As I sat in my car, post-Target meltdown, I couldn’t help but think where I had gone wrong as a mom. My child had just ran down the aisles, kicking and screaming as I tried to sit him in the buggy. I was mortified; then the last two years flashed in front of my eyes. We have spent the last two years in isolation, scared, and worried, disrupting our whole life routine. It wasn’t just us; everyone we knew was isolated inside their homes for six months (or more). We grocery shopped by ordering online and driving up to have our groceries loaded into our car. Diapers and toys were dropped off in our backseat by a Target employee and all dinners were eaten at home even if we went to pick them up. The only behavior expectations I had for my toddler were to not jump off the furniture and eat at least one somewhat balanced meal a day. Those six months unfortunately were during some of his biggest developmental leaps. He learned to run around outside, get up from watching TV anytime he wanted, and we didn’t have a daily structure.
Is it my fault? Maybe, but raising a pandemic toddler has been harder than I thought.
As the world is turning into a “new normal,” we have typical behavioral expectations for our children. When asked to sit down on a colored circle, they should do so immediately, even for extended periods of time. Each child should be able to walk in a straight line down the hallway without talking and wait in a line for their turn. For a kindergartener, these are normal expectations. However, our current kindergarten teachers are faced with a new challenge. This is the first time some of their students stepped inside a classroom since they were three-years-old. These are behaviors that are taught in pre-k, church, or daycare. What happens when our children are unable to have these exposures? These behaviors don’t exist. Are we bad parents for wanting to protect our children and keep them home? Are we bad parents for sending our children to daycare in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? There is no right answer. What behaviors we have learned in the past year are that Cocomelon is made with some type of auditory drug that will trance any child; Blues Clues is back with a new guy named Josh, who still hunts clues; there is not a limit on how many times you can watch Toy Story; and mini muffins are a food group.
This pandemic has taught me a lot as a person. I have protected my grandparents and I have tried to keep small businesses alive, but I think I forgot about my toddler and where he is suffering. After speaking to a kindergarten teacher last week, I have realized most of our children are behind developmentally, cognitively, and socially. Teachers, can you be patient? This big cold room is scary and they don’t understand why they can’t run around like they do at home. Grandparents, we know our kids don’t listen very well; our expectations at home are to stay safe and don’t color on the dog. Target employees, I am sorry and embarrassed my kid is running down the aisle and won’t sit in a buggy.