Updated: Sep 12
And other life lessons my mother taught me (applicable to COVID-19)
While the tag line above gives credit to my mother, in truth it was our parakeet, Percy Bluebell, who used to chirp, “Two and two is three!” But it was Mom who taught him to say it.
The message here is that sometimes — like now, in the midst of an international pandemic — it’s important to show our children that humor matters, that looking on the light side of life can be life-saving, and that life will go on (even if two plus two really equals four).
We are all anxious now, naturally, watching our schools, stores, restaurants, community centers, and churches close due to the coronavirus. It’s important to stay informed (wash your hands, don’t touch your face, maintain social distancing, stay home!), of course, but it’s also important to know when to take a break and turn off the news.
I spoke this week with Germaine Ng, regional design manager for Pottery Barn in the San Francisco Bay Area. She gave me permission to share her story, and this is what she told me.
Germaine and her son Oliver are at home in Pacific Grove, Calif., adjusting to a “new normal” apart from work and Oliver’s Waldorf School. Germaine has a huge job that keeps her away from her son, sometimes for days at a time. Both Germaine and Oliver have ADHD, so the burden of homeschooling could (you would think) be especially onerous for them.
Instead, they are choosing to view the forced shutdown of “shelter-in-place” as an adventure, something to be cherished and appreciated. “We never get to wake up together and snuggle,” says Germaine, “I am embracing this time together. I spend so much time working, getting to stay home is very unusual for us.”
Germaine reports that Oliver is a “brilliant” world traveler, an 8-year-old boy who can easily navigate 17-hour flights to Singapore and his mother’s native Malaysia. Despite learning and motor challenges, he becomes the tour guide when they travel, reading flight boards, finding their gate, maneuvering through customs and baggage claim.
Oliver now works with his mom to create daily schedules, dividing activities (writing, drawing, quiet time) and breaks (yoga, playtime, snack) into 20-minute increments measured by his favorite lemon-shaped timer. It’s not easy, but he loves being part of the process in planning their days. They say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, and he’s learning the national anthem.
According to Mark Reinecke, PhD, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, parents need to prevent kids from dwelling on worst-case scenarios: “Keep a sense of perspective, engage in solution-focused thinking and balance this with mindful acceptance.” If you catch yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, step away and take a break. Get some fresh air, call a friend, take a few deep breaths.
My wish is that this crisis will bring us closer together, even as it keeps us apart. Try to find the positive in our shared social distancing experience —as Germaine says, “It’s an adventure!”— and enjoy this rare time sheltered in place with our children and loved ones.
So hug your kids, go for a hike, watch TV, bake cookies, play board games, snuggle like Germaine and Oliver, love them, reassure them, let them play video games. Our kids need to know that they’re safe, and it’s our job to protect them. That’s enough for now.
This too shall pass, and remember…sometimes two and two IS three.
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Written by Charlene Margot, M.A., Founder and CEO, The Parent Venture. Palo Alto native, mom of two young adults, lifelong advocate of kids, schools, and families.