By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
It was week number three of my quarantine. Unlike many, being shut in my house was anything but a quest to find something to do. I am the Director of HR & Org Development in an essential company. My days were ten hours of Zoom calls, slogging through fast-changing benefits, laws, mandates.
Taking calls from employees who begged to be furloughed, begged to not lose hours, begged to stay working, begged to be sent home. It was impossible to quell everyone’s fears, and it was super difficult to maintain an upbeat front so the company didn’t spiral into mass panic.
I was sitting at my desk in our basement. My fluffy, white Flame Point Siamese cat was biting my toes. My coffee was cold. I had just finished one Zoom meeting and was taking a quick breather before hitting the link for the next one.
My office door burst open. Big brown eyes. Eight year-old exuberance. Cell phone in hand.
“MOM! I got Baby Luigi on Mario Kart!”
I confess. I stared at him, for a long, silent moment and then with all the lackluster gusto of a pandemic burnt-out mom, I responded. “Oh. Yay.”
It doesn’t really matter if you understand what Mario Kart is, or who Baby Luigi is. What’s important to note, is this was something my son had been working on for some time.
Leveling up in a game, per se. At the moment, video games were the lowest of the low on my priority list and akin to parental embarrassment since Mario was spending more time with my son than I was.
“You need to go now, Buddy. I’ve got another call,” was my response.
His reply was stunning. “Don’t you want to play Mario Kart with me?”
Why was it stunning? Because in that moment, I realized Mario Kart had something to teach me. So did my son.
While the pandemic was stealing our health, our peace of mind, our routines, our jobs, our finances, and our sanity, my son was uncovering treasures.
I couldn’t put aside my Zoom call. I mean, it was work after all. But I did promise to link up my phone and have a Mario Kart race later that day. I’d never played it before. He talked me into a slumber party too.
So at 7:30 pm, I set aside work, dishes, and deadlines to settle into bed next to a pajama clad kid and his cell phone.
That night, he taught me these 3 things about a pandemic:
1. The Blessing of Time
It wasn’t so much that I downloaded the app to my phone and proceeded to kick his pants with my Mario to his Luigi. It was the absolute awe and wonder in his eyes.
Frankly, his pride as he turned to me and breathed, “Momma! You actually know how to play a video game?” Thanks to COVID, this was something I was trapped into doing, per se. A slumber party mid-week over a phone app featuring little men in race cars? Never would've happened without Covid-19.
Instead, we would have shuttled the boy to bed by 7:30 with promises of school, homework, and karate lessons the next day. But instead, my boy was looking at me and my trigger-finger, video game playing, mad-skills, with absolute astonishment.
“You know, Momma,” he said, “we should have slumber parties more often and play Mario Kart.” For all the hate we give video games and pandemics, they do have a way of blessing us with unexpected time.
2. The Blessing of Bond
My son is snuggler. You could never spend an ounce of time with him, buy him anything, or tell him how great he is, but if you denied him a snuggle, he might self-implode.
That night, over Mario Kart, my son taught me to not only play Mario Kart one-handed, but that time spent together snuggled close, was better than anything else we could have thought to do. After a few rounds, his phone slowly lowered and he looked up at me and smiled. “Mmmm, Momma,” he snuggled, “I love you.”
And he watched me play Mario Kart, as he hugged my arm and shouted at my phone. The moment was too precious for him to let go of me. The bond is too close to destroy. For all the hate we give video games and pandemics, they do have a way of bonding us closer because we’re urged into being snugglers.
3. The Blessing of Sleep
After a bit, my son started to fade. It was 8:30 pm and I was wide awake, but for the sake of my child who needs thirteen hours of sleep a night, I turned out the lamp, rolled over and said “nite, Buddy.”
Then commenced the wriggling. The wiggling. The trying to find the perfect position. He found it... One leg thrown over my waist. His one arm tucked under my neck. His face on my pillow, his nose almost touching mine.
In the dark, I opened my eyes and could barely see him opening his in return. “I love you, Momma,” said my little snuggle bug, even though he’d already said it a little bit before. “Love you too, Buddy,” I responded. And his eyes closed and he was asleep. Just like that.
Peacefully wrapped around his mother, all gangly arms and legs, still little boy, but growing toward a little man. These moments would be scarce in the months to come and sooner rather than later, non-existent. I watched him until my own eyes grew heavy, and by 8:45 pm, I’d passed out into dreamland. For all the hate we give pandemics, they do have a way of bringing us into a restful sleep.
Togetherness. That quiet peace of being family, being safe, being asleep.
Photo Credit: ©Getty/MoMo-Productions
Slow Down, and Notice What You Never Have Before
You see, my son taught me that for all the hustle and bustle of life, even in a pandemic with a mandatory stay-at-home order, we can bring that hustle and bustle with us. Or, we can count our blessings.
New ones, old familiar ones, maybe ones we just never noticed before. When God says “Be still and know that I am God”, there’s something else that goes unspoken but hand in hand with that declaration. To be still and to know He is God, means giving up control.
It means, stopping. Breathing deep. Allowing our faith to grow stronger and more vibrant than ever before. In that, we can see things we may never have noticed. The positive sides to video games, the benefits of a pandemic, the quiet wonderment of a little boy who just wants to spend time with his momma.
My son taught me what I think God has been trying to teach me for some time. Stop. Just stop. Look around. See what God has done, is doing, and will do. Embrace the little moments that for you may at first, seem like an interruption.
View them through the eyes of a child and witness the wonderment, the treasure of the moment. A moment we would never have had were it not for the opportunity to be still, to lay aside our burdens on the One who can carry them without worry, and to just snuggle, just sleep, and just totally break records on Mario Kart.
The following morning, I woke up with a long list of things to do. I also decided it was still going to be there in an hour, and if I completed it immediately, more would just be added. I could run in a wheel like a hamster, or I could hop off and see what else the pandemic stay-at-home had to offer.
So we raced up the stairs--my son won that one--we ate glazed doughnuts like the naughty souls we are. I made him hot chocolate at 8 am. Then we pulled out coloring books and colored them.
I also took a work call while we did it. He understood and kept throwing me silly faces to try to make me laugh. But together--together--we lived another day in a pandemic world. Because sometimes, what an eight-year-old can teach through their actions and expectations, is more beneficial than any online meeting.
So as we come out of a pandemic, as we re-enter the world, the routine, the chaos, what have you been able to learn during this season? We hadn’t expected it. But it’s an opportunity to find out what might be important to you.
Have you retreated and found more rest by searching the pages of the Word? Has family time become more precious, or friends more dear? Did the little things suddenly become more important and did you find things to be more grateful for?
I think, if we’re honest, we all had someone teach us something during this pandemic. The important thing is that we don’t un-learn it. That we don’t go back to what we were, but we move forward now with who we are. I know I will. I have a Mario Kart date tonight with a little brown-eyed boy, and I have no intentions of missing it.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Bruno Nascimento
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Christy, Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. Jaime works as a human resources director in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children.