Parentine: what your kid really needs during quarantine but won’t tell you

Parentine – (noun) A state, period, or place of isolation that includes the activity of bringing up a child as a parent, teacher, daycare worker, nurse, cook, janitor and overall provider of things.

I wanted to share this moment with my son from this morning in the hopes that it will encourage all the parents out there attempting overachievement parentine, as I like to call it to give their kids some slack and more importantly some time. Yea… you know if I’m talking to you. Don’t worry… we’re all guilty.

My 8 year old son was working on his school work with me this morning at the kitchen table and after quite a bit of grumbling, leaned his head down and said, “Mom…I’m not feeling myself.” I already knew. He had been on the verge of tears twice since starting that morning, but at the sight of his big dark eye lashes hanging over his paper and filling up with tears, I was taken aback by the amount of weight I could almost see him holding. 

 I looked at him and said, “Are you sad?” He nodded and started to tear up, but held it back. I often overestimate my children’s resilience in times like this. I assume they are fine because they are flexible and positive natured. Although we aren’t immune from hearing the occasional “my life is over” or “worst day ever” comments, in our big family the kids tend to roll with the punches. Ashamedly, they often hear me make comments like, “life is hard” and “it’s not about you” but in this moment, this moment that clearly required bravery, this little one was trying to hold back all the collective grief and pass it off as a show of strength. 

Little did he or I know the strength this moment required wasn’t a holding back but rather a letting go. First off, let me say how proud I am of this kid for naming it. “I don’t feel myself” is a difficult thing for most adults I know to recognize, let alone to admit aloud. We could all take some lessons from my 8 year old son’s true bravery today, myself included.  IMG-1956 (1)

Thank goodness, I had the awareness in that moment to listen rather than model again how to push back the pain. I took his hand, something I have learned is so important with my own children when I really desire to connect with what they are feeling, and we had a nice chat about how it’s okay to be sad, angry and disappointed. Mostly, I just asked him over and over again what he missed about each part of his old routine. When he stopped talking, I asked him to elaborate or tell me more about a particular game he loved playing or a friend he thought was funny. Through tears and laughter he shared things with me from “banana spys” on the playground (don’t ask), to PE (of course), to the way the classroom actually felt when you walked in. Together, we decided I would help him set up a space at home that isn’t the kitchen table so he might feel some comfort and purpose.

My favorite share was when he said he missed his teacher. I asked, “What do you miss the most about her?” He said, “Her face,” and as if that didn’t melt my heart enough I said, “Her face makes you feel happy.” He added, “Her face makes me feel smart. I just feel smarter when she is in the room.” These teachers are nothing short of miracles. Want to tug at the teacher’s  hearts? Write them a note right now. Ask your kid what they miss the most about their teacher. Ask them to be specific. Send it in an email with a quick thank you. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but their hearts are aching now too and helping to connect a teacher’s and a kid’s heart is a gift all it’s own. Let’s flood their inboxes. 

But thanking a teacher isn’t my only mission in sharing this story. It’s the perfect summation of so much gratitude and grief that has come for so many of us as well as our kids these days with school at home. It’s overwhelming, and my guess is that, like me, parents might be trying to do it all perfectly right down to discussing their child’s feelings. Each time I got an email about how best to do this, I loaded on the guilt about the conversations I wasn’t having with them and the wasted time I had spent on Netflix and Facebook trying to “self care.” 

The funny thing about guilt is it’s about me, not them. It’s self-serving. It’s about whether or not I look like a good parent, but if I heard anything today, it was a reminder to be self giving of my time when my kids need it most. Hear me clearly. When they need it most, not at every moment. The message was to be patient and watchful. Ironically, in my Catholic Christian tradition, this is just what we are being called to do in this holy week. 

Just as each kid processes in their own way, they also process in their own time. For one kid, it might be over school work or during a classroom zoom this week. For another, at bedtime tonight, and for another it may be a month or even years from now.  When my son and I were done he looked at me and said, “Thanks mom.” The two words every parent desires to hear from time to time. Sometimes I think it’s one of the only reasons we wipe so many boogers and clean so many rears, but it’s as rare as a zoom call without a frozen face. So I’m gonna tuck that one in my back pocket for awhile.IMG-1958 (1)

Whatever the timing, there is no perfect way except to offer your presence when the need does arise. Sadness comes from a feeling of loss and processing that feeling is one of the most important parts of grief. And let’s be real, we are all grieving. What I’m offering today is an invitation for you to watch and wait. Here me parents, the most important thing we can do during this quarantine isn’t the perfect balance of homeschool and work, or even making sure our pants are on during a zoom call (although this is a good idea in case you decide to stand up). It isn’t making the best meals, or turning on all the online field trips, whilst painting the kitchen or losing weight with the now free online exercise classes. It is simply a call to watch for that moment of need 

to be ready

not balanced

to be present 

not perfect

and to listen.


School Mornings are my Frenemy

School is in the full swing now and dare I say I’m kind of enjoying it. You don’t have to feel guilty for loving to leave your kids at school. Seriously. No guilt. It makes me look bad.

Having all 5 home means more fighting, more meals, more dishes, more discipline and more wackadoodle Mom. I’m not totally pessimistic though. I do, I so so so do, miss sleeping in past 7 AM, and I will admit I miss spending time with them when they are being nice and acting like perfectly mannered drone children. I’m just one of those moms that is a better person when I have some time away from my kids. Surprise!


It’s wasn’t Christmas, but on that first day, I totally danced to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in my active wear (a.k.a. PJ’s), baseball cap (a.k.a. greasy hair cover), and yesterday’s make-up, while I watched them go to the glorious teachers, who teach the marvelous things and put the big smarts in their crazy little heads. Okay, okay – my eye holes might have leaked a little bit, or maybe it just rained on the playground on that cloudless day….on that one spot…on my face……

P.S. Mom’s who make those beautiful, first day, chalk board signs. Please stop. You are making me look bad. I tried one year but I used printer paper and a marker that was too light. The resulting picture was of my kids holding up, what looked like, a piece of blank white printer paper. They’re going to see your pictures, at your kids’ graduations and ask me why I didn’t do that. I will just have to point to their first day picture, the one with the piece of blank white paper and say, “I tried.” Or maybe I will just point to their empty baby book and shrug my shoulders.

Why School Mornings Make me Cray Cray  (But just a little….mostly, I’m sort of sane…. I think.) 

During school season, in the morning, I walk into my kids room and usually say in my best June Cleaver voice, something like “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey! Except I don’t have time for that so just eat your cereal.” P.S. If you make eggs and bacon every morning, don’t tell me. It will have the same effect as your chalkboard sign.

So, if you haven’t guessed yet, there’s is a slight snag in my perfect back to school family picture. I little snafu, a hiccup, minor hurdle, if you will. Okay, it’s a flipping house sized boulder, but I’m gonna laugh about it and poke fun anyway cause, well, that’s what I do to stay sane. That’s right! The dreaded “Morning Routine”. Can I get an AMEN? You know exactly what I’m talking about if you have kids that attend school…. and a pulse.

In our house, there are very few moments that someone isn’t screaming or crying as though they either lost a limb or are about to cut someone else’s off.  Here’s a mental picture for you because I know you’re curious. Children #1 and #2 are throwing barbs at each other to see who can make the other one mad first. Child #3 is constantly asking for something in broken record form because he’s learned if he doesn’t just obnoxiously repeat himself he won’t be heard over the other 4 (classic middle kid syndrome).  Children #4 and #5 are usually crying, screaming, pooping, peeing, spilling, falling, or demanding something! And then, just as I’m about to bite into my own breakfast, which I rarely have time to eat, someone yells from the bathroom, “WIPE ME!”

The two big kids take it in stride pretty well, and they put up with a lot, but even I want to rip my eyeballs out at the noise some days, so you can’t blame them for being a bit on edge. Often, after a few minutes of thundering, one of the bigs starts screaming “BE QUIEEEET!” at the littles which only makes them cry and whine harder; the big kid who didn’t yell “Be Quiet,” then snaps at the other for snapping at the littles which in turn causes a yelling fight between the bigs. About 15% of the time that comes to blows…in other words true and utter chaos and it’s LOUD.

A Little Throwback For You. (Imagine me 25 years younger with an ugly boy haircut, no boobs to prove I’m a girl, and Spock ears cause I haven’t yet grown into my head. Pretty, isn’t it?) 

Growing up, my sister, Traci, and I used to line up cereal boxes…three of them in  a sort of U-shape around our bowls. That way we didn’t have to look at or talk to each other when we weren’t “awake yet.” Or maybe it was to spare ourselves the horror of seeing Spock ears and 80’s bangs, but that’s another story. This cereal tent was a great tactic, but there were only two of us. My calculations concluded that I would need 15 cereal boxes to do this with my kids and inevitably someone would be mad because they got the bran flakes box instead of the frosted wheat. Maybe I will just take those 15 boxes and create my own little fort to hide in.


Back to the Future (My all time favorite movie BTW.) 

Not much has changed for me morning-wise since those days of hiding behind cereal boxes with my sister. Talking to me before I’m awake is still a dangerous practice, which is probably why the majority of my children are the same way. The apple doesn’t fall far. Am I right? I can’t blame them really. I try to imagine what it must be like to be in an almost pitch black room in a dead, and I mean D E A D sleep, have someone pry me out of my bed and sit me at a counter in the bright morning light,ask me what I want to eat and then to have someone next to me make a noise. A NOISE!? Any noise…. my eye is twitching just thinking about it. So imagine 5 little Katie’s sitting at a counter every morning waiting for breakfast.  Both funny and scary.

Yes, I Have a Point (Hang in there. I just might make sense of all this yet.) 

I’m not a perfect mom! The Lord knows this, you already know this, my kids certainly know this. I used to care, however, in the last few years I’ve decided that I’m okay with not being perfect. I’m okay with what anyone thinks really. They can judge or not. It really doesn’t phase me anymore. Perhaps it’s a side effect of this blog’s transparency or I’m passing some imaginary threshold as I grow closer to 40. One with a banner over it that reads, “Who gives a poop what everyone else thinks.” (Yes… I said poop. Not the other word. I’m not a monster! Most of the time.)

Quite frankly, I’m glad my kids see my mugly (messy/ugly) most days. My job is to raise them to love God and be ready for their future. They are my legacy. What better way to show them that they can’t do it alone, than to live out my mugly, loud, not enough, but forgiven, and complete with Jesus life, right in front of them.

You do You. (Not a little of them and mostly you. Just You!

We are all a little mugly in the morning. Both in person and with our kids, but no matter what your morning routine looks like… June Cleaver, Lorelei Gilmore, Clair Huxtable, Marg Simpson, let me just put this out there. You do you!

I tell my kids this all the time. They love to point fingers, compare, and blame each other. Well, here’s a news flash that’s not actually a news flash: mom’s and other adults who, frankly, should be adulting better point fingers too. We all know plenty of “adults” who point fingers and compare. If we’re being honest with ourselves that includes us. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t me we shouldn’t try to improve.

Our kids take their cues from us. That’s where the “you do you” mentality is so helpful. A very wise mom I know once told me, “You can’t change the people around you.” You can cheer them on, you can communicate with them, even better, you can pray for them, but you CAN NOT change them. The thoughts you can change, habits you can stop, barriers you can break through, mountains you can climb are your own. As that same wise mom said, “The only person you can move is you!”

So… just do you, and if that is sometimes a mugly, loud, chaotic affair, then embrace it or change it, but don’t try to be the mom who made the chalkboard sign if you aren’t her. Your morning may be full of difficult, selfish, angry faces, but when you push through, you take difficulty and model perseverance, you take selfishness and model servant-hood and you take the anger and model love. Sometimes it isn’t as beautiful as the “June Cleaver” next door but it’s you. And whether you believe it or not it is good! You are a beautifully and wonderfully made and even in your broken morning, little lives are being changed simply because you showed up. Even in your chaotic mess… God is there!

Happy schooling everyone! And here’s to you doing you like a bad beast this week! Until next time, go share some chaos, create confidence and inspire some grace in your home.