As we wrap up 2020, many people are understandably happy to see this year end. The month of April alone felt like a year.
At this writing, coronavirus cases are surging in Lancaster and several schools have elected to close. Our country remains divided politically, and stories of families in financial and personal crisis abound.
At times it seems like we are stalled in a void that contains only boredom and bad news. The year 2021 must be better, and I am confident it will be. But before we turn the page on the calendar, I think it is important to be mindful of the good things that came out of 2020.
Yes, there was the pure joy of births, graduations, and weddings, but there also was a lot of emotional growth. I am not writing this to promote optimism or to wear rose-colored glasses. Simply said, it is critical that we emphasize the lessons learned from 2020 so that once we return to “normal” we build upon them as individuals, parents and community members. While 2020 may be a year we want to forget, we would be doing ourselves, and our children, a great disservice if we did not commit certain things about this year to permanent memory.
Even snowplow and helicopter parents found out they could not protect their child from the effects of the pandemic. We did not have any parental magic wand to wave to make up for missed proms, games or recitals. We could not even save them from boredom.
Instead we were forced to say, “I am sorry, that really stinks, but I know you are going to be OK.” Our children have had to learn some hard lessons over the past few months. They have had to be more flexible and creative. They have been sad, mad and frustrated, and they have met these emotions head on.
And together you and your child have proven the most important thing about a parent-child relationship: Regardless of how bad things are, you have each other and that is enough.
The world slowed down. We spent holidays with our immediate families instead of the usual blur of parties and presents. We played board games. We did home improvement projects. We slept in more. We read books to our kids. We kept up-to-date on current events. We spent time worrying.
Some of the stuff we did was great, and some of it was tedious. Some of the activities that kept us busy we will miss and some we will not. Take note of these feelings about the way you spend your time as a parent and take steps to ensure that you prioritize the things that bring happiness. Ask your child what they miss and do not miss in their lives; you may be surprised at the answer.
Hooking up Schoology to a 2010 iPad using a hot spot created from your phone ... yep, we have done it. Exchanging bread yeast for toilet paper with a neighbor; it happened. Car parades for birthdays, virtual dance recitals, Zoom gym class, support pods and community classrooms all became the norm.
Creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and fast thinking have proven to be mandatory for parenting these days. These are skills that we get to keep! Yet, the greatest benefit came from solving problems with our children, showing them where there is a will there is always a way.
There are new heroes in this world, and they are not NFL players. They are professionals such as grocery store workers, truck drivers, teachers and, of course, health care providers. They do not have million-dollar salaries, or their own YouTube channel — just the title “essential.” Without them, we would have been lost.
Each day they bravely give their time and talents so we can get the goods, education, care and help that we need. Let us not forget this as we move forward and continue to show our children that those who serve humankind deserve our respect and admiration.
Deeper in-depth knowledge on vaccine safety
The daily news resembles a medical school class in virology these days. As we inch closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, I am grateful that this process has brought a renewed sense of transparency and trust to vaccine development.
For many parents, the idea of a polio or meningitis infection in their child was difficult to conceptualize. However, infectious diseases are a real threat, and while I am sad it took a pandemic to remind us, I am looking forward to less anti-vaccine rhetoric, and more support in our efforts to universally vaccinate for all diseases.
Motivation to go to school
As with most things that we take for granted, it was not until school was gone that we knew how much we needed it. Kids went from looking forward to days off to counting the days until school reopened. This is a lesson our children will not forget.
As adults, we need to remember this, as well, when making decisions about education funding, curriculum and safety. The teachers and staff of our schools have tremendous impact on our children and their future. They deserve equal funding, mindful curriculums and appropriate training.
Schools have proven to be the second home our kids need; it is our job to care for them and the people within them in a way worthy of their incredible value.
Not one of my strong suits. But 2020 has certainly been a lesson in patience for all of us. Patience with waiting for a vaccine. Patience with schools reopening. Patience with each other. And while we were waiting, we acquired more knowledge, experience, empathy and kindness — probably a fair trade-off. Patience is critical for an environment that fosters collaboration and creativity, two things that are going to be critical for recovery.
A widening of our circle of empathy
As we watched the world around us cry out with seemingly endless pain, it would have been easy to become numb. Yet, that is not what has happened. Instead we have reached out to help each other. During a time when we could not be together, we proved that we were never more there for each other.
We spoke out against racial inequality, we put teddy bears in windows, we brought food to elderly neighbors in isolation, we helped register voters and we donated to important causes.
Regardless of how small the act was, it had meaning during these difficult times, and our children were watching. We must remain vigilant in the way that we protect and help each other. This legacy of empathy can and will make the world a better place.
There is reason to celebrate 2020 and not just that it is over. But more important, it is time to take stock of what we have learned and to use that as a springboard to a better future.
For 2021, I wish for us all to be healthy and together. And may the lessons of 2020 be a shining light in our memories as we move past this difficult year.
Dr. Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatric Associates, answers questions about children’s health. You can submit questions at Features@LNPnews.com.