weeks.
Early in the afternoon, after yet another pointless argument with her siblings, and having to be reprimanded more than once, this little mini-me doled out that perfect amount of sass and attitude with a little bit of a raised voice that is needed to successfully flip that switch in me that turns me from a semi-calm momma to semi-rage machine, resulting in even more yelling (zero mommy points awarded).
A few moments later, she came and found me in the kitchen as I was preparing lunch. This amazing girl of mine had sought me out to apologize to me (cue heart-bursting love coursing through my veins) and make things right. I looked at her, knowing that the previous argument was deeper than what it seemed and I asked her why she had lost her cool.
She looked at me and with tears forming in her eyes, she told me, “It’s just that normally I would be playing with all of my friends right now.” And my heart ached.
I pulled her in to embrace her, wrapping her arms around me for a tighter hug and told her that it is okay to feel this. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be in pain. And to be sad. It is okay to hurt and to not be okay. And she had a good solid sob in my arms, then gave a long exhale and stepped back.
“Now, don’t you feel so much better after telling me what was wrong?” I asked. “It’s okay to realize that this sucks right now and things aren’t how they should be. But they will be, someday. And we can look forward to that. And in the meantime we can continue to Zoom with our friends and conduct socially distant visits with your grandparents. And we’ll all be okay, because we did what was right.”
She nodded, wiping her eyes and asked me if we could go out for a solo drive later in the day — just the two of us. I quickly agreed, looking forward to a rare outing alone with my firstborn.
After finishing lunch and my daughter retrieving all of the art supplies for her siblings’ craft with daddy (our only way of freeing ourselves from the youngest members of our “Quaranteam”), we jumped in the car. She chose her music playlist and we headed out for one of her first trips to a store in the past couple of months so she could pick out a special birthday outfit for next week.
During our ride, we chatted, we sang, we danced, we laughed and we felt carefree. We talked about the prior day, when the kids were able to come along for their first trip to Nana and Papa’s house to deliver supplies. She told me it was so nice just being able to be near her grandparents and to be at their house — even if it was not the same as normal. That just their presence alone had eased her.
As we drove, I thought about all of the special events that students are missing out on, especially my 5th grader, who has been looking forward to graduating from elementary school. And I was once again shocked that it took this long for her to fully open up and allow her emotions to show.
In the car, our errands complete, I asked her how she felt. I asked if she felt rejuvenated, calm? If she felt ready to go back home. And, just the same as me, she was. We both felt it, a serene lightness. A burden unloaded.
To try to put into words the pride I feel in my daughter for the growth and potential I saw in her today would be impossible. Today, for a little while, my daughter was the guide and I, the follower. I paid close attention to her subtle tells and looked beneath the surface of the problem to find a more successful approach at helping her to cope with so much change and the emotions which all of this change has inflicted.
While we slowly begin to transition into reopenings, new protocols, different standards, and alterations in procedure, remember to diligently remain aware on how these changes and societal adjustments are affecting our children’s psyche. Keep an eye and an open heart on your babies at all times, and make it known to them that you are available for questions and conversation at any time.
Our children’s minds are under a great deal of stress right now, we as parents, must help unload that burden.