I was asked to write about my experience as a mother during the pandemic. Before sharing my personal story, I feel it’s important to acknowledge the great amount of loss and uncertainty members of our community, and beyond, have experienced. COVID-19 has affected everyone, but not with the same breadth. I have been fortunate in that the lives and livelihood of my family have not been greatly affected by this virus. I fully realize there are many who have not been as fortunate. It is with a somber, hopeful, and grateful heart I share my COVID-19 story.
We all have a variety of societal roles, or “hats” you might say. My “hats” include mother, wife, friend, nurse, and girl scout leader, to name a few. This pandemic has challenged some of those roles while leaving others unscathed. The pandemic has affected me as a nurse, but not in the ways you might expect. Early on, as we watched hospitals around the country fall victim to the virus, my hospital took the opportunity to prepare. I’ll never forget the experience of teaching massage therapists how to safely transfer patients. Or, teaching physical therapists how to take vital signs. We were told the surge was projected to hit us in mid-April, but that surge never came. So, instead of being asked to work extra hours, as I had expected, I was asked to furlough hours. To stay home. This turn of events was unexpected, but looking back I realize being asked to stay home was a gift.
On March 12, my family was out for dinner to celebrate my daughter Alora’s 18th birthday. It was in the middle of her birthday celebration that we received the phone call from the district, announcing school had been cancelled. That same week, my husband Aaron was asked to work from home, and my son Drew lost both his jobs. The following week, I was asked to furlough. One by one, all of our activities and appointments were cancelled. Suddenly, a very busy family was stuck at home. Together. Us parents and four kids. It didn’t take us long to figure out what to do with this gift of time. We relaxed! Instead of waking up early to get a run in, I slept in. After breakfast, we would go for a walk. I haven’t felt that at peace in ages.
When school started again, we had to make a few adjustments. We can only get satellite internet where we live, and with both girls needing the internet for school, Drew needing internet for his college classes, and Aaron needing internet for work, we quickly determined we needed other options. Thankfully, the school district had set up a hotspot outside Lyons Middle Senior. Four to five times a week the girls would pack pillows, blankets, a few snacks, and their iPads into our van and park outside the school for several hours to get their school work done. I honestly think they appreciated the excuse to get out of the house.
Even with all my sleeping in, afternoon walks, pleasure reading, and hikes, I still found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. I tried to add a little excitement to this period of time by letting each family member pick a meal for the week. We quickly ran through our favorites so I moved on to asking the kids to “name a country.” We’ve now tried Botswanan peanut chicken, Greek souvlaki, spicy udon noodles, and Cuban picadillo. It was a pleasant surprise to find out my youngest, Juliana, enjoys cooking and baking, and it’s been a pleasure to have the time to make meals and treats together.
After the first couple of weeks, it became clear the kids were missing their friends, teachers, and rites of passage. This is where I have been most challenged to be creative. This is Alora’s senior year, and there are a lot of “last times” she didn’t want to miss out on. Hello Zoom! We’ve now used Zoom for girl scout meetings, prom, and a final goodbye to teachers. I’m so appreciative of Dr. Gregg, who put together a virtual band banquet, to Coach Richardson for hosting a virtual basketball banquet, and Mrs. Strzyz who compiled our senior night video so it could be live streamed to seniors and senior families. There are a number of Lyons High School teachers that Zoomed with our seniors to simply check in and say hi. This may seem like a simple thing, but it meant a great deal to Alora.
Juliana turned 13 in early May. Since she couldn’t have a traditional birthday, I messaged friends, family, and neighbors and asked them to please send her a card. She ended up almost getting 50. I’m confident it’s a birthday she will never forget. My oldest, Cameron, graduated from CSU this spring. Not surprisingly, his graduation ceremony has been cancelled. As a mom, I wish I could make up for this lost rite of passage, but have struggled to come up with anything meaningful. I’m still thinking on that one.
As we all work toward a “new normal,” there is still much to be determined. Will Cameron get a job in this economy? Will I get to keep mine? Who is going to get COVID-19? Will they survive? Will it be me? But in the midst of this uncertainty, there is much to be grateful for. Sure, we could dwell on all we have lost: a 13th birthday party, goodbyes to teachers, graduations, a trip to Thailand my troop had worked and saved two years for (this is probably what I’m most saddened by). But in the grand scheme of things, I believe my family and I will walk away from this period of time better off than when the pandemic started. I have learned so much. Namely, how beautiful and peaceful life is when you slow down to appreciate it. As we move into a new normal, my goal is to prioritize enjoying quiet time at home, surrounded by those I love most with views of the Rocky Mountains.
Maria Cross and her husband Aaron have lived in the Lyons area for seven years with their four children. She considers her top jobs to be mother, wife, friend, nurse and girl scout leader.