The Effects Of Parenting (While Quarantining)

Jeremy Gaston
4 min readDec 4, 2020

“Daddy, I’m hungry.” My 3 year old son pleaded, with puppy dog eyes in tow.

“Okay buddy, I’ll have your plate ready in a minute”, I replied. Satisfied with my response, he returned to his perch on the couch.

“Alright Bub, here’s your plate”, I exclaimed. “Let’s eat!”

To wit he demanded loudly, “No!” My face said all the words my lips wouldn’t allow…

It was in that very moment that I realized that my son was entrenched in an age-old toddler’s dilemma: his body wanted food, but his mind wanted to control the terms. He was testing his boundaries of control — nonsensically might I add. But what kid hasn’t at his age? I mean his world is completely surrendered to other folk’s decisions: when to eat, when to potty, when to be quiet, when to play, when to bathe and when to go to bed.

When does he ever get to feel like he’s in control?

If you’re like me, after spending almost 9 months in quarantine, you’re yearning for some semblance of freedom just as my son does, daily. Without the freedom to eat when and where I want, have the desired quiet space to do dedicated work, take a quick stroll without fear of the “walking dead” lingering on my path, and the numerous other things I had no idea quarantine would jack with, I do just want to shout “NO” nonsensically at times to things I very well want. Or maybe, I jockey for authority and dominance over my spouse or children, when they’re more deserving of a teammate or an understanding coach.

Parenting while quarantined has to be one of the greatest challenges during any era. But how much more difficult it must feel to be quarantining in an era of time where we have the most access to any thing we want or places we wanna go. My guess is, living under such restrictions can increase stress levels by an insane multiple. And as a result, drive us to some pretty destructive parenting habits or one-off responses.

Growing up, my mother’s generation surely would’ve handled my son’s outburst much differently. Swiftly and sternly — leaving no room for misinterpretation about who is in control. And, if I’m honest, there was a part of me who wanted to respond the exact same way. Because it gets results. Unfortunately, it does so often times at the expense of the heart of/connection with the child.

Our little humans are battling to understand a modicum of emotions inside a given moment. Thus, how we respond to their exploration of said emotions are vitally important. It was imperative for me to hear, understand and respond to my son’s emotions in a way that let him know that his emotions matter just as much as mine do. Making it known that he could trust me with more of his emotions as he grows older.

I saw myself in him. My desire to be seen, heard and understood — even when I can’t understand my own self.

So I took a breath, placed his plate on the counter and said, “Okay Bub, your plate’ll be here waiting for you.” Then I walked away.

“Thank you, Daddy”, he relented. He grabbed his plate and returned to his perch once more with the spoils of a successful battle, smile in tow.

He had won, and who am I to tell him any different.

It wasn’t a battle that was important for me to fight/win. Especially not a fight for control against a 3-year old. The only battle I needed to win was to make sure he was fed. And in order to overcome his opposition, I simply had to relinquish my need for control. In so doing, I received everything I set out to gain. Not an easy concept, nevertheless it produces an amazing response when you can muster up the courage and humility to do so.

In the end, your children will appreciate and celebrate you in the years to come for your love, not your control and dominance. And I expect it will pay dividends when they’re teenagers, if we continue to steward their emotional discovery through all their stages of life.

Do you agree? Do you have more experience with this as a parent? I’d love to read your perspectives — conflicting or corroborating — in the comments.

--

--