In 2019 my husband and I were at the top of our parenting game.
We were patient, we were consistent and we never yelled.
Our kids were the best of friends.
We had all the right tools in our parenting toolbox. The kids knew our strategies by heart.
Step away from the situation, get down to their level, deep breaths, talk it through. Establish what we will do differently next time. Hug it out.
Predictable routines and clear boundaries.
We guffawed at those “you’ll see when you have kids” doomsdayers.
Then came the March Break that never ended.
March 2020. The break that nearly broke us. Covid-19.
We started out strong. Family projects, nature walks, bread-making. I mean, how long could this realistically go on for?
Then days turned into weeks.
I was under extreme pressure at work to craft quick turnaround communications delineating who could and could not visit their loved ones in the hospital.
My husband had just sold his business of 15 years to start up a new one that targeted birthday party business owners. No one was having birthday parties.
Hey, at least the kids were occupied with virtual school, right?
My daughter’s junior kindergarten teacher performed an incredible disappearing act. Her new puppy was just so much work.
My son’s life mission was to enable every possible Zoom feature and crash our prehistoric Chromebook.
Everyone needed a snack at all times.
I morphed into one of those “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” deplorables.
Since playdates and neighbourhood hangs were off the table, the kids had only each other (and us when able) to play with.
Eventually they grew bored of each other (and us).
That’s when the yelling started.
The kids yelled at us, yelled at each other, we yelled at the kids.
As parents, we could see where we were going wrong, but lacked the energy to do it right.
Our windows stayed closed that spring for obvious reasons.
And while we somehow managed to survive, those lockdowns broke us a little.
That one-week adult vacation we took last year was glorious, but it did not magically undo 3 years of unrelenting emotional exhaustion.
The things we found annoying about each other continue to be annoying.
My kids, running on 3 years of rehearsing the same fight scripts, can’t seem to break free from them.
Whose turn it is to sweep the floor and whose turn it is to wipe the table.
Which kid is accidentally wearing the other kid’s socks that I accidentally put in the wrong drawer “to ruin their life”.
And if I hear my son fidgeting with that airpod case one more time I swear to god I’m going to–
Where was I going with this?
You’re thinking that my kids would have reached this point in their relationship regardless, right? Don’t all siblings eventually?
Probably. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Covid lockdowns hastened these less desirable family dynamics.
And we’re among the lucky ones.
When I see some of the challenges my parent-friends are facing; screen-addicted children, children struggling with anxieties, I realize our kids came out of covid relatively unscathed.
So yesterday, after I shrilly yelled “If you say mommy one more time that lollipop is going straight into the garbage” we found ourselves face-to-face with my pregnant neighbour.
“Tough day?” she asked.
“You’ll see when you have kids” I spluttered.