This letter was sent out to St. Paul’s Families exactly 17 months ago, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since today is the first day of school for many children in San Diego and in anticipation of our own program launch on September 12, I would like to remind parents to give themselves grace. Naturally, many details have changed over the course of 17 months, but the message remains the same.
I can’t imagine the challenges you are facing, but I write this letter to lend my support (if possible), prayers, and recognition during this tremendously demanding time. I see you. I am 20 years old. I have no children, and am quarantined at home with my parents. At times, the demands of virtual school and work can be stressful, but I can take time to myself to alleviate the stress. I can watch Netflix, chill in my sweatpants, read books, and workout… maybe. I understand that this is a great privilege, and the stress of being quarantined with children to feed, home-school, entertain, and nurture during the COVID-19 pandemic is simply unfathomable to me. I have so much admiration for you all.
I am weary to give a shred of parenting advice given my decided childlessness, but I’ll offer this much: let yourself off the hook.
There is literally NO right way to do this. Don’t guilt yourself about screen time, snack choices, the best way to structure schooling,… and ESPECIALLY about coming to church virtually (or in person as of Spring 2021). I have said this to parents before and I will say it again: Our society, fixated on productivity and performance, is plagued by “shoulds”.
I’ve noticed parents juggle an infinite amount of “shoulds” and “should nots”; everyone has opinions of the activities, foods, media, and habits your child should and shouldn’t engage in. Lamentably, I know church is often a source of guilt when it just doesn’t work out. If church ¨should¨ be anything, it should be a source of solace, not to be attended out of perceived obligation or institutionally-prescribed benefit.
Therefore, when I extend reminders and event notifications, please keep in mind our Family Ministry is purely invitational and I never want you to feel guilty for not participating. Sure, I’m delighted when attendance is good and can get pretty bummed when it’s not, but that is something the Church and I need to let go of-fixation on “the numbers”. However disappointing to my perfectionist and overachieving tendencies, the “success” (if you can even call it that) of a ministry cannot be quantified by attendance. I have had a lot of time to pray on what my ministry looks like now, and God continues to remind me it is not about the numbers.
Although limited on the physical plane, I think ministry is about space. Ministry means creating space to engage, holding space to listen, and giving space, when needed, to rest and reflect. I encourage you to lean into the space your family needs most: now, and when this is all over. Come to St. Paul’s to worship and participate in our programs if and when it is a blessing to your family, because your family is always a blessing to St. Paul’s.
I am praying continuously that you find moments of joy, rest, and peace among the chaos that is COVID-19.
Your sister in Christ,
Maya Little-Saña, Family Minister