With the vaccine distribution slowly underway in the U.S. and some CDC guidelines seeming to loosen, I have been very actively wondering how life will once again change. I keep hearing about “going back to normal” and wondering what “normal” means to other people.
The life I had pre-pandemic as a theater maker and filmmaker is completely gone, and I am not even sure I would want to go back to it. If anything, this last year has driven home the point that normal was unsustainable and we need to be really thoughtful about what “normal” really means.
The pandemic shed a glaring light on the racial and economic inequity rampant in the United States. And if we are being really honest, ‘”normal,” pre-pandemic is equal to: racism, police shootings, mass shootings, billionaires exploiting the labor of the working class, lack of access to healthcare, the wealth gap ever growing, domestic violence, systemic violence, climate devastation, and well, the list could go on. So many people thought that getting rid of Trump was all we needed, but all it takes is one glance at the headlines to realize that we still have the exact same problems. It’s important we show the upcoming generations that we care about the world we are handing over to them, and that we are simultaneously instilling them a need to care about the world. Inequity continues when we close our eyes to it and shut our hearts to it.
Inequity continues when we close our eyes to it and shut our hearts to it.
Part of combatting the inequities of “normal” burden is on parents. Our kids are watching, so it’s on us to be models for them. We model kindness, we model stress management, and we model interpersonal relationships. We should also be modeling how we engage in the world. We should show them how we care for our communities and that we take action when they are in pain. Part of that involves more intentional parenting, like having honest conversations around race. And if, like me, you’re not eager to rush back to the old “normal,” there are ways to continue this work, and get your family involved. Here are a few ways to start:
1. Commit to Learning New Things
My mother once told me that she wanted to learn about all the different social media platforms because she never wanted to lose touch with her grandchildren. She wanted to connect with them and keep learning new things. I get it. It’s so easy to live in what you’re used to and sometimes you have to push out of your comfort zone in order to grow.
It’s so easy to live in what you’re used to and sometimes you have to push out of your comfort zone in order to grow.
But we are learning new things as a society, every day. There are scientific discoveries, anthropological discoveries, technological discoveries, and more. The world does not stand still and as things change, we can learn more in the process. By owning the fact that you are always learning, not only do you get to grow, but you model a desire to learn for your children and reinforce no one person knows everything.
2. Use Your Voice
I used to have a harder time with reaching out and speaking up. It felt uncomfortable and felt like it wasn’t my place. But after a lot of therapy and mental health work, I realized it’s everyone’s place (and responsibility). And I can do it in a multitude of ways. I can speak up when I see a manager mistreating employees, I can ask someone their intention when they say something racist or sexist or any ‘ist’. I can also reach out to my elected officials, either by writing or calling my local alderman, state reps, and national reps.
If this sounds intimidating (as it used to for me), you can often find scripts online if you are struggling to compose your own. You can also get your kids involved. How many of us have memories of writing letters to the current president in elementary school (and sometimes receiving a response from the White House)? Ask your kids what they care about and help them write their own letters. Their voices matter too.
3. Join Local Action
This can involve a range of action. There are marches or gatherings that are family-friendly and you can bring your little ones. You can volunteer and/or donate to a local cause and get your family involved as well.
For me, I currently don’t have a lot of financial resources, and volunteering my time is one way I give back by doing weekly grocery delivery with a local food pantry. During the pandemic, it’s been a great way to contribute while staying safe, and it provides a service to my local community.
Part of this work also helps us get to know the community we live in. We fight harder for causes that are closer to home, and when we get to know those people around us, we can join their fights as well.