Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekly Column: A New Normal Is Still Normal

It sounds ridiculous, the notion that normalcy can survive after big chunks of our lives have been forever changed.  After all, the very structure of ‘change’ forbids inertia.  When things change, we have to move with that energy, doing what is required to stay upright.
And that’s where much of Joplin now resides.  In the middle of forced change. 
For adults, it’s hard enough: there are insurance companies to contact, helping agencies to be registered with, belongings to be salvaged, family members to be located and cared for.  The seemingly simple acts of feeding and bathing loved ones take much more effort than before. 
Our children’s worlds have been no less impacted.  Even those who still have homes are reeling from what their city and friends have been through.  Now, in the midst of such transition and upheaval, it’s important to preserve some sense of stability, however hard it is to come by. 
For different families, that takes shape in different ways.  In my own home, our days have been completely reorganized around this disaster.  Meals, bedtimes, activities, and moods are all mixed up.  We are floating along with the city’s changing pulse.  But no matter how we spend our time, we are trying to keep a few things sacred.  Things that will help our children weather these changes with a minimum of fear and worry. 
We stick to things like bedtime stories for the little ones.  Favorite, comforting words accompanied by excessive snuggling.  We plan busy-making activities with whatever supplies we have on hand: sidewalk chalking with old nubs of color, watercolor painting with cracked paints, games with heavy adult playfulness, and squishing with bare feet in the abundant spring mud-puddles. 
In the lack of timely routines, we make sure to honor the spirit of our family.  For example, while it’s tempting to let our kids watch hours of movies or cartoons as we take care of other things, if that’s not our usual habit, we try to limit television.  If we leave the kids with others while we go help those in need, we take extra time upon returning to pay attention and show love.  Anything that keeps our family operating on an even keel despite the turmoil will be helpful.  If there wasn’t much of a routine before, it may be helpful to implement a few steadying, everyday habits to keep kids from feeling at loose ends.
Even in families who’ve lost everything, where everything normal has been turned upside down, the routines of relationships remain.  The ways we relate to our kids are more important than ever.  The ways we keep them informed and let them help will provide a fabric of strength and composure for them to bounce back from their losses.  Our emotions will guide theirs, and if they feel us pulling away, unable to relate to their bouts of stress-induced grumpiness or fear, their means of responding to future distress will be impacted.
In some situations, the ways we’ll provide normalcy may not feel ordinary at all.  But a different school will still carry a somewhat known routine.  Borrowed clothes can still become favorites.  Donated toys will still distract and comfort. 
A new standard will be reached, eventually.  In the meantime, we’re all just clinging to the closest semblance of normal in order to walk away in whole, stable, upright pieces. 
Pieces that can’t be blown away in even the strongest of winds. 

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry that I haven't been by sooner. I was on a bit of a bloggy break and have been slowly getting back into the swing of things again. I am praying right now for you and your family and friends. Your post has really showed me how strong and positive you are but I am sure you are also suffering and struggling. I wish I could do more to help and support you and your community but since I can't please know you are in my thoughts.

    Take care.

    Blessings and best wishes always,


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?