“What a year this week has been!”
I chuckle every time I see this little witticism, which started appearing on yard signs in our neighborhood a few weeks into the pandemic.
Of the many burdens COVID-19 has imposed, the lockdown presented a unique challenge to parents like my wife and me. I remember the moment in March 2020 when I read the email that our almost-3-year-old’s day care was shutting down for two weeks. (Followed by an additional four weeks, and eventually indefinitely.) My wife and I shared the news with her mother, who was graciously living with us for the school year to take care of our 10-month-old baby.
In order to provide both children with proper attention, while balancing our day jobs with my mother-in-law’s generosity and everyone’s sanity, we crafted a rigorous 18-hour daily schedule. This child-care situation at home was an enormous weight on me, compounded by the pandemic causing a dramatic upswing in my work as a contractor for a federal health agency. I was constantly ruminating over how to handle this new pandemic life.
After several weeks of fretting, I finally turned to God, the Father and Mother of us all. I started considering ideas about our children’s spiritual nature as God’s children, ideas I had prayed with leading up to their births and in the time since. I reminded myself not to think of children as feeble little beings that go through numerous developmental phases and challenges in order to become functional humans, and instead to see children as timeless, spiritual, already complete ideas created by God.
This means that their growth is a natural unfolding of their unique and full expression as God’s creation. As parents, our role isn’t to bear the responsibility for their lives by ourselves, but to lean on our divine Parent, God, and bear witness to their and our God-governed spiritual progress. As Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66).
Growth viewed this way, spiritually as opposed to materially, doesn’t apply just to children; it includes teenagers, adults, and every single person in the world, since every one of us is a child of divine Love, God.
This clearer awareness of our relationship to Love calmed my numbing and all-consuming fear. And it brought out a fresh perspective. I began seeing the extra time spent with our kids as a precious blessing rather than a challenge, and embraced being a very present papa who was now spending quality time with his kids every single day: early in the morning, throughout the day, at dinner, and at bedtime.
Weeks began to feel less like years and more like weeks again. Our baby grew into a toddler and moved into her older brother’s room, where they both sleep all the way through the night, and where to this day they absolutely love being together.
This Father’s Day I am filled with immense gratitude for the past year of togetherness with my family; for the God-given resilience of all the dads, moms, grandparents, and other caretakers who have dedicated themselves selflessly to caring for children throughout the pandemic; for our frontline workers, who bravely provide essential services and help those in need; and for how people across the world have come together to support each other. Above all, I am grateful for the light of God that all children so naturally express, and for the privilege of being a parent who witnesses this expression firsthand.
God’s fathering love for all of us is eternal; leaning on and trusting in this love, no matter how trying the situation, we will find ourselves supported and able to accomplish whatever it is we need to do.