Such Good Memories

Apr 3 2020

How to change your lockdown experience

Several years ago, on the way home from holiday, with an empty wallet and a full car (why is the car always so disorganised on way home? Probably because we’re not very motivated to go back to work the next day…) we were driving along, quietly lulled by the music. Our three young children were in the back seat entertaining themselves. The afternoon sun invited daydreaming. Suddenly, an explosion broke the hum of the engine and a plume of black smoke suddenly escaped from under the hood. Panic inside. An emergency stop on the side of the road, looks of consternation… The worries had begun for Mum and Dad. Welcome to the Parents’ Club!

However, despite our adults experience of the breakdown, the stress, the total improvisation, the children literally loved this adventure because they have such good memories of it.

They remember that, due to lack of space in the tiny motel that we had found in the middle of the countryside, the five of us had to squeeze into one big bed (sooo cool when you’re little!). They remember the mega pillow fight we had with them, the cab of the truck that gave us a ride, the incredible jolts it made on the dirt road, the ‘spectacular’ spider we watched together in a window, the French fries we ate with our fingers, the ice cream’s interesting flavour, the improvised ‘walk’ through the vineyards at sunset, and the stories of wild animals told to add a bit of thrill… while unbeknownst to them, we were struggling to cope with the problems that were piling up.

Today, an invisible and silent virus is brutally interrupting our daily routine, bringing disorganisation, anxiety, its share of worries and improvisation. A big “bang” in our precise schedules that were so carefully balanced. We have to deal with the most urgent matters, review our priorities, take turns, take up this almost impossible challenge of working from home while looking after children…

Rather than taking our uncertainties and frustrations out on them, what if everyone decided to turn this anxiety-provoking episode into a great memory for their children?

Improvise an igloo tent in the middle of the living room with a duvet cover? Choose an armchair together with a red blanket and give it the pompous title of “cuddle throne“? (As soon as a child sits on it, the parent passing by will understand the message…)

And what about their need for exercise when you’re confined to your home? Build a maze of chairs, a family gym session on the living room carpet, a dance contest with lively music (push the furniture to one side, the winner is the one who dances non-stop for 15 minutes), a “praise” workshop with some unlikely instruments, put a mattress on the floor and turn it into a tatami mat…

Then a meal prep workshop all together, home schooling for the older children and a nap or making a pasta necklace for the little ones… You can take this opportunity to talk to them about God through each activity: geography, cooking, dance, mathematics (that’s right!). Telling them how He built the world, orchestrated the dance of the stars in the sky, how He answers your prayers, the last thing He taught you… having this influence 24 hours a day, can you imagine the impact this can have on them?

How can we do this practically?

  1. Let’s place our worries and concerns at the foot of the cross. Let’s unburden ourselves on the shoulders of our Father – not on our children.
  2. Let’s call upon His infinite resources (in terms of creativity, isn’t He the champion?) What do I need?
  3. Let’s listen to and discern the strategies that the Holy Spirit will suggest to us in response to our difficulties.
  4. Fatigue being the number one enemy of any parent, it is time to sort out everything that takes up our time. We need to redefine our true priorities and be centred on the essential.
  5. Good communication with our spouses will help to plan each day well (deciding what most needs doing, taking turns, sharing tasks…) according to how much each of us can do and taking into account the needs of the children.

Then, why not share with other parents the resources and good ideas that have worked? (For that, long live social media!).

Through the multiple challenges we face, the responsibility of being a parent is sometimes heavy to bear. But whatever the circumstances, if we allow God to stretch us, then out of love for our children we will grow in patience. We will learn to let go. We will develop the art of adapting to the unexpected (probably every parent has a lot of funny anecdotes to tell about this).

Because it’s not just a question of making sure they wash their hands thoroughly… Let’s protect our children emotionally first! To do this, let’s not forget that our choice of inner attitude can transform these difficult and totally confusing moments for us into great memories for them.

Esther Pardini
Paris Campus