By Melissa Stefanec
Every cloud has a silver lining. Throughout this year’s obstacles, I’ve kept this English proverb in mind. It’s an oldie but a goodie. It’s optimistic, but it’s also a demand to mentally rise above the occasion. It’s something I keep returning to when I find myself lost in the madness without an anchor.
However, as 2020 continues to pile it on thick, I’m tempted to give one of my favorite proverbs a makeover. This year’s version should read something like this: every crap-storm has a few clear raindrops.
And, there are some clear drops. Somewhere between sheltering in place and social distancing, I realized there were some good things coming out of all of this craziness. However, looking on the bright side is one thing. Finding the energy to remain there is another.
So, to help myself focus on the clear drops of rain in the crap-storm of the present, I wanted to reflect on what I have gained this year. I realize not all parents have the same blessings or quite so many, but I know how contagious gratitude can be. Our mental prosperity hinges on finding the silver linings in this mess.
Here is what 2020 has given me:
• Fewer demands —This one is many parents’ most valuable player in the silver-lining lineup. I don’t think most of us want to go back to the overbooked and over extended way things were. It wasn’t good for anyone. Being involved in everything was supposed to be in the winning playbook, but we all know better now. 2020 has brought us that wisdom.
• More quality time with my kids —Although not all of the extra time I’m spending with my kids is quality time, there is more quality time to go around. Because of this quality time, I know things about my kids that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. We actually look forward to hanging out with each other more than ever. Family time is a reprieve from the madness. Apparently, quality time makes the heart grow fonder.
• My husband’s home for dinners —With my husband and I working at home, we eat more dinners together. Before sheltering in place and social distancing, our family didn’t spend much time as a complete family unit during the week. It’s wonderful.
• Having teachable moments —All the crises this year have made for many teachable moments. One of my top priorities as a parent is to reveal the complexities of the world to my children. I want them to see this world for what it is — ugly, difficult and beautiful. That means discussing real-world problems and talking about solutions. 2020 has been full of one of those things.
• A chance for more charity — There is no shortage of good causes. 2020 is giving me a chance to put my money where my social media posts are. With less money spent on activities, I’ve been able to fund the change I want to see. I encourage my children to do the same and share the reasons I am donating to a cause.
• A chance to be a better role model — I don’t tell myself or my family that they should just “get over” the difficulties this year has brought to us. However, I can control how I react to adversity. I have the choice to stay as positive as I can while simultaneously recognizing the difficulties that lay before me. I have a chance to be a role model, and I have my children as a captive audience.
• More time outside — My family has always spent a lot of time outdoors, but this year has pushed us to new levels. We love it. Our bodies love it. Our minds love it. We have birding guides and tree-identifying books. We own several kickballs. We have a badminton net in our backyard. The kids learned to ride bikes without training wheels and caught hundreds of fish. It’s been a banner year.
• More time to bake and cook — Some nights we order delivery, but other nights, we have the time to go all-in. My son has pulverized cauliflower for pizza crust. My daughter is an expert on slowing mixing the dry ingredients to keep them inside the bowl. They can both crack eggs without getting shells in the bowl. My husband makes his own hot sauce. I’ve always been into cooking, but I haven’t always had the bandwidth to incorporate my children.
• More time to read — My whole family is reading more than ever. Sometimes, when I am teleworking, the house is eerily quiet. I assume the kids are up to no good. Actually, even at 6 and 9 years of age, they have been reading for hours.
• A way to identify the helpers — When hard times come, people show their true colors. 2020 has been an exceptional revealer. I want to surround my family with people who stand up for others, show empathy, model kindness and fearlessly lead. 2020 has made me reprioritize whom I spend my time with and whom I expose my children to.
• A reminder to value the right things — With all the distance and isolation of 2020, I value relationships more than ever. Most us are realizing how essential human connection is to health of our spirits. Material things be darned; 2020 is the year of the connection and support.