“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” - Charles Dickens
One year ago today was our first day of School at Home. “We just need two weeks to flatten the curve,” they said. And then it became three weeks. And then they stopped telling us how long it would be until our kids went back to school. But we knew the school year was over. What we didn’t know was how to talk to our kids about it. So we started saying things like “we just have to stay home until the germs are gone” and “we have to wait a little longer to see our teachers/friends/grandparents/babysitters/aunts/uncles/counsins.”
But here’s the thing: kids are really smart. They know when something is wrong. They know when you’re trying to watch the news on your phone in the other room. They’re unsettled when they can't go with you to the grocery store and ride in the police car shopping cart. They notice that you’re keeping track of how many days it’s been since they’ve left the house and they think it’s weird and kind of scary when you pile them in on day 11 to drive around the neighborhood simply for a change of scenery.
Things get even weirder when they start to color sort everything in your house that isn’t nailed down. Or when they can’t leave a room without lining up every single mini farm animal in perfectly straight rows. Or when they cry when it’s time to go for a car ride because it’s been too many days and now they don’t want to leave the house. It’s weird when they start a sentence with “Mommy, when the germs are gone can we….” Or when you ask them about school and if they have any new friends and they say “I can’t tell if she likes me because I can’t see her face.” As a parent, it doesn't take long to add up all of these weird behaviors and realize your kids have anxiety.
For the past year, the phrase I keep hearing is: “kids are resilient” and yet the tiny piece of the picture I've painted above is very much not resilience.
Resilience: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Let's give that definition a quick break down. No one has recovered yet because there’s still a global pandemic. The adjustments our kids have made have not been easy. I wouldn’t call a global pandemic a misfortune or change. I’d call it a global pandemic - something our parents and grandparents did not experience, therefore, no one living today could have properly prepared us all for.
Can we just be done saying “kids are resilient”? Please? I'm begging. Because moving forward, we actually have no idea how kids will continue to develop and grow as a result of living through a pandemic in their childhood years. And because right now, they're not resilient. They're brave and anxious and uncertain and nervous and they're just trying to get through each day - same as the grownups.
My kids have it pretty darn good. They live in a safe home with two devoted and loving parents. They have access to books and toys and games and educational stimulation. They have parents who are hell bent on making sure their needs are met – physically and emotionally. They go to small private schools and have been back in school full-time since September. And they have still struggled this whole past year. They have not adjusted easily whatsoever. They're surviving.
And what about the kids who are/were stuck at home with parents or caregivers who abuse or neglect them? Or the kids who don’t have access to enough food, let alone books or toys or friends? Are those kids resilient? Should they be? NO. They should not "easily adjust" to that level of misfortune in an effort to meet the resilience expectation. These kids are surviving. When we say "kids are resilient" it implies that kids need less attention when problems arise, and that they'll simply "bounce back."
But that couldn't be farther from the truth. We simply can't forget that we're in uncharted waters – today, and every day from here on out. We have no benchmark to compare this to BECAUSE WE’VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. We can't apply a blanket catch phrase and expectation to an entire generation of children who are actively surviving a global pandemic.
That is not to say these kiddos of ours are weak, or that they wont one day show us they are in fact resilient….I’m certain they will. But we’re not there yet. We shouldn’t be there yet. We’re still very much in the trenches of it and it’s up to us to navigate this alongside them, rather than expecting them to meet old expectations amidst unprecedented times.
So please, I beg you. Stop saying kids are resilient and just let them be kids: tiny people who need us to see that they are doing their best to survive.