A year of pandemic parenting. 

A year. Just one? 

Are we sure about that?

I gotta be honest. I know one year equals 365 days, but I think it feels more accurate to label our time this way: t h r e e   h u n d r e d   a n d   s i x t y – f i v e   d a y s. Ya know, all drawn out with each and every day getting equal representation. 

Because we had some days, didn’t we? 

And, last time I checked, we’re still having some days. Many of us still work from home and our kids are in virtual school or attend class in a mask. 

Our family hasn’t seen the inside of a restaurant in over a year and it shows. I’d like to say I’m scared of how my kids will behave the first time we sit down with a waiter again. But, the truth is, I’m worried how I’ll behave. Third round of chips and salsa, please. And you said you all do wash the dishes for us, correct? Wonderful!

With our eyes focused on the adulting days ahead—date nights and dinner parties and travel!—let’s take a quick peek at the parenting days behind. 

5 Lessons Learned from a Year of Pandemic Parenting

Because, yes, we’ve had some days. Some incredibly tough days. But we’ve also experienced moments of joy. And, thankfully, we have the gift of learning from it all. 

1. A full life doesn’t require a full calendar.

With options for entertainment and activities limited, we found creative ways to fill our days. And we let our kids get nice and bored like we did growing up. And while, yes, we all hope to be a bit more busy in the future, we don’t have to fill every minute to make every minute count. 

2. Masks are the great booger barrier.

No nose picking. No thumb sucking. I mean, I do look forward to turning our growing collection of masks into a commemorative Covid quilt. But in the meantime, I’ll accept the benefits.

3. It’s okay to not be okay. 

Maybe you lost your job or a loved one. Maybe all the togetherness wore you down. Maybe you miss your mom and dad or your friends. Maybe you simply need a break. Pandemic parenting taught us to be vulnerable and, hopefully, to reach out for help. 

4. Laughter really is the best medicine.

It’s true now more than ever: the mental health of our family matters. Do your shoulders feel tight these days? Do you struggle with new headaches? Do your kids have trouble sleeping? Of course they do. We’re all stressed. And we all need time for lighthearted play, the freedom to roam around, and laughter that relaxes some of our tension. 2021 might just be the year that we prioritize fun. 

5. Snack plate dinners are God’s gift to the tired parent. (See also: takeout) 

When you eat every breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home with the same crew, mealtime motivation wanes. Who wants to cook and clean again? So we learned to create elaborate snack plates using up the scraps in our fridge and pantry. 

It goes like this: Here, children, we have a little bit of ham, sliced cheese, a bell pepper, some blueberries, an avocado, and a few crackers. How about some raisins and a Lärabar? And oh, look! There’s a smidge of Trader Joe’s cookie butter left in the jar. Won’t that pair just perfectly with an apple? Dinner is served. 

What lessons—big or small—did you learn while parenting in a pandemic? 

I, for one, look forward to learning a few lessons the old-fashioned way. 

Perhaps from hearing my kids accidentally repeat a swear word at church. Because, church! We’ll be back at church! Or maybe even by causing them great embarrassment while dancing like a fool in front of all of their friends. Because this sounds like a party. And if it’s a party—even a kid’s party—I’m in.