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The “C” Word: Six word stories written by children, ages 6-14 to document these uncertain times (a 2020 time capsule snapshot) and the importance of friendship.
Nine years ago, I became a new mother shortly after I moved to the North Shore. The early days of breastfeeding, endless diapers and sleepless nights left me confined to the house, exhausted and — lonely. I was in love with my newborn son, but a piece of me missed part of my previous world, adult companionship.
A few months later, I discovered a local StrongStartBC centre, a free early learning drop-in program in my neighbourhood. (“It takes a village to raise a child”) It was in that bright, welcoming activity-filled room that I formed lifetime friendships with a group of strong, independent, super women and mothers (and a few super dads) over daily cups of hot tea, coffee and freshly baked cheese biscuits. When StrongStart closed each summer, we invited new and familiar families who lived both on and off the Shore to join us for play activities we organized throughout summertime and expanded our village over the years.
We shared tales of wisdom, headache and heartache about the chaos and the joys of raising little ones while our children formed their own playful friendships. Together we hosted play dates, exchanged free babysitting, confided, cried, offered advice, spoke of dreams and fears about parenting. We shared pieces of our inner selves (the humans we were before parenthood) which revolved around fragments of time sketched in between crying babies, toddler tantrums and defiant five-year olds.
It is because we became parents that we became friends the day we all met in that bright sunlit room in Norgate, or were introduced on that first day of kindergarten, or when old friendships revived upon parenthood. That community connection transformed into a foundational piece of our friendship and parenting history.
Over the past five years, a handful of the families moved away from our community to distances as short as a two-hour ferry sailing to as far away as a plane trip to see kangaroos. It’s not often I visit the friends who still live nearby because of our busy lives. Now, it will be much longer before we see each other again or be granted permission to hop on a ferry or book a plane trip to see the others.
We’ve all been faced with the rules of isolation and the notorious “C word.” We can’t visit in person – even if we stand two metres away and may only interact through phone calls and social media. We inevitably pass through time lapses where we don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at all – because we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue, homeschooling or struggling to remember what day of the week it is.
Here I am nine years later feeling – lonely again, for adult friendship. But today, we hold hands together in spirit because I know we’re all thinking of each other and all of our children.
Some of our kids still play together and I see them grow, while others are “mind’s eye Polaroids” captured at the ages, stages and varying degrees of cuteness of when they last played together or before they moved away – as if they haven’t grown over the years although I’ve seen countless new images of them on FaceBook.
The “C word” affects lives worldwide and it’s clear that during these unsettling times we’re in the midst of making history. Today we’re reclaiming our village that we built nine years ago and reconnecting ourselves through the words of our children across the globe. When our children grow up, it is my hope that they develop similar meaningful friendships that will provide them with the support they’ll need when they become parents, or maybe their playful friendships of today will blossom into adulthood.
I asked the children to write six word stories about how the “C word” has impacted their lives in order to document their emotions, expressions, thoughts, feelings, discoveries and observations during the pandemic and to enable them to share these “six word story time capsules” with their own children someday.
This is what the children of our village wrote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” – Winnie the Pooh
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” – Woodrow T. Wilson
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” – Unknown
Featured photograph: “Ready to fight Corona!” (girl in orange jumpsuit) Isla, Age 9. Photo by Jennifer Morgan.
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This afternoon while I was composing an email, my anxiety overwhelmed me and my eyes watered. I walked into my 9 year old son’s empty bedroom and shut the door. I stepped up the ladder to his loft bed, knelt face down onto his Minecraft blanket and cradled my forehead in my palms. I cried non-stop for five minutes, body shuddering, yelping breathing, snotty nose, wet cheeks.
My son Dylan walked in.
“Mom, can I have a cookie?” “Yes, go get it yourself, ok?” “Mommy, are you crying?” “Yes.” “Mommy, why are you crying?” “I’ll tell you later.” “Are you fake crying?” “No, Dylan.” “Mom, why are you crying?” “I’ll tell you later, ok? Go get your cookie. I just need to cry right now, okay? Remember how we talked about alone time?” “But this is my room.” “Well, Daddy is using our room all day because he’s working from home now.”
Dylan left the room and returned in a few minutes. “Mommy, are you done crying? Now can you tell me why you’re crying? I cried some more. Dylan climbed up to the bed. “You know how sometimes when you fall and hurt yourself or when someone hurts your feelings? Then you cry it out because it hurt?” Dylan nodded.
“Then after you cry, you feel so much better because you let out your tears? Well, sometimes mommies need to cry too. During spring break, when all this Covid stuff started happening, everything’s changed. It’s been hard on me, you and Daddy. Mommy yells more, Daddy yells more. I’m not working, you’re not going to school or seeing your friends, there’s no routine and people are getting sick. It makes me sad and stressed out.
I’ve been holding in all that sadness and stress and haven’t cried yet. So that means I’ve been holding back all those tears for five weeks and today I was finally ready to let them go! Don’t worry, Mommy will be okay. I just needed to cry it out and now that I’ve cried, I feel much better.”
“Okay. Now can I have a cookie?” “You didn’t help yourself?” “No.” “Okay, lets get a cookie. I need one too.”
Damn, it felt good to cry today.
(Featured cookie photograph: Courtesy of Pexels)
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My brother-in-law, “Mr. B” volunteered to teach the children of our families educational lessons during the pandemic. “The Learning Village” (our online school, named by his 9 year old daughter) is comprised of Mr. B’s mindful curriculum and nine students (cousins and friends) ranging in age from 6 to 12 years.
For one of the lessons, after discussing the Corona virus, students were asked to draw a character or comic of a “virus” and talk about what people need to do to stay safe. Other lessons focused on music, emotions, mindfulness and meditation. The students look forward to their lessons with Mr. B, get a chance to see the faces of their friends online and parents get a 60-90 minute break from their kids, three afternoons a week. It serves as an meaningful practice and an introduction to what future organized online learning with our teachers and school districts might look like during this time.
Mr. B asked me to teach a lesson on “Six Word Stories”. Our class had a thoughtful discussion about the legendary “first six word story” written by Ernest Hemingway, “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn” and then I asked the kids to create their own six word stories inspired by the above photograph featured on this post.
Here’s what the children of “The Learning Village” wrote.
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Family, friendships and love relationships deliver love, heartbreak, happiness, sorrow, conflict and understanding. If I reflect on the past, sometimes I understand the meaning behind my struggles and challenges I face today, knowing those relationships form a part of who I am, but do not define me.
If I embrace the present, I possess the choice to make a positive change or slip back and trigger the anxiety of yesterday by reliving it along with any guilt, shame or anger I experienced during those moments or relationships. Most days I make the brighter choice; the anxiety doesn’t disappear but my perspective shifts and gives me hope. Six words tell my truth.
Opening space within myself for love.
Change initiates from self, not others.
Peace finds way through common ground.
Reconnecting without judgment of past wrongdoings.
Forgiving self and others for failing.
Light at end of the tunnel.
Reuniting families brings hope to soul.
Relationships blossom when our hearts connect.
Holding hands together as a unity.
Feature photo: “LOVE. It’s all you need.” 2007, sand artist unknown. Photo by MC.