Suddenly Your Older Kids are Home.
One silver lining: quarantine is a chance to spend extended quality time with your kids that have supposedly flown the coop.
There seems to be an age gap in coping with COVID-19. I don’t mean who is more susceptible or who is more likely to follow the stay-at-home rules. I think we all know the answers to those questions. I’m looking at it from the perspective of parents. As I watch my children who are themselves the parents of young kids, I see their struggles. I see how difficult it is. Each day is long, each day is challenging. Each night requires large bowls of ice cream of whatever goodie they baked that day! They need comfort; they need quiet time. They need to relax and rejuvenate in order to face the next day’s onslaught.
But for myself and my peers who have unmarried children living at home, college-age or young professionals, it’s a rare treat. It’s a chance to spend extended quality time with our kids that had supposedly already flown the coop – kids in school, kids with jobs, kids with out-of-town internships – now they’re all home. And, as one friend of mine put it, “It’s a do-over.” You get to be that all-attentive parent you maybe weren’t when they were younger. You get to be more patient, you have more time available, you can play more games, share more meals, engage in many more meaningful discussions. It’s a special opportunity – and most of my peers are reveling in it.
Is there any way to reconcile these two very different perspectives? When I try to imagine how I would have responded if I have been trapped at home with all my children when they were young, I find myself reaching for the ice cream at the very thought! And yet, I think that there is something to learn from us old folks. When they see how much we value our experience with our adult children, how precious it is to have this bonus time with them, maybe it can affect the attitude of the young parents. It won’t change the daily grind and effort but maybe if they can see from us, hear from us how quickly the time really does go by, how we frequently wish we could recapture some of those moments, they will be able to step back and enjoy them more, value them more.
They will still be tired and overwhelmed and probably end up dropping at least one of the many balls they are juggling – but instead of feeling resentful maybe they’ll feel grateful, grateful for their own mini do-over, their own chance to have time with their children who had been out of the home 8 hours a day, whose education and socialization had been given over to teachers and schools. Now it’s all back in their parents’ hands.
Additionally, in our isolated world, play time is only with siblings which can of course lead to…yes, many fights but also many moments of closeness as well. They will create a bond not available in “normal” times.
As we are constantly being reminded, our children will also remember their “coronavirus experience.” It’s up to us how they remember it – was it a time of wonderful family bonding despite the external challenges, did we all rise to meet the occasion and even become better through it – or, God forbid, not?
Each generation has its struggles and its opportunities. They’re not the same but they still exist. We can learn from each other and we can grow on our own. No one challenge is superior or inferior to another. No one opportunity is better or worse than another. The point is that we continue to move forward and that we are able to find within empathy and compassion for the generation not ours and their challenges, as well as for ourselves!