Nurture Calm & Carry On: Stories from the Home, Part 1

The author's 2 year old daughter, hard at play.

I never imagined that, at two years old, I would be teaching my daughter the word “staycation.” Sure, it may be a euphemism for what is really going on – hunkering down, laying low, social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, lockdown – but at least it’s a friendly term. Whatever you call it, it’s our reality, and that of countless families over the world. For the time being, we are doing all we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities by staycationing at home.

By no means do I intend to trivialize the unprecedented pain and havoc this pandemic has wrought. Rather, by calling our decision to remain at home a staycation, I am trying to reframe our world through my two-year-old’s eyes; eyes that see a mother who loves her, with newly boundless time to play, explore, cuddle, and connect at home. My own eyes, of course, see a different story; in addition to the wonderful perks of indefinite time together, it registers the parallel reality of meals to prepare, dishes to wash, deadlines, headlines, a home to keep in order, and a mind to keep from falling down the what-if rabbit hole.

My decision to call our self-imposed isolation a “staycation” comes down to this: I want my daughter to remember this time as one of deep connection. I want her to remember feeling loved, feeling joyful, and feeling safe. I want to turn our home into a sanctuary, not a prison. I hope that doing so will buffer us both from the panic, fear, and very real threat of contagion that exist beyond our walls, while also leaving our hearts open to experience this pandemic with great compassion.

As a regular contributor to Heart-Mind Online, I know well that we are only able to risk our hearts enough to feel compassionate towards others when we feel safe and secure ourselves. The foundation of Heart-Mind Well-being, and all Five Heart-Mind Qualities, is Secure & Calm. When our nervous systems are in the Green Zone, and our physical and emotional needs are met, we are able to relax enough to move from “me” to “we.” This shift in attention is necessary in order for us to experience the other Heart-Mind Qualities, such as Compassionate & Kind.

So, as a single parent with the 24/7 responsibility of caring for my child exclusively at home, I choose my language wisely. While I hope that the words I choose will help my child feel safe and loved during this era of uncertainty, I know for a fact that they help me maintain my own sense of Secure & Calm.

Right now, more than ever, keeping my own Secure & Calm heart strong is a top priority. I need it in order to carve out a parenting break when needed, to respond to my child with patience, and to take in the latest numbers on the news with a level head and simultaneously allow myself feel the impact deep within my being. In other words, I need my Secure & Calm heart to be online in order to feel for others and take care of myself.

In this climate of fear and suspicion, nurturing our Secure & Calm hearts is a radical act. And like so many other radical acts, it has the power to transform our reality.

While we, as parents, have little control over the forces currently playing themselves out on the global stage, we can still consciously create our children’s reality. Today, children’s lives are more deeply rooted in the home than even before for this generation. And this gives us, the adults who care for them, the privilege and responsibility of nurturing their hearts and minds through these unprecedented times. We have the power to take the sourest lemons of a global pandemic and create some sort of lemonade (safety, compassion, connectedness) for our children. 

Today, making lemonade for me meant imperfectly nurturing Secure & Calm in myself and my toddler. It meant showing up and messing up and getting back up to try again (and again). Here is a snapshot of our day for the sake of humor and transparency (and a few great linked activity suggestions you don’t want to miss out on!).

6:30 – Plead with toddler for a few more minutes of sleep, unsuccessfully

7:00 – Make blender banana-oatmeal pancakes together while blasting Jack Johnson song of a similar name

7:15 – Haphazardly supervise toddler’s forays into glitter glue while trying not to burn the pancakes

7:30 – Consume the pancakes together while warm, a not-insignificant victory

8:00 – Return to the glitter glue and move on to decorating stale pasta with finger paint

8:30 – Cuddle, read books, get dressed, brush teeth, play in room, have a wild dance party to Music with Marnie’s live-streamed music class (thank you Marnie Grey!), talk to family on the phone, eat snack, make lunch

12:30 – Picnic and sidewalk chalk and pretend play on our tiny and much loved patio

1:30 – Read books and cuddle to help toddler settle into nap time

3:00 - Unsuccessful nap attempt ends with toddler literally climbing the walls (bookshelves) to escape

3:00 – Connect and redirect with a “time-in” (basically, our version of time out where we go into a quiet space together to regain our calm. “I’m angry, mama” toddler says, “Are you angry too?”)

3:30 – Return to the patio and reap the tranquilizing benefits of dirt by squishing our toes in the soil, making mud, replanting indoor flower bulbs outside, and marveling at my toddler’s first earth worm encounter!

5:00 – Popsicle bath (it really is as great as it sounds)

5:30 – Toddler scampers around wreaking havoc on the playroom while I scramble to make dinner

6:00 – Toddler is too tired to eat dinner. Peppa pig is called in for reinforcement so I can eat.

6:30 – Bed time. Toddler is asleep in a blink (the one perk of a day with no naps!)

6:40 – I vegetate on the couch watching Netflix for an hour before putting the house back in order, answering emails, catching up on work, browsing social media, and eventually dragging myself to bed

11:00 – I finally, finally get to sleep!



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