Everywhere you turn, information overload about COVID-19 is rampant.
Everyone is having their own unique struggles during this time and each of us is adapting in different ways. But how do you do that with your kids ? How do we handle this new reality and still cling to the same plans, hopes and goals we've been stepping towards?
Pandemic parenting means things are different, but that is not altogether a bad thing.
A couple of weeks ago, on the Nextdoor Neighbourhood App, a woman posted a complaint/warning to families in our area. The local hotel just up the street from us has been temporarily turned into a form of homeless shelter, and more people are found wandering the neighbourhood.
She warned everyone to be on guard and stay away from the hotel and nearby area; claiming they were all out to do anything possible to get their drugs. She defined them as "ruthless shady people" who would resort to any means necessary to get what they want.
She also didn't want to be in a place where she had to explain poverty to her children, or why they may see someone "itching and scratching, covered in sores and having to ask "what's wrong with that person?"" In her opinion, no child of any age should have to be told such things.
The post received many likes and comments agreeing with her, people adding their own fears and suggestions. Amongst them only one rebutted, encouraging them to look past fear and instead see people like you and me in need of help. As with many internet posts, comments raged back and forth and things got nasty, but to me it shone a bright light into what COVID is exposing our children to and the results of these circumstances.
I certainly wish we didn't have to explain why we see men and women staggering down the street "covered in sores", but not because they should be locked away and our kids need blinders on, but because every single human is a beautiful creation, loved unconditionally by God and in a perfect world, no-one would go hungry or homeless.
That same week, we found evidence of someone living at the very back of our property. Our yard is very long and concealed with trees, making the back area a great hiding/sleeping spot. Was it nerve-wracking thinking of a stranger camping out on our property and watching us? Yes. Did we send the boys inside so they didn't see the evidence of some "shady choices"? No.
Instead we took the time to stop and pray for wisdom and then explained to our kids how many people do not have a house and a warm bed to sleep in. We decided as a family to leave some non-perishables, a winter hat, water bottle, and a book with the person's hidden stash of clothes and supplies. We assumed when the person realized he was discovered, he would probably disappear and if not, we would figure out what to do next. He did as we suspected, leaving no evidence of his presence except for the water bottle which was apparently unwanted.
I do not want my children growing up in a bubble where they think the world is easy and catered to their hopes and desires. Entitlement is a disease as strong as COVID with possibly even more dangerous outcomes. Entitlement says " keep those people away from me". "I deserve my comfort, my stuff, and my safety". It creates a lie that swells pride and breeds apathy and selfishness. Do I struggle with being entitled? Every single day. It's a conditioned response to cringe at the man in dirty clothes who searches through our street's trash and to walk on the other side of the road from the struggling neighbours who have regular police visits. My instinct is to run, to hide, and hoard everything I deem to be mine in clenched fists. My favourite parenting book "Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World" by Kristen Welch opened my eyes to the amount of entitlement I was already imprinting onto my children's young hearts, simply by my own selfish choices.
If I want to be that person who decides not to look away, to welcome someone homeless, addicted, or struggling, I must pray for God to heal my disease of entitlement. I need to show the love and compassion that only flows from an outpouring of the sacrificial love of Jesus. I need to make conscious choices in all areas of my life, to either live for myself and my desires or to live for God's.
Raising grateful kids, those who will walk humbly, full of compassion and sacrificial love is not easy. We live in an entitled culture that is not only tolerated but encouraged, and if you choose to truly live as Jesus did, you will be going hardcore against social norms. But I say it's worth it.
Use the wisdom and discernment God gives you and prayerfully take those blinders off. Let your kids experience poverty, loss, and brokenness. Teach them that with clothes, shelter, and food they are richer than 90% of the world population. Say no to buying stuff for them that will collect dust, and encourage them each day to think of what they can do for someone else. Daily choices of gratitude and humility go a long way.
To my fellow COVID-19 parents out there, in this tough struggle, managing a devastating sickness and losing everyday privileges, let us use these unique circumstances to teach our children more about the world around them. Reminding them to "not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Mathew 6:19-21
Life is a gift to be used for others, not a trinket to be hidden away.
Let us be grateful parents for all we are given, holding our blessings with open hands.
Let us lean on Jesus and raise grateful kids.
Author - Erin
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.