The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Lockdown.
Just checking in again and wondering how you are managing under week five of lockdown.
I had a bit of a wobble last week.
The first three weeks of lockdown for our family went fairly well. We all pitched in to do our chores, had fun some nights playing games, and enjoyed meals together.
Then the tides changed.
Easter holidays soon arrived, which meant our son doesn’t have much school work. Hence, both kids have little to do-- no job for Jessica and no schoolwork for Sean. As a consequence, they watched TV until the wee hours of the morning and finally arising in the late afternoons to do their chores.
This schedule started to grate on my nerves. I yelled to get them up earlier, but to no avail.
I was miffed because I've been getting up at 6 a.m. every work day with Jörg to make his coffee and pack his lunch. To maintain a routine and keep a standard of cleanliness, I’d end up doing the kids’ laundry and other chores plus a multitude my own responsibilities--including cooking full meals for five people. (Jessi’s boyfriend stays here often. He is a calming buffer among us). Feeding these idle bodies often sends me to stores where the corona virus may lurk, an unwanted anxiety.
One day Sean woke up late for a doctor’s appointment and acted nonchalant about it. I felt under pressure to get us there on time while being angry at myself for forgetting our face masks and disinfection wipes. He made an inconsiderate remark, as self-absorbed teenagers often do, about how being late did not matter.
To my mind, he demonstrated a complete lack of understanding for the seriousness of this COVID-19 crisis and for how our medical professionals risk their lives to treat patients. I took his offhand remark to mean that the doctor has nothing better to do than wait for us. True, he is only 15-years-old, but a dumb comment is a dumb comment.
Somehow it released the silent stress of living in lockdown, like the boiling magma of a once dormant volcano. My anger finally erupted. Perhaps, my anger was a mixed bag of many feelings both current and past. Whatever the reason, I spewed my fury hard and fast, yelling at the top of my lungs. I was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it any more.
The odd thing was that I did not even feel bad about my unchecked frustration. The purgation of it, the sweet release of just letting it go. I felt like I my emotional boundaries had been violated.
What I am finding is I have to make new boundary rules for myself and for the family, kind of re-writing theme day by day. We had no blueprint for what a home office should look like during lockdown or for making our house a part-time classroom, or for how to deal with all the exhausting emotions associated with it.
I am sure sociologists, economists, psychologists and the like will be studying this period and the effects for decades to come.
In Germany last week, small businesses re-opened and this week hairdressers will back in business (thank God!). Also, some schools, including Sean's, will resume but not all pupils will return to the classroom. It depends on the state, school, and class.
Starting today, the government says we now must wear face masks when shopping, on public transportation, and at the doctor’s office. To be honest, today I made a homemade mask and after putting it on, I felt like crying. I don't like the feel of this new normal.
We don’t know the knockoff effects of the lockdown for the future. I sympathise for those who lost their jobs and want to go back to work. I do know that our lives before this crisis will never be the same. We will slowly figure out what the ‘new normal’ looks like in months to come.
But for right now, we are just hanging like monkeys on a bar.
I hope all are doing well and keeping sane. Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.
Best regards, Paula
Teenage drinking is often a real concern for parents. Living in a foreign country with relaxed drinking age limits, you have to confront the reality that your teenager might be consuming alcohol at a much younger age than in your home country.
A number of factors may underlie a country’s rules on teenager drinking: social acceptance, cultural mores, and the role of public transportation, to name a few. You have to examine your own cultural and moral attitudes on how to deal with this potential conflict.
Answering Your Child’s Call for Help
A few months ago, my daughter, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Tobi, called me in the middle of the night to help a drunk and disgraced Sarah (not her real name) get home safely. They didn’t want to take the bus for fear that Sarah would get sick and have them thrown off and onto the street.
On my drive across town, I pondered how I would handle the problem if I were a teenager again. Back in my day, I would not have called my parents for sure. In America where the drinking age is 21, my parents would have blamed the dumb teenagers for their foolishness and let them suffer the consequences.
Germans parents are far more lenient. In Germany, where I live, the drinking age is 16. Teenage drinking is prevalent. Some parents see this as perfectly normal, a right of passage so to speak.
Acknowledging Your Child’s Maturity
Pride and relief washed over me when I realized that Jessica took responsibility to call an adult in a situation that she felt was getting out of control. She overcame shame, exhibiting true maturity.
What really impressed me was the concern that Jessica and Tobi showed Sarah as they carefully guided her into the back seat of my car all the while caressing her back, assuring her that she’ll arrive home safely. Jessica put Sarah’s hair in a ponytail in case she got sick.
Witnessing Your Child’s Strengths and Skills
As if on queue, she did. Tobi and Jessica jumped into action like two well-trained first-aid workers.
Astutely, Jessica procured Sarah’s house keys. Quick thinking, she strategically arranged to have a girlfriend to meet us at Sarah’s house. They made a tactical plan to slip Sarah inside without disturbing her parents.
I pulled up to Sarah’s house at the same time her parents arrived on the scene. Learning that his daughter was intoxicated, Sarah's father affectionately put his arms around her demonstrating such compassion, love and understanding. Her mother thanked me kindly for delivering her daughter home safely.
Questioning Your Cultural Norms
I had to ask myself what I would have done in that situation? Would I have been so loving and understanding? Thinking of my own cultural perspective on teenage drunkenness, I might have been more stern, annoyed and disappointed in my child’s inebriation.
Opening Up to the Learning
The lesson I learned from Sarah’s parents was about loving your child under all circumstances. They know she is a good, loving daughter and normally a responsible young adult. She tried alcohol but her lightweight body couldn’t cope. In her parents eyes she did no wrong and ventured into the realm of teenager partying and experimenting.
Letting Go and Trusting
More importantly, I leaned to trust my daughter. She is intelligent, well organized and intuitive as she wades through life. I think that all the international moves and travelling have taught her to be flexible and take control of her circumstances.
Like many foreign parents living here, I have to adjust my cultural point of view on many issues. I have to surrender and accept situations that I cannot change. I have to let go and trust.
Understanding the Differences
This is not an easy concept for some foreigners abroad. For some nationalities and cultures, drinking is forbidden. Some countries consider wine an epicurean delight while others ban it altogether
I am not a fan of teenage drinking. I dread the thought of having to deal with my own kids coming home intoxicated. I can only hope that I’d act calmly and not be so harsh as my parents would’ve been.
Taking Sage Advice
When it comes to untying the apron strings of my own cultural confines, I am taking the sage advice from my Canadian friend and expat Shelley Wilson:
“It's scary, but you just got to trust her and all that you have ingrained in her over the years that she will make wise decisions for herself.”
Over To You
What is your experience or opinion on this topic? Please drop me a line in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you.