• Sabrina Irvine

Life Lessons in 2020: Part 1

We've all seen our share of memes about 2020 and I'm sure you're over the ridiculous toilet paper jokes (I sure am). When you made resolutions on December 31st my guess is that you didn't set goals to homeschool your children or become comfortable sporting a mask as a daily accessory. When the pandemic hit, the world as we knew it took a dramatic turn. Top Doctors and experts revealed new guidelines and statistics on a daily basis. While Covid-19 swiftly took many things away, I think it's fair to say we also learned many valuable lessons.

In a matter of about ten days, we saw every possible activity get cut from our schedules. Prior to 2020, I don't think I spent much time contemplating how important our regular activities were in relation to our mental health. I watched a shift in my son's personality shortly after his hockey season abruptly ended. This was his first hockey season ever, the first season he scored a goal, the first season learned to love the feeling of blades beneath his feet. This was the first season, that he learned the importance of a team. He found great friendships, that extended beyond his classroom and onto the rink. This was the first time he had learned the true benefit to not giving up. Skating didn't come easy to Jaxon, as he was at least a full year behind the majority of kids. It hurt my mama heart to watch him struggle with skating, but it warmed my heart to watch him improve each time he hit the ice. This was the first time, I'd seen my husband absolutely light up about one of our kids activities. Don't get me wrong, he was always at the dance recitals and soccer games but his heart is and always will be on the ice.

In early 2020, my aspiring gymnast daughter Scarlett was invited to join a developmental team at our Gymnastics Club. We signed all the forms and wrote all the weekly times on our family calendar. We had purchased a few bright neon bodysuits, she was totally ready to strut into the gym. After being heavily involved in the dance world for many years, becoming a gym mom was unchartered territory for me. I couldn't have been more excited to watch her tackle this new adventure. All our planning and preparation for her joining the team was abruptly paused when the pandemic hit. I give extreme props to our gym (Taiso), which quickly adapted to daily zoom workouts to keep athletes in shape for the eventual return to the gym. While we started out strong with the daily zooms, I quickly saw a change in her attitude towards gymnastics. It was a fight to get her to finish the full zoom workouts, I would find her signing out 15 minutes early (she hoped I didn't notice...but I always knew). Scarlett would often cry about how difficult exercises were and yell that she didn't want to keep going. This attitude was a total shift from the little girl I saw beaming at the gym after every single class before the pandemic. It was undeniable that this technology replacement for her inperson time at the gym was having a direct impact on her mental health. Scarlett's daily breakdowns in my arms between school zooms and gym zooms was beginning to impact my mood and mental health.

I'm not just talking about our kids activities and sports, this stretches so much further than the kids. Yes we saw the hockey season cut short, but we also saw professional and semi professional athletics abruptly halted. My husband has purchased season tickets for the Saskatchewan Rush Lacrosse Team for a few seasons. The games were a reason for this group of Dads in their 30's to catch the game and then head to 13 pies for a pizza and brew following the game. My husband looks forward to this ritual with every home game. This ritual the guys have enjoyed many times is more than just an autopilot activity, I firmly believe it has become a key component in maintaining mental health. While I'll admit, some nights I was undeniably annoyed that I stayed home with the kids in my sweats and he threw on a jersey and headed out for a fun night with the boys. Now before I get a pile of messages, don't worry I also enjoy the occasional night out with the girls. I guess you could say, the pandemic has opened my eyes to the value of his boys night out. There are definitely positive impacts that his nights out have for me as a Mom and wife. Its safe to say, my husband also receives great value from my wine date with the ladies (don't worry...ill elaborate on what I mean).

While I may not be physically attending the lacrosse games, and he isn't sipping a glass of wine on my girls nights there is a direct connection with these social activities and mental health for your spouse. I'm not arguing the importance of date night here (see my last blog post for my strong views on date nights with your spouse), this is specifically related to the value that can be found in separate nights out away from your spouse.

Here's the thing, whether you're a Mom or Dad it's hard to deny the importance of getting together with other parents to vent, unwind and socialize. The ritual of regular Mom or Dad nights out, is something you look forward to through the chaos of your busy week. A night out can refresh and rejuvenate a parent when they feel drained or inadequate. When the pandemic hit and life came to a stop there was no denying that it hit parents hard.

Not only did the absence of social gatherings affect the mental health of individuals but the health of marriages. If you cancel all the rituals of parents with other Moms and Dads, what happens to those concerns that go unspoken for weeks? The annoyances and struggles parents face get buried inside in a stack similar to Jenga blocks. It's all well and good until a few pieces fall and you explode to your spouse. The pandemic has definitely taken a toll on marriages and I feel a main contributor to this struggle can be the absence of social gatherings.

The pandemic has taught me many things, it has taught me the value of face to face sports and activities in direct correlation to the mental health of my kids. I have learned that technology cannot replace the physical act of our kids participating in an activity or sport with teammates. Undeniably, I have discovered a new found appreciation for my husband's nights out with the boys. I have quickly come to realize that time apart with friends can promote a healthy marriage. Unfortunately I'm sure this pandemic is far from over, I am grateful for the many lessons I have been forced to learn so far during these Covid days.

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