Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: The emotional toll of the coronavirus

So, I'm not going to talk about washing your hands, or sneezing into your sleeve. You know all that. What I think we need to be talking with our children about right now is about managing expectations.

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Go Ask Mom: Amanda Lamb with her girls
Amanda Lamb
, WRAL reporter

I remember one Christmas when the tables were set for 25 people in my house. I had used china, crystal, silver and crisp white tablecloths. We had been planning the festivities for family and close friends for weeks, a celebration we host every year. We had also purchased food that crammed my refrigerator, ready to be cooked, warmed and served.

But on Christmas morning, our plans suddenly changed. My youngest daughter, who was in elementary school at the time, woke up with a high fever. We toyed with different scenarios. Could we just keep her in her bedroom and prevent others from getting sick? After lots of discussions between myself, my husband, and others scheduled to attend the dinner, we decided the safest thing would be to call it off. As it turned out, we went to the doctor the next day and my daughter tested positive for the flu, so we obviously did the right thing.

Yet, I remember the feeling I had that night, walking through my house, looking at all those tables, thinking about all the work that went into it, and the work I now had ahead of me to dismantle everything. Frankly I was very disappointed, and a little bit depressed by the whole thing.

As we deal as a community with the coronavirus, I think many of us are having these same feelings as things we had planned for, intended to do, were excited to do, are now being canceled or postponed due to this unforeseen public health crisis. It’s almost like everything, and I mean everything, is up in the air. This is a very hard thing to explain to children, even teenagers, who were looking forward to something, maybe for weeks and even months, and now that thing may not happen. It’s an interruption of life as we know it, and we have no idea how long this interruption will last.

As adults, we have more experience with disappointment than children do. I vividly remember the time when my oldest was a baby and she had bacterial meningitis. Thankfully she survived without any long-term adverse health effects, but there were many hurdles to overcome in the wake of her illness, not the least of which was that she had a compromised immune system and could no long attend daycare. For working parents, this was a crisis on top of the crisis we had already been through. We got through it, and so when my mother got brain cancer and our world turned upside down again, we were better prepared to go into emergency mode and figure out what we needed to do to get our family to the other side.

So, I’m not going to talk about washing your hands, or sneezing into your sleeve. You know all that. What I think we need to be talking with our children about right now is about managing expectations. We are in a shifting landscape where things are changing rapidly, and we have to prepare them for the likelihood of disappointment. It’s not about if things will be canceled, it’s about when. Organizers of events involving large numbers of people, especially people traveling to and from our area, have a huge responsibility to do the right thing. We can’t fault them for that. What I do know is that this too shall pass, and we will all be stronger for it. But until then, make sure your refrigerator is stocked, beef up your Netflix cue, pull out those books you meant to read and rediscover the joys of family game night.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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