I am the mother of a brilliantly strong-willed 3-year-old girl. I am also one of the biggest control freaks I know. I like things to be in their place, for computer programs to work and for things to run as smoothly as possible at all times. I like an organized schedule and a plan for the day. So when something doesn’t go as planned, it is a struggle for me, and I have to work every day to learn, grow and develop my parenting and leadership skills in all areas of my life to become more resilient. But it has been from my child who I have learned the most about resiliency in the past three months.
We all have adversity in life, and ironically I was dealing with some right as COVID-19 hit. This disease took our world and flipped it upside down. The transition almost overnight to having a dedicated office space (that I had just finished decorating) and traveling weekly to locations to having a laptop at home with my "threenager" was radical to say the least.
The difference here is we all went into crisis parenting, without any preparation or planning. Children were moved home, away from friends, teachers, mentors and activities they enjoyed and were accustomed to having. We had more work to do than we ever dreamed about, and we were doing it while our children ran around the house, drew on themselves, painted their own nails, made messes and looked for other ways to keep themselves busy.
I needed some calm in the storm and asked for patience because I wasn’t the parent I wanted to be and wasn’t using skills and techniques I learned and practiced being in the field for more than 15 years. My child basically told me she was going to handle this her own way, not my way, and it was going to be OK.
During this time I relied on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Tough situations can make you rigid, less flexible and angry. I had to remember the same God that brought me a beautiful blessing was also who is with me when we have to make tough decisions and go through hard things.
Resiliency is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. Life throws curve balls at us all, and children are typically the most resilient in the family. Once I took a step back and realized my child was adjusting well to her new environment and new normal the best way she knew how was the moment I realized I was not! Can you imagine? She helped me change my thought process in the day-to-day and continued to build my patience. If I was busy, she could figure out different ways to keep herself entertained. When she needed me or I could take breaks, we had a good time together, laughing, joking, saying hi to everyone on Zoom and building new castles.
God has given us a blessing during this time. We have all been able to slow down our busy lives and have more dedicated time with our families.
Throughout the pandemic I have seen many posts from families describing time spent in the home learning cooking skills, going on hikes and taking family bike rides. Sometimes God doesn’t just whisper what we need; he makes us drink from a firehose.
Kids have loved being at home with parents playing all day and making messes. They don’t see the time as stressful and exhausting. They see this time with siblings and parents as extra quality time they can soak up. I truly believe our children will remember this season with affection when they grow older because of what they have received during this time. Across social media, you see families enjoying each other more and more as we continue to appreciate and spend time on things that matter.
My little one also taught me about loss. We lost immediate family members and a long-time family pet during COVID-19. Seeing loss and Jesus through the eyes of a child is precious, and I’m so thankful we were able to be home together when loss happened this year. Any time they are remembered, we also remember they are with Jesus. Those conversations are tough to have with children as they struggle with the finality and abstract quality of death. In her questions, my strength and resiliency came. Discussions on seeing them again, where heaven is located (it’s on the moon in case anyone was wondering) and remembering to thank the Lord when you have had losses.
Looking at the past several years I wonder how my little one has continued to be so happy, loving and joyful in all she does. I am reminded of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Teaching and learning about our Lord is something we focus on daily at home and work. We must remember we can make it through hard times, and it makes us better. Fear should not be in the equation of our success story. Talking about scary things and letting go when you want to grip harder take faith and trust. But when we practice such things, we find great resiliency and our children show us how to do it day in and day out.
Whether your children have started back to school or will start soon, and whether they do school virtually or go back in a face-to-face environment, be patient with yourself, their teachers and your children. We will adapt and all do our best. Ask the Lord for guidance and help as you navigate unchartered territories and know you are not alone in the journey.
Written by Jennifer Petersen, regional director of foster care and adoption in West Texas for Buckner International.