By TMoM Team Member, Ashley Quinn Kibby
Omicron: The Christmas Corona Wave of 2022
It finally happened and we’re not too mad about it. My husband, two-year-old twins, and I all caught the Christmas Corona Wave. In the days preceding our illness, friends in North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Oregon had all tested positive for COVID-19, along with their entire families. Between Christmas and New Year’s, we heard many reports that the new Omicron variant was very contagious, but mild. A few days into 2022, we found out for ourselves.
Vaccination Status and Symptoms
Due to age and circumstance, my household had members with every vaccination status. My husband, Mike, received his booster one week prior. I’d had two doses but no booster. The twins were unvaccinated. Thankfully, our vaccination status did not appear correlated with the severity of our symptoms.
Mike’s illness spiked with a fever and chills but passed quickly. I had fatigue, headaches, and earaches for just over one week. The twins were snot-nosed, tired, tummy-troubled, and ornery for that same duration. For Mike and me, the worst part of it was having to take care of two sickies while sick ourselves. On day four of quarantine, things started to go downhill.
Sick, Tired, and Stuck
Perhaps it was the perfect storm. We’d just come off a week of visiting family. In Michigan, outdoor temps in the teens had us stuck indoors. Whether it was cabin fever or Omicron, the twins seemed to become threenagers overnight. They were sassy and demanding, testing our patience and parenting skills at every turn.
We’d bought them tablets for Christmas, and it seemed easy enough to give them some screen time so we could attempt to nap. But this only made matters worse. With every request for mommy to rest, they became clingier. With each headache, they became louder. Soon, they were outright defying me! Simple steps were met with stubborn refusals. Every diaper blow-out, mealtime, and outfit change became a struggle, or total meltdown.
Mommy’s in a Mood
I knew I’d lost it when my twins met “Mommy Monster.” In the fashion of Teen Wolf, my alter ego came alive with a growl and a warning not to cross me. The kids were so shocked by my contorted face and animalistic roar, their tears changed to nervous laughs. I joined them in laughter before explaining that mommy wasn’t feeling well, and I really needed them to follow directions. But what they needed from me was patience, compassion, and companionship. They were sick too, after all.
Staying Sane in Quarantine
By a stroke of luck, things turned around. Brynn was screaming at Cora for her blue truck as Cora shrieked the familiar refrain, “Nooooo, it’s miiiiiine!” I mustered all my parenting chops to firmly encourage Cora to return the toy while empowering her with the decision. As she held it in the air contemplating my proposition, Brynn snatched it out of her hand. At the same time, I spotted a pile of fruit snacks on the counter and promptly put them in front of Cora. “Great job following directions!” I told her.
With that simple, accidental act of positive reinforcement, I stopped the screaming, resolved the conflict, and remembered the proactive techniques that keep toddlers happy. Finally, we turned a corner and I felt like I had the upper hand again. After days of being sick and off my game, I’d been making all the wrong moves with my kids. Screen time instead of together time. Pointing out bad behavior instead of encouraging good behavior. Yelling (and growling!) instead of keeping my cool.
5 Tips for Surviving Quarantine with Toddlers
The lessons I learned through my family’s experience with Omicron are not Covid-specific. These tips apply to any situation in which the caregivers need care themselves. When you’re sick, it’s impossible to be on your A-game. But there are a few things you can do for your family to make a bad situation better.
- Lead the way. Energy is a force that fuels itself. Like begets like. Don’t let your negative energy create a spin cycle. If you feel caught in a trap of “woe is me,” excuse yourself for some selfcare. When you lose your cool in front of your kids, you set a precedent for them to follow. It’s natural to be emotionally dysregulated when you’re ill. Recognize this reality and be quick to reset.
- Take time to do one activity with your kids a day. Think of something simple and interactive that won’t take too much energy. Boost morale by giving the kids something to look forward to. One day we tore up toilet paper, put it in baskets, and pretended to be flower girls. Another, we played with puppets. Being hands-on with your kids gives you a chance to be hands-off afterward without too much recourse.
- Be the rock(star) you are. Most moms set the tone for their family to follow. You are the rock that holds it all together. Stick with what you know works, now is not the time to experiment. As much as possible try not to let illness eliminate your family routine. Adjust the speed, and if necessary, your attitude. Your family needs consistency now more than ever.
- Allow your spouse, partner, or family member to be the rock(star). Take turns. Run shifts. Treat the job like… a job. You’re feeling crummy while caring for crummy-feeling people. If you need to walk out, walk out. Just don’t make a scene while you’re doing it. You still want this job when Omicron is gone. Bye Felicia!
- Shift up bedtime. Sleep is fundamental to healing. Children, depending on their age and energy level, don’t always recognize and react to their body’s sleep cues. The best thing about this flu, cold, and Covid season is that the days are short. When the Sun shines for under ten hours a day, follow its cues. Your kids will too.
Want to get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to Triad Moms on Main’s free weekly newsletters here.