March 13, 2020, the day our family’s world started feeling the effects of the pandemic. In hindsight, it makes sense due to the fact March 13th was, in fact, a Friday the 13th. Here I was, a full-time employee, Mom of 13-year-old triplets, and a wife of a first responder. Honestly, I wasn’t worried initially. The schools implemented remote learning for two weeks as precautions, and I was able to work from home. My husband was a different story. First responders faithfully report for duty regardless of the day, the crisis, or a pandemic. At first, it felt like an extended holiday. Had I attended a summer camp growing up, it, perhaps, might have felt like that. Day by day, the Governor would hold a news conference and talk numbers, restrictions, and the virus’s reality. Suddenly, “summer camp” felt less kumbaya and more like a harsh cold rain soaking the sleeping bags in the middle of the night.
As the world shut down, stay at home orders were enacted, masks were the new accessory, and schools went completely remote, my heart sank. Obviously, I needed to develop a plan to keep the kids safe and reassure them that everything was okay. I spent many days scouring parenting articles and how to protect my family from the hysteria of the virus. Here’s the thing, I already was parenting my way through tough times long before COVID-19 seeped into our lives.
Being married to a first responder allows you to have a front-row, VIP pass to all society’s ills. It’s eye-opening, scary, and filled with heart-wrenching sadness. You instinctively avoid anything that leads down these paths, which today seems to be available on social media 24×7. Here is a secret…my children at 14 years old do not have social media. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, snap chat and all the other platforms are not on their phones. I am not saying evil resides in social media. Still, I am allowed to be a voice in my children’s heads without their entire world being consumed with outside opinions with the absence of it. I do not want them to get their news from social media sites but rather from reliable resources that we can openly discuss together.
Even as an adult, it’s hard not to get drawn into the false statements, posts, and narratives. I find I am at my peak of stress when I spend time watching the news, reading posts, and spending more time than I should on Facebook. I can find myself angry, upset, or consumed with tears of weariness over others’ posting. If I cannot make a choice to walk away so quickly and put those feelings aside, how are my children supposed to? It becomes too easy to just download apps for young minds to access life via images and not real words. I recall living (felt like surviving) through my teen years in the early ’90s when key influences were in TV commercials, tv shows interactions with classmates. Some of them could make you feel like you were not quite good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, or cool enough. Then, insults and slights were delivered in person; now, kids have access to social media, which can provide negativity and exclusion with a finger’s tap and often, without consequences to the initiator. Kids can get trapped into how many “likes” they have and who communicate with them rather than understand what information is valid or is designed to influence them in some way without parental or adult oversight. This is certainly made more comfortable with all of the increased screen time requirements of remote learning.
Aside from all that influence, our children now hear about other children, parents, and families that have lost a loved one to the pandemic, and the rules of living our lives seem to change almost daily. Without my three to immediately open an app, I am now given the parenting wand to provide accurate information that I feel they can handle.
I can see their expressions, eyes, and demeanor when we have these difficult conversations and answer their questions. That opportunity is lost the minute they read the falsehoods found on social media. Scared eyes give me the chance to ask questions, to really listen to their concerns, and to wipe their tears when the fear overwhelms them. Reading a post, seeing a video, or a picture does not allow us as parents to stop their world and have conversations because, most likely, we weren’t around when they saw/read it.
However, I am a realist in my parenting style and know that I can’t restrict all the platforms they can access. I believe kids need to be exposed to the real world to better navigate and problem solve as they get older. I know I will need to adapt to teaching them about the responsible use of social media platforms sooner rather than later. I know this responsible use can also help them with their education and career choices. The extra time we have learned together without social media has helped us grow closer. My three world changers have developed self-confidence, self-reliance, and gratitude, skills they will need in a complex world.
My three have learned who they are and what is important to them. Times are scary, and uncertainty lies ahead for us. Our children need a fighter in their corner, which is us. Fight hard!
As for me, I parent on; I pray for the safety of First Responders everywhere, I juggle our family and jobs and socially distant sports activities madly, grateful every minute of every day. ◙
About Jamie DerKosrofian
Jamie DerKosrofian is a lifelong New Englander. She obtained a degree in Criminal Justice from Mount Wachusett Community College and a certificate in Paralegal Studies from the University of Massachusetts, (UMass). She is a Senior Paralegal/Manager for an injury law firm.
She is the proud wife of a first responder, a mother to 13-year-old triplets and Vinny Meatball, a pleasantly plump Pug. Jaime is active in her church where she has taught Sunday school for over 10 years to various grade levels. Often found cheering from the sidelines of various sports for her children, she also enjoys daily workouts.
Jamie’s favorite place is in her kitchen where you will hear great music, see some dancing all while she bakes and cooks to the delight of her favorite taste tester, her husband.