I have to wonder if the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who penned this saying in 1888, meant these words literally or figuratively, “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” Currently, much of the world is in the midst of a pandemic crisis that if not properly contained could literally wipe us all out. Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, is a newly diagnosed disease that attacks the respiratory system and has proven to have deadly consequences, especially for our most vulnerable populations- people over the age of 60 and those with immune-compromised systems. Currently, there is no cure nor vaccination for the rapidly spreading COVID-19, which is largely why the disease has reached the point of pandemic, fear and panic. The way in which we move and be in the world has drastically changed. On March 20, 2020, Gov. Pritzker issued a shelter-in-place order for the state of Illinois, which basically restricts and limits our everyday movement; only essential workers (i.e. health care providers, sanitation workers, etc) are allowed to physically go into their workplace. Schools and daycare centers are closed until further notice. Meanwhile, the rest of us have been side-lined to work from home and simultaneously care for our children. And while there is most definitely nation-wide pandemonium over the current state of affairs, what is not being lifted up is parental resilience in the wake of this world-wide epidemic.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adverse situations- and often stronger than before! Resilience is about bending, but not breaking; we can be stretched beyond our comfort zones, yet still, we endure. Parenting has equipped us to be strong and resilient. Think of a time in your parenting when you were at your wits end and you didn’t know what to do. You might have felt that you were alone in dealing with your situation and that you had exhausted all of your options. You might have thought that your back was up against the wall and the situation was growing more dismal by the minute. And then something glorious happened- you had a breakthrough; a moment where you pushed through and got on the other side of that thing that had you stuck! While going through it, your worst fears and doubts may have surfaced, but at some point, your perspective shifted, you discovered untapped resources and a renewed strength! This is what it means to be resilient.

My youngest son has a progressive neuromuscular disorder; his muscles from the neck down are extremely weak and for the most part, he cannot move his body. When he was younger, he had mobility in his index fingers and he used his fingers to operate his computerized communication device. Eventually, he lost the mobility in his fingers and therefore, couldn’t operate his computer; he lost his way of communicating with his family and the world. I was devastated, to say the least. I racked my brain trying to figure out another way for my son to communicate and I worked with his therapists to find a solution, but the options presented, didn’t work for him. Then, one day it dawned on me-eureka! If he could use the little strength in his index fingers, maybe his toes were a possibility; he had limited mobility in his ankles and his feet. I pitched my idea to his speech therapist and she assessed the movement in his feet and determined that he had enough movement in his great left toe to attach a splint that would connect to his communication device and allow him to click. It worked! Now, my son uses his great left toe to access his computerized communication device and all is well in his world. I now affectionately refer to his feet as his “happy feet!”

There was a moment in my son’s dilemma when I, as a parent, didn’t think I would make it through; I felt like I was on a sinking ship without a lifejacket and I would sooner die than give up on my son. This situation that we’re currently in with COVID-19 arouses similar thoughts and feelings- uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness.   How do we fight COVID-19? And how do parents and families navigate in this new world of stay-at-home and social distancing? The answer? We summon the power of our own innate resilience. We remember that we are not strangers to adversity; she is a worthy opponent that we’ve done battle with numerous times before. We suit up in our armor and we carefully choose our weapons – optimism, a positive attitude, creativity, resources, parent allies, etc And then, we rise up and do battle. And in the end, not only will we be victorious, but we’ll be wiser and stronger because of who’ve we become in our quest to keep our family intact and healthy and thriving.

Written by Dena Chapman

Dena Chapman is a writer, editor and seasoned blogger on a mission to be a voice of strength and tranquility in an otherwise noisy world. When she is not tinkering with words, she can be found busting a ballet move in her home work office. Dena is the proud mother of two young adults, Joshua and Malachi- and her dog, Thor. Contact Dena at msdena01@gmail.com.