The days all start the same:
Mumble a “startup” prayer.
Figure out if “today” is actually today or if it is the weekend or the day before last.
Open up my laptop at my kitchen table.
Work until I decide “…Yup, the kids have slept long enough …”
Wake up the kids, whose sleep schedules no longer exist.
Set them up for their Google classroom-led school days and prepare to help with spelling and math equations for the next few hours.
Repeatedly ask my son to put pants on and my daughter to stop FaceTiming her friends instead of doing her social studies. Note: Before the teachers rallied to save us as parents, the worst week was trying to be teacher dad. I had a school schedule made up on the fridge, workbooks bought, and plans in place. That lasted for three days. Then my daughter laughed at me for something I did differently than her teacher. Dad School ended that day. God bless ya if you’re stronger than I.
Finish the workday (though emails may come throughout the evening) and go for a walk with my spouse and the kids, if they want to come.
Eat supper. Hang out.
Prepare to sleep and go through it all over again tomorrow … or is it today?
Our day is probably much like yours, away from Instagram selfies or YouTube talking heads. There’s a mix of “This is going to be okay” with “Is this going to be okay?”—only made harder with the addition of children to the mix.
Our struggles with two children in grade school isn’t the same as parents with children under five or parents with high schoolers trying to graduate or single parents trying to do it all on their own or the parent whose child may have special needs—but we’re all in similar boats of trying to keep our heads above water. Being honest, I’ve had days where I’ve been decent and other days where it would seem better to just stay under the covers until this is all over. But in the end, I get up and try to make the most out of every day, just like I would have if I could go to work or to the mall, knowing that one day it’ll be done and we’ll be in a new normal.
The hardest feeling to shake in all of this for me isn’t fear. Do I worry about the virus? Yes, but not to the point of paralysis. Do I worry about the economy? Yes, but we all do to some degree. Do I worry about sports? As long as the Raptors are NBA champs, I will sleep easy on that one.
No, the hardest feelings for me to shake are the ones connected to my family and wondering what life will be like for us long after this moment is over.
- Did I give my spouse my full attention?
- Did we let Liam play too many video games? Did Ellie Disney+ too much?
- Did we do the online church thing with them enough?
- Did we use this time wisely or wastefully?
You probably have your own list too, your own set of worries and questions that grow longer as our days of social isolation roll on. On the days when my list is longer than my hope, here are some things I tell myself or do to get back to centre while also setting a foundation for life beyond isolation:
- Hug my kids and my spouse.
- Maybe it’s not a hug, but saying “Hey, I love you” goes a long way, especially on days when missing what we knew as “normal” starts to weigh heavy on us.
- Go for a walk or exercise.
- There is such value in getting a few moments of fresh air, going for a jog, or finding a body weight home workout program to keep the blood moving and the mind engaged.
- Stay off social media for a few hours.
- I know we all suffer from FOMO, but getting away from our devices (and instead reading, resting, drawing or doing ANYTHING else) pulls us away from comparing our lives to others or getting lost in a “like” spiral. It also helps us avoid online shopping!
- Talk to my “day ones,” a.k.a. friends and family.
- Every day I talk with my buddies in our group chat, and I text and Zoom friends and just laugh. We don’t talk about work or ministry, but about our kids, our favourite sports teams, and how badly we all miss the barbershop.
- Establish family times surrounded by honesty and laughter.
- Dinner time around the table has been a joy for us along with movie nights on the weekends. Setting a few checkpoints for ourselves as a family has been a win for us.
- Allowing our kids to ask us questions about life, sharing how we deal with tough moments, and laughing over a meal are great. They need to see us work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling in order to fulfil His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13) and know they can find their way into it too.
- Spend a few minutes each day in purposeful silence.
- Basketball has a saying called “pace and space.” Doing this once or twice a day—just pulling away for a moment (space) to quiet our mind—allows us to settle down from anxious thoughts and stick to our daily place (pace).
- Try again tomorrow.
- Rereading this list, I’m reminded less of our wins and more of the times when I missed the mark on all of these things. Maybe I snapped at Becca for something silly, didn’t find the motivation to work out, or said “not right now” to playing basketball with the kids. Waking up the next day gives me a chance to make right those wrongs.
This entire list can really be summed up in one word: presence. If we don’t take time to reset our minds with silence, reframe our thinking by laughing (or venting) with our friends or recharge ourselves with movement, we’ll ultimately rush the moments where we are needed the most: with our families, especially our kids.
In the classic youth ministry book The Be-With Factor, Bo Boshers and Judson Poling break down why presence is important:
“This generation is looking for what is real … They’re tired of adults who pretend they’re better than they really are. They long for role models who are willing to share their life’s lessons, and who admit that they haven’t learned it all…. The good that God is doing in our lives is supposed to be visible.”
Ironic, isn’t it? While COVID-19 has forced us to distance ourselves, it has only made the desire to be closer even stronger. As we one day move toward a place of normalcy, may the principle of being present for those we love never leave us. And may we never take for granted the ability to be together ever again.
Chris Chase has been a pastor, communicator and leader in the PAOC for 16 years, most recently as the head of community/church relations & communications specialist at Master’s College & Seminary in Peterborough, Ont.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos from Unsplash and © istockphoto.com.