We are women. Many of us are also moms, grandmas, aunts, guardians, and caregivers. It is in our DNA to protect and to worry, while at least attempting to show outwardly that we are calm and in control at all times. In other words, we are well-trained for this current global crisis.
Absorbing loved ones into our home nests to try to keep them healthy and safe comes completely naturally to us. I was just texting with another R.W. yesterday who asked me if I thought she was crazy to drive 6 hours each way today to bring her daughter home to work remotely from her house instead of knowing she was alone and on her own. Although I was concerned for her exhaustion level in doing that trip, not one iota of me thought she was crazy. It is natural instinct. It’s what we do. Worry. Protect. Control.
Yesterday our office temporarily closed and each of us were sent home to work remotely. I am thankful that I still have a job, and have the ability to work from home. So many are not that lucky. Up until yesterday, while I was not making light of the situation we are all in, I was calm and holding onto a shred of “this will pass soon” hope. But when my 8-5 life was suddenly adjusted, my safe, normal social work environment changed, my awareness that any investments we have are taking hard falls, and my son got official word that he will not be returning to campus for the rest of this semester, I felt like “shit just got real.” For the rest of the day yesterday I battled to stay calm, to push down any rising feelings of panic (because my mantra from the start of this has been “panic solves nothing”), and I was near tears a few times. And we are some of the lucky healthy ones.
Over the weekend, my son and I had done a round trip back to his campus to get some of his belongings. Yesterday afternoon, he went with me on some errands. A “last” trip to the grocery store to see bare shelves, a “last” trip to the pet store to get our dog’s food, and a trip to Kohls where social distancing was not a problem because it was deserted. During my time with him, I was able to get a glimpse of this turmoil through his eyes, not just my Mom eyes.
I know he’s disappointed, even sad, that he won’t be returning to campus until Fall. I know he misses some of the activities there and his new independence. The good news is he is a Freshman, so God willing will still have three more years for a college experience. My heart goes out to students who are seniors in high school and college and have been robbed of their senior experiences and I’m sure are filled with worry about next steps.
My son asked me the other day if he could have a couple of friends over to the house. He has also asked what I thought of him potentially going this weekend to visit a friend who lives a bit of a distance away, as a day trip. I wasn’t sure how to answer. Do I slip into protective warrior control mode and say no, we all have to hunker in place? He will be by himself in the car, then visiting one friend while they stay in the friend’s house and watch a movie. Do I allow some limited freedom with the thought that perhaps the potential of cultivating new friendships he has only just begun to make at school is a more “healthy” option? The truth is he’s legally old enough to make his own decisions. I appreciate that he’s looking to me for guidance. But the bad news is that pandemics aren’t in the Mom Rule Book. I’m just winging it here.
What struck me in our recent outings is his calm and practical view of what we are experiencing. He was fascinated by empty shelves at the stores. He helped me find a few things and helped me with creative ideas on how we can do without. When I told him I was wondering if I should go get cash out of the bank to hoard at home he said “Mom, why? Even if you have it, where would you spend it, everything will be closed. If you shop online, you’ll use your credit card.” The new process of excessive hand washing and sanitizing does not bother him. He lives in the mode of virtual communications already, so if any thing he will teach us how to stay in touch with others. At his very core, he seems to easily focus on now. We are healthy and safe now. He does not slip into hyper panic mode. He can find humor in his observations.
Every generation of human has had to deal with unique and challenging circumstances. From World Wars to Depressions and Recessions, to Watergate and assassinations, to earthquakes and tsunami’s, we have all had our share of life-changing historic events. Yet it seems to me that this Generation Z has grown up in the most ongoing never-ending bizarre and scary life altering process. My son was a year old during 9-11. Since then his generation has coped daily with terrorism, natural disasters, mass shootings, peculiar and ineffective politics, environmental crises, and now… a world-wide viral outbreak and quarantines. As he’s become more mature, and as I’ve watched him roll through the development of coping mechanisms, I wonder…. Is this generation fraught with higher levels of anxiety and depression than ever seen before like the news leads us to believe, or are we raising young adults with more skills of adaptation, resilience, individuality and sensibility than the generations before them?
In all honesty, our world is in a heap of mess right now. We moms spend sleepless nights worrying about our kids and how they will manage, constantly concerned about their safety, and what their future holds. Perhaps we should instead spend more time having faith in them. In feeling reassured that they are our future leaders, and by growing up through turmoil, perhaps they will have the foresight and strength to make things better. To hope and believe that they, the anti-bullying generation, will inherently know how to take care of each other, and the world we inhabit.
No, we won’t ever stop worrying or trying to protect and control. But I think the next few weeks or months can be a bit easier and less stressful if we take a page from our Gen Z’s playbooks and take a day at a time, watch out for each other, and be resilient. This too shall pass, so let’s all be in a good place together when it’s over.