I would like to take this moment and give a high-five to parents of toddlers. Wow. You are making it through a pandemic, child care crisis and the Ironman of viruses.
And it’s dark. The light is returning, but I do remember playing flashlight hide-n-seek in the house because it was too icy to go out, and I really wanted a couple of minutes without children hanging on me. “Go hide and mommy will find you.” I did go look, but after breathing for a few minutes.
It is that time of year where I remember how dark dark can be. It’s easy to forget until I start getting ready for bed at 7 p.m. I don’t mind the dark all that much now my kids are grown, and I have a happy light. I do remember how endless the darkness felt with small children.
It is also that time of year where my girls tell stories about how I used to drag them through the graveyard in the dark when we lived in Michigan. My oldest tells the story; my youngest has blocked the memory.
I should probably deny taking two toddlers through a cemetery in the pitch dark, but I did. In my defense, we cut through so we could access the woods for a night hike. I got really stir crazy with toddlers and darkness. I’m pretty sure they put headlamps on, but then I made them turn the lights off and adjust their night vision.
That’s how I raised my girls. We lived in the delicate mix of terror, boldness and adventure. The dark cemetery and woods freaked me out too, but a house with toddlers and a black lab nearly made me lose my mind.
Stir crazy: Used among inmates in prison, it referred to a prisoner who became mentally unbalanced because of prolonged incarceration.
It is now used to refer to anyone who becomes restless or anxious from feeling trapped and even somewhat claustrophobic in an environment perceived to be more static and unengaging than can continue to hold interest, meaning, and value to and for them, according to Wikipedia.
I had moments of stir craziness where I couldn’t read Good Night Moon or play Barbies anymore, so I had to venture out and feel my blood flow again. It was a pain to wrestle toddlers into snow clothes, into the dark and onward to adventure, but they were tired of being stuck at home too. Staying home felt easier, but it was sucking me dry. Many times, I had to remind myself that everything has a season, and I was in the season of runny noses and tedium. Feel free to judge me for not being mom of the month, but please know I’m not judging you.
I want to thank parents, caregivers and friends who support them. This has been a rough go. Please ask for help when you need it, please don’t feel shamed when your children struggle adjusting to groups again, and please keep pushing yourself to get out and engage life. Sometimes I think I stayed sane by venturing into the places that freaked me out. I’d rather feel afraid than trapped.
Shepherd of the Valley is wrapping up our first 10-week workshop on “Parents and Caregivers as Sexual Educators.” It’s been scary to have vulnerable conversations, face our fears, and develop tools to help our children be healthy sexual beings. The final prayer is appropriate for all of us who help guide young ones:
Great Spirit of Love, give us courage to face our fears. Instill in us a spirit of serenity that we might meet each fear and uncertainty rooted in your grace. Help us to listen well and seek to understand the pressures, motivations and needs of the young people you entrust to our care so that we might be trusted guides along their way. Amen.
•Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.