Jeannie Cunnion: Coronavirus – Lessons from a mom of 5 about parenting in a pandemic

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We’ve survived week two of social distancing, and homeschooling, but I still feel like I’m mostly stumbling around coming to terms with our new reality.

We don’t know a thing about homeschooling our five boys who range in age from three to twenty-three but we’re doing our best (although can we really call what we’re doing “homeschooling” since our kids still have teachers doing the hard work of creating and grading their work?)

This feels like the right time to pause to praise teachers everywhere! God bless them all. May we never again take them for granted.

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As I’ve scrolled social media and spent hours on the phone with friends, it’s become clear that some moms feel like they’re crushing it right now and other moms feel like they’re being crushed.

I know moms who are savoring this season and I know moms who are barely surviving. To be honest, where I land depends on the hour of the day (and, well, the number of hysterical memes that have been texted to me) but more often than not, I have found myself having to fight to find the good.

But as we‘ve learned new rhythms and put new systems in place to survive parenting in this pandemic, I’ve begun to wonder, “What if we want to do more than just survive this? What if I can actually parent well in this pandemic? What would it look like to take small steps toward finding the good and practicing gratitude each day?  What if we used this time to learn how to love each other better, live slower, and serve others more?  What if we lowered the bar of impossible standards and really learned what it means to give ourselves grace?”

We didn’t choose this virus, but we do have a choice in how we will steward this time, and how we will allow it to shape us and impact our families, for better or worse.

This is where I’ve landed, granted it’s taken me weeks to get here: if we remember – and rely on – the supernatural strength of God, we will not only GET through this, we will GROW through it.

Rather than only seeing the mountain in front of me, and complaining, “No this semi-quarantine can’t be happening” my inner dialogue has shifted to “Lord, what’s your invitation to me? To us?”

We didn’t choose this virus, but we do have a choice in how we will steward this time, and how we will allow it to shape us and impact our families, for better or worse. 

Not wanting to be quarantined doesn’t mean I don’t love my crew, because I do. I really enjoy my crew, but this situation is so layered.

I know they learn better at school and do better with organized sports. I know they miss their friends and I miss date nights with my man.

But two weeks has shown me how many of my long-time prayers are being answered through this pandemic.

For one, my boys are bonding and becoming more than brothers. They are becoming better friends (though this has been not without its usual blow-ups!) Just keeping it real! There have been other answered prayers, but even If their evolving friendship was the lone benefit, it would be enough.

Among the most hilarious posts I’ve seen about how parents are fighting to survive, I’ve also read posts that break my heart.

We parents sometimes forget our kids have ears, and eyes, and feelings, and we post words that suggest we’d rather die than be trapped in our homes with our children because we have far more important things to be doing, or because they are simply intolerable.

I get it. This is hard, and I’ve done my fair share of entrusting my frustrations to friends in private texts.

Parenting under normal circumstances is hard enough, but this is the next level. I’ve had to “take a moment” more times than I can count. But let’s not forget our kids are listening - and learning - about what we value and where our hope comes from.

Meanwhile, we have our own real worries and big fears to manage. You know what I’m talking about.

You still have bills to pay and jobs to do – or you’ve lost your job. There are also neighbors to care for and parents to look after.

What has been profoundly helpful for me is remembering that God remains sovereign over it all. He isn’t freaking out and He hasn’t checked out.

My husband still has a company to run and I still have a book deadline to meet. So while I may not know your unique pressures in this pandemic, I know we both carry the responsibility of framing our pressures in a healthy way so our children have a strong sense of stability and hopefulness in our homes.

How we model managing our own anxiety will have a meaningful impact on how our kids manage theirs.

What has been profoundly helpful for me is remembering that God remains sovereign over it all. He isn’t freaking out and He hasn’t checked out.

He is still wholly good and in control. He is not to blame for our suffering, but He will bring good from it, and He will bring hearts back to Himself through it. We read this promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “For if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

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We already see it happening. There will be a breakthrough. Grace will prevail. This is a conversation worth inviting our children into!

So I will leave us with this word of encouragement for parenting in a pandemic.

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There is grace for us. We will say things we wish we could take back. Yes, we will do this because we will feel like we’re falling apart. And we will make mistakes.  And we will have regrets. And this won’t mean we’re bad moms or bad dads (because we will feel like we are!) and it won’t mean we don’t love our children with all we are (because we wholeheartedly do!). It just means we’re human and we need the supernatural strength of God like never before!

Also, we don’t have to be all the things. We actually can’t. Our role in this season isn’t to be our child’s Savior. Our role to be their imperfect parent. And even on the days when we feel like we’re doing a terrible job, I bet we’re doing better than we think.

If our children know they are loved by us, and more importantly by God, we are doing a good job. We are doing enough.

Everything we need to meet the demands of this new season are given to us by God. He will manifest His strength in our weakness.  He will stand by us and uphold us through the power of His Spirit within us. “Our God of hope will fill us with all joy and peace so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

As we navigate the unknowns, and we feel pushed past our limits, and we look in the mirror only to find our face worn and weary with the day’s demands, let’s turn to God’s Word and read the relief God promises and find the strength God provides.

Who God is, which is sovereign, and what He gives us, which is grace, is enough to carry us through this.

When we’re exhausted and overwhelmed He wants us to rely on Him to be all that we need. Parenting is actually meant to— designed to —deepen our dependence on Him so that our children can witness what is only possible through the power of God.

So can all the mamas and papas agree to a whole lot of grace in the days ahead? Grace for ourselves and grace for our kids.

Giving ourselves grace might mean our kids will have too much screen time on some days. Our laundry baskets will overflow. Our refrigerators will be bare. Our tempers will flare.  But somewhere in there let’s remember we can say sorry, we can be met by new mercy every morning, and we can still love extravagantly because love covers a multitude of mistakes.

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We don’t have to be perfect for our kids, we just have to point them to the One who still is.

We are free from the pressure to pull this off perfectly, and in letting go of the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves, we just might find ourselves enjoying what we’ve stopped trying to control.

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