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  • Jenny Runkel

Back in Time


I’m here with a message from the future. One day, sooner than you can possibly imagine, your child will have lives of their own and dreams to pursue that don’t involve you. They will evolve thanks to their own efforts and the company they keep, but their baseline beliefs about themselves, the world, and what it looks like to be an adult will come from you. From both small and large moments, loud and soft ones.

And you can be sure that this crazy moment in their lives will resound louder than most.

Your children, even the ones with hairy underarms, are absorbent sponges soaking in every bit of the input they’re getting. And they are scared, even though they probably can’t articulate it just yet. This level of uncertainty and ever-changing landscape of reality is not easy, even for those of us with perspective, having lived through some scary stuff to see the light of day. Imagine what all of this must be like for your children.

In fact, if I were your teacher, that’s exactly what I’d have you do.

Take out a piece of paper and a pen.

Spend a few minutes writing down what you were like when you were the age of your child.

What did 8 feel like for you? Who were your friends? What games did you play? Who was your teacher and did she smell funny? What year was it and what songs did you hear on the radio?

Who were you trying to be at 14? Which posters lined your walls and whose locker did you happen to walk by before Life Science every day? Which movies did your parents allow you to go see at the mall and which ones did you sneak into?

Why actually write instead of just “consider”? Writing forces you to slow down so your memories, emotions, and associations can catch up to your rational thoughts and irrational fears. Trust me on this one. Besides, what else are you going to do for the next 10 minutes, go back down the rabbit hole of scary information? It will be there when you’re finished – I promise.

Done? Good.

You, with all of your current strengths and challenges, were shaped in large part by that childhood you just reconnected with. And your childhood was shaped by the adults in your world who helped or didn’t help you process the world around you. And those adults themselves were shaped by their own set of fears, beliefs, actions, and attitudes. And like your own children today, you were absorbent little sponges for it all.

I think sometimes we are so busy doing the things that we have to do to keep our plates spinning that we don’t acknowledge how important our childhood experiences were in shaping the courses of our lives. We may occasionally remember a vague snapshot or two from family photo albums or an embarrassing fall in front of a crush, but we’ve lost touch with the us that was us inside those moments. And that’s too bad. That “us” has a lot to offer now, both for our own sakes and for the sakes of our children.

Today, as you walk through this frightening new reality, recognize that your children are currently shaping those kinds of memories for their future and possibly for your future grandchildren. What you do, how you handle yourself, and how you help them navigate this crisis right now, matters greatly.

Parenting is the most important thing you will ever do. You are emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually shaping a life who will in turn shape the world around them. That’s what you signed up for when you first drove home from the hospital. It’s what you’re doing every day. You don’t have to be perfect. Which is good news, because perfect doesn't exist.

You just have to be willing to evolve with your kids as they grow. And there’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic to give us all a chance to grow.

So that’s your assignment for today. Imagine the you of your childhood living in the world of now and then love yourself and your children accordingly. By doing this, you’ll be growing as you raise your kids and we’ll all be thankful in the future.

Assuming the zombies don’t get us first.

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