Maybe We Needed to Stay at Home

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Maybe we needed to stay home. Perhaps we needed to be given permission to stop, to reset, to look up from the grind and into each other’s eyes.

Because a family with two teenagers just walked past my house together. I‘ve never seen teenagers walking with their families in my neighborhood.

Or maybe I was the one too busy to notice.

Maybe we needed to be told to stay at home because our children were reaching their breaking point.

My day job allows me to spend time with others’ children each day. I’ve harbored their hurts for years. No matter the race or age or socioeconomic status, they all have one thing in common.

I’ve cried myself to sleep knowing that nothing I will ever do, no amount of education, no string of carefully thought out words, no love that I have for them will ever really make things better.

Because the answers lie within the walls of their own homes. 

But no one is ever home. Instead, we eat hurried dinners in cars and ignore the sunshine. We rush from obligation to obligation, sporting events to dance classes, attempting to fill voids, and perpetually failing. Wondering if the next thing will be what makes us feel fulfilled, will make our children feel fulfilled. We grow further apart until we’re more comfortable in our own heads. And worse, we teach our children that this type of lifestyle, where we run alongside each other but never connect, is normal.

That it’s common.

That it’s just the way it is.

When we are home, our eyes are turned to sporting events and work emails, devices, and other people’s filtered lives. And when our eyes are free, our minds are occupied. 

We don’t think they will notice, but they notice. They might not be able to find the words, but the lack of connection, the lack of something as simple as time spent together, shows up at school. It shows in every moment of their day, in behaviors, academics, friendships, emotions, personality, motivation, and self-esteem.

So, maybe we needed to be told to stay at home.

To force us to stop and stare into those little eyes. To listen. To cancel plans and events and activities that have served as excuses and placeholders for decades. To remind us that all that really matters, what we truly need to feel fulfilled, can be found within the walls of our homes.

Maybe we needed to be reminded that those things, those events, the extras, that we thought gave our lives value, were never what truly made us happy. They weren’t what made our children truly happy.

Maybe we needed to stay at home

Because when we were told it was OK, no, that it was required. When it was the social norm to stay home, we were forced to turn off the noise and distractions—forced to slow down, to be bored, to spend time together. Maybe it hasn’t been pretty or relaxing. In fact, it’s probably been stressful and messy. But that’s not what our kids have seen.

Faced with uncertainty, we turned off the surface level conversations and asked the hard questions. We’ve come together as a community and asked our neighbors, “what do you need?” We’ve all felt loss, financially, and emotionally, together. We’ve been reminded that we are not the center of the universe. We’ve learned to adapt, shown our creativity, spent time together, cried together, learned new ways to cope with hard things, and showed resilience and strength like we might have never been asked to before. That’s what our children saw.

And because of that, we will all be better.

Maybe we needed to stay at home.

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