Life seems really hard lately and I have struggled to describe how I feel about schools, and mandates, and protests, and social distancing. Each day brings some new cause for global panic, but I can no longer articulate the emotion it creates. I can’t explain how this whole pandemic is affecting me or what I need in order to feel better. At least I couldn’t explain it until today.
Around lunchtime, a friend shared her story about coming home at 4:15 PM to a toddler who had no nap that day and the madness that followed. After listening to her account of chasing a cranky kid around the living room, I realized her situation truly represents what we’re all experiencing.
Right now, we’re all toddlers with no nap.
We’re past the point of exhaustion. We can no longer regulate our feelings and emotions. Nothing seems to soothe us for more than a second, but we refuse to give in!
Which toddler are you?
Face-down in the high chair with a donut in each hand?
Running around the house at full speed because if you ever stop, you’ll crash?
Sitting in the floor crying?
Taking every toy and stuffing it in your wagon because you need all the things?
While not an exact match, I think each type of toddler represents a group of adults and how they are managing the overwhelming stress and anxiety that is 2020.
Personally, I’m in the high chair. I relied on food as a coping mechanism throughout the spring and summer. At first, I ate a lot of ice cream. Then, I started trying new recipes. I used yeast to make dough. I canned tomatoes from my parents’ garden and even made my own pickles! I’m one batch of cookies away from a 4-H ribbon or diabetes! And based on the number of memes about “the COVID-15” and pants no longer fitting, I know I’m not alone in this category.
Maybe instead of eating, you’re going non-stop from daylight to dark. You wrangle the kids, clean the house, and do your actual job without missing a beat. I know you’re tired. You know you’re tired. But if you ever stop moving, you’re going to collapse and who has time to deal with that!?
You might be feeling all the feels. Each news story is sadder than the one before it and there’s no end in sight. People are suffering, being mistreated, losing family members and family businesses. It’s all so heartbreaking. What’s there to do but cry?
How about shopping? Online shopping fills a lot of voids both literally and figuratively. If you’re going to have to wear a mask, you’re going to wear the cutest mask on Etsy. You’re going to need a back up to that mask. Your best friend needs a coordinating mask. Your kids need one mask for each day of school they may or may not attend. *Add to cart.
Although it manifests in different ways, I think each group of adults is searching for the same thing our kids need when they’re beyond tired and out of sorts — comfort.
Comfortable shoulder to cry on
Comfy blanket with matching pillows and socks and stuffed animal
We need the grown-up equivalent of someone holding us tight and making us feel safe enough to rest.
I know I could use more sleep. My patience is wearing thin and my ability to cope with disasters of all kinds diminishes a bit each day. I’ll admit it – I am cranky. But armed with this toddler metaphor, I feel better prepared to face whatever crisis comes next. So instead of wondering why I’m making buffalo chicken dip at 11 PM, I can acknowledge that I’m overwhelmed, anxious, and seeking comfort in the kitchen. Then bake a cake.