Parents and guardians, we see you

A few weeks ago we celebrated Christian Family Sunday at St. John’s, a celebration of our relationships with one another that also coincides with Mother’s Day. One of my favourite things about that particular day in our church calendar is that it celebrates all the ways we are family. Growing up I had a “guncle”, a man who wasn’t my uncle or my godfather. He was my dad’s best friend, and a big part of my life (imagine a giant man, bald as an eagle, bearded, and a constant source of good humour and kindness). Even after he moved with his family from Nova Scotia to British Columbia he has continued to be one of my cheerleaders. In many ways, even from a distance, he and his wife helped raise me.

My “guncle” with his “very large dogs”, 2001

Maybe you had someone like that in your life? A grandparent, neighbour, family friend or other relatives who helped to parent you, to guide you as you grew. When I was pregnant with my daughter in Montreal, far away from my family, I felt reassured by the church community I was a part of, knowing that my daughter would have more adoptive aunts, uncles and cousins than we could ever fit into our tiny one-bedroom apartment. It might be cliché to say it takes a village to raise a child, but when parenthood was looming I knew that my partner and I could never do it alone. We needed our wider family to help.

Here’s the trouble though, with social distancing parents and guardians are more alone than ever. It’s heartbreaking to see kids’ faces smushed up against windows as their friends walk by. To have conversations over the fence that include the phrase, “No honey, I’m sorry but no hugs yet.” It’s heartbreaking for those of us who have children who aren’t our own but we love fiercely, it’s like an aching wound to be separated from them.

For parents who are home with their kids all day, every day, we see you. It’s hard. Hard to be in the midst of this emergency, and even harder when you have a little person who doesn’t understand why they can’t go visiting next door. Harder when you have a teenager who wants to go out and be with their friends. Hard to balance online schooling, time outside, getting the errands done, and the financial and emotional stress of working/not working. It’s hard for you to be parenting alone, and it’s hard for those who would normally be by your side to have to keep their distance.

I don’t offer any solutions. All I can say is that we understand that you’re struggling. One of the well-loved images of God is as a parent, like a hen with her chicks (Matt. 23:37). I like to think that God understands the frustrations of parenting. How often in the Hebrew Bible do we hear the voice of God lamenting over her misbehaving children through the prophets!? I believe God has endless compassion for the tired and frazzled parent. Know that your struggles are seen, your long days are appreciated.

With children not physically returning to school this year our situation will not change much over this next while. Yet, there will be an end to this season. Someday in the near future those folks you relied on – the teachers, sitters, librarians, camp counsellors, friends and neighbours – will be able to cross that 2-meter wide moat we’ve had to dig. They’ll be able to offer you the help I know they so wish they could right now. For now, we wait for that day in tired anticipation, may it come quickly.

This article was first published in the May 26, 2020, issue of the MARATHON MERCURY.

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