2020 felt a lot like 6th grade did for me.
We had just moved to Israel. In the midst of my awkward, pimpled youth, swinging violently from overconfident to wanting to bury myself deep in a hole, I found myself in a completely foreign country. I didn’t speak the language, the kids were tougher and meaner, and the only thing they seemed to like about me were my Reeboks. And that wore off quickly.
It was a painful year in which I desperately wanted an invisibility cloak. In fact, I would have taken a COVID mask if you’d offered it. I felt uncomfortable through and through and just wanted to hide. The ground had been pulled out from under me and I grasped to recover.
In many ways, that year defined me. I developed empathy for immigrants, insecurities that often serve me (and sometimes don’t), and confidence that I can adapt to new situations.
I don’t remember 4th, 5th, 7th or 8th grade as much, but I remember 6th grade vividly. It was traumatic. And that’s also what made it so pivotal in my life.
To put it plainly, this year has sucked. We’re all dying to Gloria Gaynor 2020 to the curb -“Go! walk out the door! Just turn around now, ’cause you’re not welcome anymore…”
But the truth is, we’ll be looking back on it for the rest of our lives. We’ll be asking each other where we were, how we got through it. We’ll continue to process our trauma just like we talk about 9/11.
This year was a collectively defining moment in all of our lives, on a personal and global level. We’ve changed as a result. And no matter how much we want to put it behind us, it’s going to stay with us.
So maybe instead of saying a quick sayonara, we can be more mindful of the baggage we’re walking out with. Some of it will just add weight to our already heavy load. But I think there’s more there that needs to be unpacked. I think we may have grown as parents too.
First, a little kvetching. Here’s some of why this year can kiss our ass:
1. It’s kept us up at night thinking about the thousands of people who have died from COVID. And worse, the people they’ve left behind.
2. It’s put so many of us out of work, and as we kiss our kids goodnight, many of us have wondered how we’ll make ends meet, or pay this month’s bills.
3. It’s distanced us from our fellow humans. We cringe when people walk too close to us now. We do a double-take when actors on Netflix shows walk into a room without a mask, even though it wasn’t even filmed during the pandemic.
4. It’s made parenting so very hard. We’ve turned into full-time teachers, chefs, housekeepers without a minute away from the kids. For those with babies, it’s meant nonstop damage control, constantly one minute away from a glass bowl shattering on the floor.
5. It’s put marriages and partnerships to the ultimate test. Gone is the allure, the leg-shaving, even changing clothes sometimes. We’ve forgotten to curb annoying habits. After 10 months of endless togetherness, we just let it all hang out.
6. It’s turned us into doom-scrollers. We’ve spent hours and hours on our phones, yearning for some social connection, desperately waiting for a sign that this nightmare is over. And as our heads have been deep in our screens, our kids have been watching us.
I could go on…
But like 6th grade, this year has also made us who we are. We’ve grown as parents:
1. After 24/7 parenting, we’ve discovered a level of intimacy with our kids that goes beyond the Nose Frida in the middle of the night.
2. We’ve found energy to play one more round of hide-and-seek or build one more lego truck together.
3. We’ve become more relaxed parents. We don’t obsess about screen time anymore. We don’t spend endless hours Googling the perfect cry it out technique because we know there isn’t one.
4. We let ourselves just BE a lot more. We let our kids just be too. If they want to build a fort with every single pillow in the house, so be it.
5. We’ve come to realize how precious life is and how insignificant the small battles are. We let them go. What’s the point?
6. We’ve realized what DOES matter. The extra hug before bed, the spontaneous singing together, the giggles we find when we relax our body and let our kids love us the way they do.
7. We’ve learned that there is no point denying ourselves of things that we once did. If we want a Christmas tree but we are Jews, we get a Christmas tree, goddammit!
8. We’ve become more flexible. We had to be. We couldn’t fight the changes in the world and we had to adjust.
9. We’ve learned what is unshakable – our love for our kids, for our family, for our fellow humans.
What do you think, have we become better parents? I want to hear your take on it.
As we rush into 2021 we have the opportunity to decide what we’ll take with us. In a year’s time when we are all (hopefully) vaccinated and unmasked, will we bounce right back to our pre-COVID ways? What will we take with us from this unique period of time?
This is a year that will define us. We will remember it forever. And because of all the trials and challenges it brought us, it’s a year that has changed us, as parents, as family members, as humans. So who will we be once we remove our masks?