A couple of weeks ago a teacher friend shared this image from @WeAreTeachers in her Instagram stories.
I spent at least an hour thinking of things in our family’s life that are the same now as they were prior to March 2020. Aside from our tradition of creating and completing a Summer Fun List, I seriously couldn’t think of anything.
At dinner that night, I asked our kids if they could remember their last grade before the pandemic entered our lives. Our seventh grade son did the math and realized it was way back in fourth grade, just as the @WeAreTeachers image showed. Our fifth grader knew then that it meant that her last ‘normal’ year was second grade, but then stated it wasn’t really all that normal because her teacher unexpectedly died that year.
So, I asked, what in our lives now is the same as it was pre-pandemic? We thought of so many aspects of our life together.
School drop off? Nope.
Walking the dogs? Nope.
Family vacations? Nope.
Playdates, holidays, seeing extended family? Nope, nope, nope.
And then, with all the hope of a toddler who answers “JESUS!” to every question asked in a children’s sermon, our daughter said, “Our love for one another?”
That’s it, dear, our love for one another is the same as it was before the pandemic.
Our conversation transitioned to something else entirely different and that was that. Then the next day, another friend shared the image on Instagram. And then another a few days later. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and about our daughter’s saccharine answer. Of course we continue loving each other, but it doesn’t feel the same as it did pre-pandemic. Our way of being together has evolved over the past 19 months, and the love we share has as well.
Pre-pandemic, we didn’t spend all that much time together as a family unit during the school year. We crossed paths before work and school, and then ate dinner most nights as a family. We often gathered in the living room for Friday family movie nights, then over weekends, my husband and I tag-teamed parenting so we could finish sermons or enjoy a bit of solitude. Our time together felt intentional and we made the most of it.
A few months into the pandemic, we finally realized that we were always together. All meals eaten together. All hikes taken together. All movies watched together. All yard work tackled together. Then slowly, we began physically distancing within our house. Our daughter began spending more time playing Minecraft with out-of-town friends in her room. Our son started closing his door for the first time in his life, craving privacy while he listened to podcasts or read or knit or did anything that allowed him to be on his own. And my husband and I automatically drifted to opposite ends of the house to work, clean, read, create, play, or nap alone.
Our love is not the same as it was 19 months ago, and it’s meant learning to receive and show love in new ways.
For our pre-teen, it means listening to try and understand the world he created in Minecraft. It means taping notes and prayers on his bathroom mirror because he’s too embarrassed having them in his lunch box, and thanking him for spending time with us when pre-pandemic it simply would have been expected of him.
For our fifth grader it means reading aloud to her at night again and watching her favorite shows on Netflix without offering a running commentary about gender roles and stereotypical behaviors. It means helping her work through big feelings in new, indirect ways like taping butcher paper on the table with a bucket of markers, and writing prompts, then walking away.
For my husband, it means actually spending time with him. Eating dinner together after the kids finish, walking the dogs together, or sharing a couch while engaging in different activities.
The pandemic teaches us to love one another in ways that feel less self-satisfying. We are more likely to offer the things that our family members need, rather than offering only what we want to give. In a sense, it feels like we are learning to love more like God.
What has stayed the same for you during the pandemic?
How has love evolved within your household.