Editor—This is the first of what we hope will be many columns by Krishna Kabra, the recently appointed executive director of the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido.
One may not be entirely remiss in assuming that we are living in a reality where even apocalyptic headlines could fail to incite, mobilize or shock.
A raised eyebrow or an eye roll maybe, but at this stage, that might be it. It is all rather sad really but pandemics, race protests, swarming locusts and raging fires are hard acts to follow.
This unprecedented, topsy turvy reality we find ourselves in has forced a flip in our inner states, and has presented a new lens with which to view the world–neither good nor bad, just new.
I think we can all agree that the last few months have been an epic emotional rollercoaster. Hysteria, dumbed down to panic, taken down another notch to fear…and then oh OK, phew…just anxiety now. On some days, when it’s all too much, a pervasive sense of utter powerlessness can send me straight to the mental wasteland that lies right between surrender and apathy.
On better days, I reach for hope and gratitude, if only they stuck.
The silver lining for me, in this hullaballoo, has not been the forced shut down but the forced slow down and surrender; truth be told, a rather uncomfortable state for a highly strung tireless toiler such as myself.
During the summer months, the slowdown was much needed. I found myself pottering and pootling around the house in June, expanding my knowledge of vegan substitutes in July, powering through books and powering through RPMs on my bike in August and, throughout the summer building Monopoly empires with my 11-year-old enterprising business partner of a son.
In September I began a new job as executive director of San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, a position that has put into sharp focus the myriad challenges faced by children and families during the pandemic.
There is no doubt that having children during a pandemic adds pressure, particularly when you add the dynamic layer of home schooling or hybrid schooling or whatever it is that we’re in right now, but they can also be a source of pleasure. I remember kids being described as a valve in an article I was reading right after lockdown several months ago. They can build pressure by noncompliance (“For the love of God, can you please turn your Xbox off?”) but they can also relieve pressure (“More snuggles love?”). After months of being in close quarters, I feel that despite the periods of pressure build, there are also moments of pressure release.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of pressure build moments during the week, nay…day, especially with all of us squashed together at home like pickled sardines everyday all the time, but I notice the release moments much more than I ever did before.
Although we have resumed some outdoor activities, I am not missing our frantic schedule of ferrying the weeds to and from swim practice at peak time traffic, rushing to the climbing wall thereafter, all while trying to figure out what I could possibly throw together that might present some semblance of an edible meal – but it’s not as frenetic in some ways as it once was.
This new restricted reality also brings with it an easiness and a clarity. With fewer options available, we are able to agree on things and well…just generally be more agreeable towards each other sometimes. Historically, Americans have prided ourselves on the vast range of choices in life – a defining pinnacle of privileged modern life – and somehow without choice, life feels rather refreshing, redeeming, re-paced and realigned….Just simpler in some sense. Perhaps this is a version of modernity that we should embrace? The whole ‘less is more’ model of the world.
That being said, there are some choices that I miss. I miss being able to travel; but hunkering down has meant that the intensity around travel choices, let alone traveling itself, has disappeared. We have been finding ourselves exploring our own backyards, neighborhoods that we have taken for granted. A new surrendering ease has ensued and the usual stress of choice paralysis that we’re used to desists. Deciding between Scrabble and Sequence has become child’s play and, truth be told, it has actually been quite nice.
All in all, a paced life with fewer choices has highlighted the importance of what really matters. Parenting priorities seem clearer, albeit messy sometimes, OK, most of the time, but we are leaning into parenthood and just being more connected to each other. I have found myself more present as a parent, genuinely paying attention to the magical moments, that before felt both fleeting and few and far between.
The general surrender to the craziness of the outside world has also tempered my “perfect parent” expectations. It seems to matter much less if my daughter skips her mandatory 45mins of pre- bedtime reading nowadays; we, including our kids, are really just doing the best that we can.
All of us in our own ways are in the midst of a monumental juggling act trying to balance work, school, and relationships, but in and amongst the craziness there is an acceptance that we are indeed all in this together.
I look forward to life post-pandemic. I’m sure I’ll even miss teaching myself all about inequalities and equations to help with my children’s schoolwork, and I may even miss the acceptance and simplicity of this strange interlude once we are there, but I do hope that what remains from these crazy times is a fresh framing of parenting, family, community and just meaningful connection.
A remembrance of the renunciation and reconnection gained from Life during a Pandemic.