2020: The Year We Should Have Seen Coming, in HindsightJul 10, 2020
They say hindsight is 20/20. How incredibly ironic and prophetic it is then, that this year of tumult we are in right now is the year "2020."
...as in the year we should have seen coming, in hindsight.
Living through all that is happening right now sometimes feels other-worldly, confusing, and out of nowhere. But is it really?
COVID-19 is the problem at hand. But not entirely. It is actually the domino problem that sets in motion all the other problems that were already perfectly poised to create this mess. This virus doesn't just expose the limits of our immune systems; it exposes the precariousness and underlying ill health of our society. The strain is everywhere: the underfunding of our hospitals, uneven access to health care, the inability of our federal and our local governments to agree, the deeply entrenched racism still very much alive in our country, food insecurity, financial discrepancies between the insured and the uninsured, and the politicization of scientific inquiry.
Climate change is also an undeniable part of this story. Both as a potential causal factor, but also now as an undeniably clear call to action to face the realities of our effect on the environment. Look at the blue skies, the cleaner waters, all a direct result of our lessened oil consumption and travel. Some have even posited that perhaps we humans are the virus and the "virus" is the planet's antibody - against us humans. And yet, our world will someday return to its "normal" state of accepted dysfunction, and at that point the question will be: "Did we learn what we needed to and make the changes we should have, or will we forget it all only to have to have another crisis that forces us to listen better next time?"
What does all of this have to do with parenting? A whole heck of a lot.
(If you want more on this subject listen to this recent Mother Flipping Awesome podcast episode about how political everyday parenting really is, whether you realize it or not.)
We parents are feeling this state of affairs acutely: worried about our aging parents, torn between jobs that still needs us (if we are lucky) and children that need us now more than ever, schools that still need our support though they cannot provide all of what we need anymore, and marriages that are even more burdened by practicalities and lack of space and time than before.
Now, all that said, it's not all bad. There is something to be said for all of this enforced family time, the lack ( or dearth ) of outside distractions, the reorientation towards the priorities of health and connection with our loved ones.
All of which would be lovelier if we had the time and financial security to really enjoy it. If our jobs better understood the needs of 24/7 parenting, and our kids understood the need to do our jobs! If parenting itself as a JOB were more respected. If our schools had more governmental support, and financial ability to pivot, if families had better communication skills and we didn't have to worry about people getting so stressed that they wind up fighting under the same roof, with nowhere to go.
This year, as strange as it is, is NOT new. It is a hypermagnification of all that was already in progress.
This virus is the problem that so brazenly exposes the roots of all our other problems. This year is the harvest of all that has been planted, and we can't just stop it. We have to somehow understand all of it, and then address all the separate threads that have gotten us to this point.
I am neither a politician, nor a doctor, nor a schoolteacher. My sphere of influence in this great messy human garden of ours is in the realm of family relationships. And so it is in this arena that I double down my commitment to do what I can to help spread love and ease and health and harmony.
When I work with families they sometimes tell me, "Well it is really hard now with my 3-year-old but we are waiting it out. I am sure it's just a phase and time will make it better." What I want to say to this is that yes, there are developmental phases, but more than anything we must remember that what time really does is magnify our current realities. So whatever skills our children are or are not learning will over time become their habits, for better and for worse. And the same can be said about our parenting.
So if things are not feeling right in your home, yes, you can defer dealing with it, but where does that leave you?
Whatever the early years have been will come home to roost in the teenage years. I call those the "get back" years. So if you gave your child a lot of love and cooperation and respect for limits, then that is what you get back. If however the early years were filled with power struggles you won only because you were bigger, well then, what happens when you are no longer bigger? Lots of control leads to lots of pushback. Connection and skills lead to capability and confidence.
As we see with Covid-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, the mess we hide under the table doesn't disappear. It festers.
More than anything, I have the sense that this time is asking us to get ever more in line with our values, and to see the clear link between what we plant and what we harvest.
• To rise up and say no to what feels wrong and say yes to doing the work to make it all right.
• To stay safe, not just by avoiding the world but by actually building a less toxic one to begin with.
And yes, I know you are tired and already dealing with a LOT on your plate. And I know you parents may sometimes feel like, man I have nothing to do with any of this; I am just sitting here, covered in goldfish-cracker-spit-up, trying to make it through the day.
But HOW you make it through the day matters.
Discovering what really matters to us, and then learning to really LIVE those values. Together we are setting the stage for the world our children will inherit. We can't fix it all, but maybe just maybe we parents can all come together to fix a whole big bunch of it.
In fact, I'd argue that we parents have more power than the politicians in some ways. We are the ones holding the next generation quite literally in our arms, and I firmly believe it is our duty and our privilege to raise them to be kind, capable, little change-makers.
And if you need help working through how you can make a difference in the world by how you parent, I'd love to have that conversation with you.
Parenting is messy business.
Far beyond the dirty diapers.
It messes with your mind, body, sleep, relationships, career, identity, priorities, and even your sanity.
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