Hello and Bright Blessings!
When I emailed the professor for my first class this summer to let her know that I would be participating in class while still in quarantine and taking care of my four-year-old single-handedly, and that I would probably have to participate a good bit without video, and would likely be called away frequently to change the TV channel, retrieve snacks, or any number of other things that qualify as real and pressing emergencies when you’re four years old, she gave me some wonderful advice:
“The parent struggle is real. I’m worried about my family interrupting and my kids are big. Feel free to have your video camera off and my best strategy is usually lowering my own expectations.”
Lowering my own expectations has been what has kept me mostly sane the last few months. It’s been an exercise in radical acceptance* to turn my dining area into a play area, to know my productivity and quality of work will always be less without childcare, to know that online RE and worship just aren’t going to be the same as in-person, and to know that my best right now is significantly different than my best before the pandemic.
So, when I sat down to write the script for our upcoming Backpack Blessing, the idea of a ritual lowering of expectations kept crossing my mind. You’ll have to join us on September 6th for the whole ritual, but the greatest takeaway is this:
Our best, whatever that looks like right now, is good enough. And our worst is good enough, too.
Our children will not suffer for eating cereal or takeout more than usual because we just can’t get as much done as we used to. They will not suffer for taking easier classes or fewer classes, or from the entire online school platform crashing on the first day of school. What I expect our children will remember most from this time is how we reacted and engaged with them. Do we berate ourselves for not having the energy to cook, or do we call it a picnic and eat on blankets on the living room floor? Do we say some of those words they absolutely are not allowed to repeat in front of grandma when Zoom crashes (again!) or do we take a moment to breathe, to try again, and to model how the adults they will one day be can handle frustration effectively?
Now that is not to say that I expect myself, or anyone, to be a perfect pandemic parent. I have about two calm Zoom crashes in me before I say words that Henry is definitely not allowed to repeat in front of Granny, and I’m not exactly proud of how familiar we are with the delivery folx from the closest pizza place. We don’t have to be perfect or get it right every time – maybe we just need to do a little better than last time when we have the energy, and give ourselves all the grace we would give our kids when we don’t.
Even on the days we don’t feel like we are, we are all doing our best, whatever our best looks like right now, and our best is good enough.
In Joy, Adventure, and Struggle Right Alongside You,
Director of Religious Exploration
Join us this Sunday, September 6th for our virtual Backpack Blessing via Zoom. Details and meeting information can be found in this week’s Meridian Newsletter.
*Radical Acceptance is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill that challenges us to accept what is, whether or not we approve of it, and has proven incredibly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About the author
Helen Cassara, Director of Religious Exploration
Helen (they/them/theirs) comes to us from Knoxville, Tennessee, where they worked with children of all ages and abilities in clinical and recreational settings. They studied social work at East Tennessee State University and is currently a Master of Divinity student at Starr King School for the Ministry. They are particularly interested in community ministry and the places where social work and ministry intersect. At UUCT, they manage the children and youth programs, focusing on faith formation through fellowship and fun and encouraging young people to engage with social justice as a way to live their UU values.
Helen’s hobbies include keeping up with their wildly adventurous child, trying to make the world a better place, and writing. Their portfolio includes several pieces that have been featured by the UUA.