Friday, December 19, 2008

Parenting though the storm

Last Friday, along with much of the rest of Central Massachusetts, we had no power. In retrospect, our emergency was minor compared to others, but our electricity was out for 10 hours and the house was cooling off. The radio news I was able to listen to warned that it might be days before the power was back on. For us that was not true, thank goodness, but some people are still without power a week later.

The hardest part of our own little disaster was parenting well through it. I was single parenting, by the way. My husband is on the fire department, and he left at midnight and worked for twenty-seven hours. However, he wasn’t far away, and I bothered him with phone calls a few times.

Mid-morning the house was getting cooler, and especially as we didn’t know when the power would come back on, I wanted to get some wood to burn in the fireplace. Despite all the ice on the trees, in our neighborhood at least, the ice and damage were minimal, and the roads were clear. Other parts of town were a drastically different story. It was a storm where a degree or so difference in temperature made a huge difference to the result of the weather.

Two of my three kids didn’t want to get in the car when I was ready to try to find firewood. During the day I found there was a lot to do – I wanted to use the light to get ready to be in the dark, so I was getting candles ready, hauling wood, taking food out of the fridge and trying to plan no-cook meals, all in the midst of trivial interruptions. Part of me thought there should be no fighting because of the emergency. But kids don’t work that way.

Anyway, it left me with some insights about emergencies and parenting. An emergency is a lot of work, and parents don’t have a lot of slack in their days. So if you know a parent in an emergency and you want to help, you might offer to take care of their kids. Alternatively, you might offer to take care of some other part of their work, even a routine part, like laundry, meals, or dishes. If you can help call needed professionals or do other work, that is likely to be helpful also. Realize that they probably have a To Do list in their head and are running from one task to the next, and probably don’t have much time to chat. Hopefully they will have time to thank you, but sometimes embarrassment at even needing help make expressing gratitude more difficult. Give what you can; don’t expect much in return. Hopefully they will pay your help back or forward at a later date.

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