Like everyone else, I had all sorts of plans for this week. High hopes, in fact. As in previous years, the first week of January was to bring new levels of calm, health and organisation and it was going to be great! I looked ahead to the few child free hours I had planned in and thought decadently that I might even spend one of them just sitting and reading my book. Of course there were also the admin tasks, the much anticipated return to running and the household chores on the agenda, but, yes, I could spare an hour to have that bit of luxurious ‘me time’.
On Sunday, I began to realise that it may not be quite as I imagined, when emails from the teaching union began to fill my inbox and the media spoke of rising concerns about Covid 19. I had left my teaching job in December but was still receiving updates and what I read felt sad and worrying and rather unpredictable.
We managed one ‘normal’ day. On Monday, I took my son to school, did my Monday food shop with my daughter, took her to gymnastics, made soup whilst putting the shopping away, and after a bit of time at home, collected my son again. It was a welcome return to a well-trod routine I had established over the last few months and I looked ahead to a week that would be equally structured, portioned out into predictable, well managed chunks.
Of course, at 8pm on Monday evening, these hopes disintegrated. Midway through Tuesday I had made a semblance of a plan for the week, but with a strong sense that I was grasping at straws.
Like many, I was shaken. I was not in control of these latest events. This Spring would not bring a return to ‘normality’, as many of us had hoped.
Like many, my biggest concern was my children and how this sudden break in their routine would affect them, not least because of the immense amount of effort it has taken on our part and on the part of our friends and family, the children and their teachers to help them to feel settled, safe and happy since they joined our family. Our (adopted) children have had the same challenges others have had in the last year, on top of the challenges that spring from the past trauma from their early months and years. In 2020, they both made massive strides ahead in their learning, their emotional well-being and their social skills. Our son’s sleep began to improve massively. The routines we had created were helping to create an all round level of regulation for the whole family. Things, of course, were not perfect. But the progress was palpable, joyous even. This week, I have been so proud of them and how they have managed, but anxiety has crept closer as I have watched moments of emotional and sensory dysregulation spiral. Tears and shouting and lethargy have all flared at different times over the course of the week. Our son’s sleep has started to suffer. It’s not what it used to be but there is that fear: will we lose all that we have gained, all that the children themselves have managed to heal and build within themselves?
But in these moments, a still, strong, kind voice tells me that I have answered my own question. These children went through more that I can imagine before they came to our family. Research tells us that the trauma they experienced is bound to leave its mark on their psychology, their relationships, their behaviours. And it has. But what we also see in our children – daily – is strength, tenacity and an immense capacity for joy, love and hope. All the time, we see in them an ability to grow and heal, to overcome challenge and adversity, to learn to trust and to befriend. Much of this, we attribute to the children themselves, their unique strength and personality. We can also credit it to the family and friends around us, who relentlessly show them (and us) that we are all loved. Most of all, we believe we can credit it to the God we pray to, who saw them in the days before we got to hold them and love them, who brought them to us and who continually surprises us by doing more than we could ask or imagine for both the children and us.
So, in the next few weeks, I may have to forgo that fitness programme and those hours on my new business. I may need to sit later in my son’s room, helping him make sense of everything. I may need to withstand frustration and words and toys being hurled at me. I may not get eight hours sleep or a shower. But that still, strong, kind voice I mentioned will remind me that we’ve got this. All of us. We do. We bring our heart and soul and we keep going. We keep hugging our children. We keep apologising when we get snappy and short tempered. We keep talking to our friends and family on zoom and whatsapp and whatever else. We accept our own well-intentioned efforts to work from home or home school or whatever else, even when we are a little frazzled or when we miss the mark. We take inspiration from those around us, from all that we ourselves have already been through.
And for me, I keep praying, keep reading and keep writing. These are the things that remind me to stop and listen to the still, strong, kind voice. They are the things that teach me to remember all the good things that have come before, all the miracles of hope and healing I have already experienced.
If you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed, or worried or any of the other emotions flying around at the moment, please know that there is hope, and it is often found in the small acts of putting one foot in front of the other or of reaching out a hand.