When schools closed in March, I—like so many over-achievers I know—had big plans for all that I was going to accomplish. I checked out two ukuleles from the library so that the kids could have new instruments to play, I made a final stop at the fabric store so I could get supplies to mass-produce reusable produce bags, and I checked out dozens of library books (especially for myself) that I could read—presumably after a quiet day of sewing, non-traditional learning, and ukulele practice.
No one will be surprised by this confession: one morning just a couple weeks into the pandemic, I flushed these idyllic plans down the toilet as I yelled from the kitchen for the kids (ages 8 and 6) to return: “WE AREN’T DONE PRAYING THE SERENITY PRAYER TOGETHER!!!”
They say parents need to choose their battles, and on this particular morning, the battle to pray for serenity as a family felt like a hill worth charging. So I dug in my heels and called for them again. Eventually, we made it through the prayer, but I was no closer to grasping the parental peace I crave. Even at that moment, the irony was not lost on me.
Prayer for Serenity
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen. -Reinhold Niebuhr
I don’t think I’m alone in wishing that I had more control over my life right now. They say that crises reveal who we are, but pandemics reveal and exacerbate our societal (and individual) vulnerabilities. I miss the distractions of playdates, outings, and Target runs. Previous summers have brought road trips, as much time at the ocean as we can manage, and lots of time at the pool. Staying home these last five months has revealed the places I have cut corners as a parent, how my life gets cluttered by non-essentials, and the bad habits I wish I had corrected years ago. It’s shown me how much we rely on back-up and breaks.
I feel like I’m a pianist trying to play both staves with one hand tied behind my back, all the while lamenting my poor technique and position.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I got really really frustrated today. It’s been five months that my husband and I have been the sole childcare providers for our two kids. It’s been five months with no relief pitcher in sight.
God’s grace is enough for each day. There’s never any left over, but I hear that manna doesn’t keep well overnight so I guess it’s okay (cf. Exodus 16:9).
We remind ourselves that if we have each other, we have enough. We enjoy reading more books and watching more movies together. We go on walks in our neighborhood as a family. It is not perfect, but it is good.
My husband and I continue working through parenting challenges; we try to choose the right battles and find ways to communicate our expectations as we work to teach our kids to be good and responsible human beings. It is hard, but maybe the work we do now will payoff later.
My kids have learned that there actually are worse things in life than eating peas and green beans, and I have learned that one way to avoid having pizza every night is to break it up with some calzones. We also get “variety” by alternating boxed macaroni and cheese with “made from scratch” macaroni and cheese.
We are all learning an important life lesson—and we name it regularly. Some things are in our control, and some things are not. No matter how hard we work and pray and wish and want for things to be different, this pandemic is not ours to control.
But we have enough. And I remind myself that I can’t stockpile grace, or even faith or hope. I have enough for today, and “there will be enough tomorrow” (Sara Groves, “Enough”).
(Oh, and we’re getting a corona kitty. Whatever name he comes with, I will secretly call him Mariano Rivera after the greatest relief pitcher in baseball (even if he was a Yankee) in the hope that someday, a relief pitcher will appear on the horizon to pitch an inning or two for us.)