Breaking: They aren’t “regressing.” They’re kids in a blown-up world.

by Janelle Hanchett

“Kids have regressed in innumerable ways since the pandemic began. Lately, we’ve been noticing that our kids (and our friends’ kids) don’t want to be left alone in a room. Codependency? Maybe. Irrational fear? Totally possible. Have you experienced this with your own kids (who should be “over” this stage in their lives) and if so, have you handled it with any success?”

-Huffington Post Parents on Facebook

Wow. This is absolutely rich coming from a bunch of people who bought all the flour and yeast in a five-mile radius within two weeks of the pandemic so they could obsessively bake their own bread for no apparent reason. We’re three seconds from grinding our own wheat as if it were 1830, nobody knows why, but we’re all on board because it feels right, so fuck it. This may be the end. “Irrational fear?” Nah, totally normal adult pandemic response.

The well-adjusted, non-regressing contingent of society is hoarding fourteen packs of toilet paper for a family of four as if water doesn’t exist but our kids are “codependent” because they want more hugs while everyone talks about disease, dying, and trying not to kill grandma.

Within a month we’re pouring 2pm cocktails, Tiger King, and middle-aged TikTok into the emotional void of our lives but find it concerning that our kids want to sleep on our floor and don’t seem too interested in Zoom math.

Truly cannot imagine why a child would want to find some comfort in their parents, one of the few things that have (sort of) remained the same after being cut off from every other source of routine, stability, and comfort in their lives.

How truly fucking odd.

Let’s be concerned.

My social media feeds are full of articles about how brain fog, inability to concentrate, and anxiety are totally normal–we even refer to it as “pandemic brain”–but apparently we can’t figure out why the hell our two-year-old isn’t on board with potty training.

What is it with our need to frame our children’s natural, reasonable responses as some sort of pathology? First of all, fuck anyone adding one more thing to our pandemic-worry list of bullshit. Fuck them secondly for a disingenuous framing of a non-problem as a “problem” so we can click on their articles that will then solve it for us.

To be clear, ASKING FOR MORE HUGS IS MY ACTUAL MENTAL HEALTH GOAL.

I yearn for the day when rather than turn to carbs or my phone to remove my brain or find myself yelling at a family member for existing, I turn to that family and say, “Can we snuggle? I’m scared.”

Oh, god. A shudder went up my body just thinking about saying those words with my actual mouth, letting people know that I’m a human being with actual needs who relies on people around her. As if I am, in fact, vulnerable, and cannot always find the strength within myself to power through to a better day, which I also suspect will never come.

Alright, I’m being hyperbolic, but am I?

Incidentally, HuffPost published an article a couple of weeks after their bullshit post letting parents know that this “regression” is normal. Because of course it fucking is. But they had to, first, lay the foundation of “worry,” rile us up just enough that we start wondering what’s weird or not weird or if our kids are “codependent” as our families navigate a once-in-100-year pandemic.

Look, my kids are in a country where they’re learning a second language, and they’re now both behind in reading. They were pulled out for three months of the language immersion school they were in, and then they lost months of regular Dutch school.  Zoom calls aren’t the same. They are squarely behind in their reading of Dutch.

But it’s okay. What the hell else is going to happen? What else can I expect? Aren’t we all given a bit of a Free Pass to Loser at this point? I know like three adults who claim to be functioning at full capacity and judging from their Facebook feeds I’m pretty sure two of them are lying.

How can we excuse and accept just about every iteration of physical, mental, and emotional deterioration among adults yet somehow expect kids to “keep on their studies,” continue unabated in their quest for independence, and stand proud and alone as if nothing has happened?

 

This is why I’ve always been skeptical about what they (the media, “experts”) say about raising kids. They pathologize our children so they can sell us shit to fix what they invented. They create “solutions” for problems that are often created by societal systems that do not allow us to be parents in a “normal” way, which varies by culture anyway and nobody can really define. See, for example, no paid federal maternity leave and the “need” for sleep training, weaning, etc.

I am not knocking sleep training—well, I’m definitely knocking some forms of sleep training–or weaning. What I’m knocking is the idea that we need to adopt their “tried and true” methods of parenting, which we can access for $19.99 on Amazon, that just happen to align perfectly with the patriarchal, capitalist way of being. Or a lot of clicks for them.

I’m sure it’s mere coincidence.

I believe, generally speaking, that we have at least some intuitive capacity to raise the kids our bodies produce. The alternative seems like a rather serious evolutionary error. Of course, judging from that gold Trump statue, clearly there are some serious evolutionary errors.

No but seriously, imagine being an animal that birthed a matching baby animal and was then like I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO FEED THIS FUCKING THING. We’d have been gone eons ago. I highly doubt cavewomen were sitting there contemplating how often they should nurse their young, or whether or not they should carry the fucker.

“Honey,” she asks, “Should I put this thing down to not spoil it? What does your mother say? IS THERE A WALL PAINTING EXPLAINING HOW MUCH HOLDING IS TOO MUCH HOLDING?”

The idea that I need books and essays and “experts” to guide me in providing every step of basic care to my offspring—including hug quantity during a pandemic–strikes me as ridiculous.

Yes, I needed my mom to help me learn to breastfeed my babies. Yes, I asked my midwives a million questions and my friends and mother even more as my kids grew. No, I do not need you to tell me that it’s normal that my kid wants to sit on my lap while the world blows up.

Can’t we trust ourselves a bit? Our kids? Our families? Have we grown so disconnected from our children and their humanity, and our ability to respond to that humanity, that we see their need for extra closeness during an apparent existential crisis as “a potential cause for worry?”

It’s sad, and it’s nonsense, and if there’s ever a time when we can just settle into giving these little humans extra time and affection, trusting that they probably know what we all need better than their Tiger-King-sourdough parents, goddamn it’s now.

And isn’t it beautiful that we can still do that for our kids. We can just be there, and it can be enough. Someday, it won’t be. Someday, they won’t even ask. Someday, they’ll be the adult staring at the wall, phone in hand, looking at a child brave and clear enough to say, “Hey, Mama? Can I sit with you? I haven’t touched your body all day.”

My 6-year-old said that to me the other day. I took a picture to remember our shared regression. And how to be a human.

  • Marnie

    Thank you for the kick in my adult ass. You are spot on.

  • Trina

    Yes, yes, and yes. And Yes. As always, thank you for your voice and your words and your wisdoms and the laughs!

  • Beatrice M

    Thank you! It’s okay and normal that we’re not okay and that we all need more snuggles and patience and reassurance. I’m almost 48 and I very much want a hug from my Mum. I’m gonna hug the shit outta her when I see her next. I’m definitely giving my boy more hugs than he asks for and while he tolerates it, I’m gonna keep on doing it.

  • Stephanie

    YES
    YES
    and more YES.

    I’m so over these supposedly educated and experienced adults acting like it’s CONFUSING that KIDS are struggling right now. The same adults, as you pointed out, who are still hoarding bottled water and canned goods in cause Dr. Fauci turns out to be a robot…

    • Genny

      Bravo. Absolutely!! My teenage son grabs at least one hug a day (and then goes back to cussing with his online gaming buddies…I stopped “correcting” that recently- just one of the boundaries that went out the window this year)

  • Jen

    Thank you! Spot on!

    My sixth-grade daughter is doing online school this year and had the experience of being a straight A student going to literally failing her entire semester of classes this fall because her ADHD and CPTSD weren’t working so well with the less-structured environment. After working with her school and being denied an alternative learning plan because “she should just try harder and pay more attention” and “online school is still REAL school” (no shit!)… they also suggested I take away her phone and restrict the few shows she likes to watch with me – both things that keep her connected (to each of her parents – divorced and co-parenting) and comfort her in this pandemic … I kindly thanked them for next to nothing (they did give her a daily resource call with a school social worker to help keep her on track, which was good, but not nearly enough) and decided that I KNOW what’s best for MY kid and fuck them … I will do what it takes to give her as much comfort as she needs during these times. She might have to repeat the sixth grade. You know what? It’s not the end of the world. What matters is that she knows who she is, feels good about herself, is loved and supported and honored and cherished by her family. So we’re going to do more hugs, more quality time, more games, more relaxing, less pressure, less doing… and have faith that as a family, we’ll be stronger for it!

    Keep speaking your truths and calling out the bullshit. We need more people like you, using their voice to call attention to the absurdity of assertions like this – thank you!

  • Candace

    YES!!! Thank you!!!
    I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the expectations for kids through this whole shit show. We are allllll a mess flying by the seat of our pants right now.
    Thank you for this post!

  • Peggy

    My husband said to me yesterday evening right before dinner that we had not hugged “today or yesterday” which I 1) was horrified at, 2) could not believe. But then I remembered that we had our grandson after pre-school yesterday with an overnight, and lots of hugs went to him. Still, unusual that my husband and I had not hugged throughout the day before grandson arrived or after I dropped him off at pre-school. Twenty-five years ago my husband had to reintroduce me to lots of spontaneous hugging–after growing up in a family that touched constantly–because I worked in an all male group and I had to put up lots of barriers so that my colleagues, superiors, and juniors did not think I was “coming onto them.” Now if I don’t get hugs, part of my day is not right and if we don’t get lots of skin-to-skin in bed (not even talking sexual touching), we both don’t feel as good. So, yeah, adults and kids need more physical contact during the pandemic but also when there is not a pandemic.

  • Laura

    The only thing wrong with you is that you think by using your brain, your intuition, your soul. In this world, that’s not normal but for those of us that strive to do the same, it’s a comfort to have you share your words. <3 <3 <3

  • Mariek

    Thank you (again) for writing what I’m thinking. I may have to send this to school with my son. Lets wait and see what his rapportcard says..
    And is that the dinosar sweater from the Hema that Arlo is wearing? 🙂

  • Nieves

    Oh my god yes.

  • Nieves

    Thank you.

  • Jen

    OMG thank you. As always, you are on point, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Snuggle the kidlets, all the time, whenever it’s needed, because shit, we can’t snuggle with anyone else right now. We NEED human touch and connection so much in order to survive, and we especially need it when life is scary, like right now. Love to all <3

  • Lorain

    👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  • Katie S.

    YES!! Thank you Janelle for speaking the truth in a way that makes me laugh out loud! My daughter turns 3 this summer and it was brought to my attention this week that preschool enrollment for this fall is happening now. I freaked out that we were behind for about 30 minutes before calming down and listening to my gut. I’m not ready. She’ll stay with her aunt (who watches her during the day while my husband and I both work) and cousins for another year. We’ll focus on slowly reintegrating into society this year, if we are lucky. And that is enough for now. I know she would like being around more people and she would love the structured learning. But I’m anxious and nervous and if I am, it won’t go well. So we’ll wait until we are ALL ready!

    • Kelly

      I did not even know when to start my toddler in preschool, TK, kindergarten or whatever school comes first! It made me really happy to read your post. My daughter is just over 3 and would certainly love a social school setting however we, as a family, are just warming up to the idea. It’s nice to hear of a similar situation when other families close to us are very on top of “academics.”

      Also, this blog post warmed my heart. Thank you.

  • Alyson

    I wish I could post this at every school in the Bay Area. As you know it can be a shit show of constant striving for “perfection” while literally destroying other humans, animals and nature it it’s wake. Parents were suing my school district last April, weeks after the pandemic started, for “the district not providing an education”
    Thank you for your words of wisdom and clarity.

    • melissa

      same here in michigan! your comment about striving for perfection while destroying others is so spot on it makes me cheer and then be sad for all of humanity.

  • Dayna Harris

    Yes.
    Yes.
    Yes.
    Please trust yourselves and your children.
    And learn how to learn from mistakes and teach your children it’s ok to make those mistakes.
    Thank you for fighting the good fight.

  • Jen

    YES! I just fucking love you!

  • melissa

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

    sharing this with local, annoying AF, we’re going to sue the district if we can’t all go back ‘f2f’ 5 days until now from to the end of the year.

  • Anita Kerr

    As usual….love it!!!!!!

  • Gloria

    Yes to this! I would add, why are people (and by people I mean primarily upper middle class folks) so obsessed about kids “losing ground academically”? As someone who has taken a very alternative approach to my kids’ education (including an 8-month trip where said kids did next to zero ‘school’ work) I can assure you, it all works out.

  • Marissa Curran

    How many times can I share this before it gets weird? 🙌🏻🙏🏼

  • Wes

    I cannot stress enough how much I adore and appreciate this.

    I work as a manager in a science-driven company, and colleagues have considered me odd over the years that I periodically show up at people’s offices – including my staff – and say excuse me, but I need some attention. Then I go in and get them talking about something that’s not spreadsheets or lasers or uranium. Sometimes I’m actually the one who needs the attention.

  • Wayne

    Hello:

    Yup. Thank you.

    Wayne

  • Laura

    As usual, you are 100% spot on and a balm for my weary, ever-blackening soul. JANELLE 2024!!!

  • Farrell

    Well said!!!

  • Rie Edwards

    Perfect x

  • Hannah Bryant

    I deeply needed this and so appreciate and value your honesty, candor and perspective. Every time you have a new post it’s like surprise mail from an old friend. I wait to savor it until I have time, and a glass of wine, to think and process and ponder. You are contributing so much of value to so many people – I suspect we don’t tell you that enough. Thank you.

  • Cheryl S.

    AMEN AMEN AMEN! My daughter is in 10th grade. She’s going to school virtually. I told her that I’ve written this year off completely. It’s completely unprecedented and the pundits want us to act like everything is normal! I say, do whatever you need to do to get through this insanity. We need to give our kids and ourselves some grace. No one has lived through this before. We’re all trying to deal as best we can. F**K the experts and do what is best for your family.