“I just want it to be normal.” That seemed to be the refrain of our holiday season.  

It started early in December. My nine-year-old was a bit out of sorts that our Christmas tree and stockings couldn’t be in their normal place this year since we have a new, curious puppy. I told her all the usual things about how it would still be special, how we’d have all our usual ornaments, etc. In all honesty, I was a bit frustrated. What was the big deal? 

Then as Christmas approached, I was the one uttering the phrase as I pined for our usual traditions. Pre-COVID, we would go out for a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. I thought this year would be the year we could bring back the tradition. But high rates of RSV, flu, and COVID made us decide as an extended family that we were better off honoring tradition with a seafood dinner at home.

After the holidays were said and done, with lots of family time, lots of celebration, and lots of traditions (new and old), I realized that both of us were craving normalcy because we’ve spent the last three years searching for it.

It’s time we accept that we are in a new normal – one where we need to expect the unexpected and where we have constant opportunity to express our creativity.

And then it occurred to me. This is normal. You see, in the midst of all of the celebration, my youngest turned three. Exactly one-twelfth of her life was pre-COVID. This is the only normal she knows. My nine-year-old is craving normalcy because for one-third of her life we have been living in a state of waiting and searching and lamenting.

For us as adults – within the construct of our time – the last few years, while feeling long and arduous, are also a blip. For young people, these years have been a major portion of their development, and in some cases the only way of being they have known or will remember. We can’t continue to waste this time waiting. 

It’s time we accept that we are in a new normal – one where we need to expect the unexpected and where we have constant opportunity to not only be nimble, but to express our creativity. Instead of wondering when we’ll get back, how can we look forward? Instead of continuing to perseverate on loss, how can we envision opportunities ahead? Instead of playing a waiting game, how can we be fully present and create new traditions, routines, and experiences? 

Time is ticking by, and our young people need us to be with them in the now and to accept that change – and the innovation that can result from it – is normal.  

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