Dear Live Oak, I’m Worried

Dear Live Oak,

I’m going to get real, and blunt. I’m worried about the parents in our congregation.

I mean, we’re in month 14 of a global pandemic, and on one level, I’m worried about everyone. Of course. This isn’t something any of us have ever gone through. I know we’re all at risk for depression, anxiety, and oh yeah, covid-19 hasn’t disappeared.

But some of that deep-down fear that I had a year ago has lightened. On good days, I am filled with awe and amazement. We have vaccines! And so many members at Live Oak are fully vaccinated, and while being careful, are starting to get together again with friends. On those good days, I am lifted up with hope and even celebration.

But for many of the parents of school-age children … I’m worried. It’s not the depression, anxiety, and isolation that worries me.

It’s this: they feel like failures.

Have you ever felt like a failure?

It is devastating. And to feel like a failure at parenting means feeling that you are failing the people you love most in the world.

And the worst part is, there are no solutions. No handy-dandy parenting books, “How to Help Your Child Thrive During a Plague.”

This year has been brutal. They go to bed, exhausted, overwhelmed, knowing that the only thing to do is to wake up the next morning and do it again. It is not being overdramatic to think of the Greek myths about Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the mountain over and over again …  and that’s the good days. On the bad days, it’s more akin to Prometheus, who was punished for stealing fire by being bound to a rock so an eagle could attack him and eat his liver, only for it to grow back overnight and go through it again the next day, and the day  after, and the day after …

I talked to a school guidance counselor recently, about the problems some kids are having with staying engaged, doing their work, “keeping up.” “Is this widespread?” I asked.

“Astronomical,” she replied.

Those of us who don’t have children at home can look from the outside and say, “Of course they’re not failing! They’re surviving!”

But it doesn’t feel that way.

And right now, they don’t even have the assurance that their younger children can go to school safely, in person, in September.

I would like to wrap this up with some simple way to help these families.  I don’t know that there is a solution. But sometimes, being seen can be exactly what’s needed to get through one more day. We’re a deliberately intergenerational church, which doesn’t just refer to the kids. It also refers to the friendships between a 35 year old and a 70 year old. So those members you’re friends with, the ones you’ve served on committees with, or been in small groups with them – reach out. Send an email letting them know you’re thinking about them. (But make the first sentence, “I know you’re busy, you do NOT need to respond.”) If they live close, call them up in the morning or midday and tell them you’re doing a Starbucks run, and want to bring them whatever they’d like. Call and ask if you can bring dinner over for their family.

If they want to talk, listen. Don’t be a cheerleader unless that’s what they’re requesting. If you feel like you’re drowning, having someone cheering for you on the shore can feel like more pressure, not encouragement. If you’re fully vaccinated, offer to help in some way. But understand that they may still not feel comfortable being inside together with you, because as of yet, there is no assurance that a fully vaxxed person can’t still catch and transmit the virus.

As a community, an intentional village, it is vitally important that everyone can know and acknowledge how very tough this has been. And at present, continues to be.