This year isn’t ideal, but let’s make the best of it!

My father has helped me around many twists in life’s road with his saying, “What’s real isn’t always what’s ideal, and what’s ideal is rarely real.” I’ve never felt it more applicable or helpful than while parenting and educating during COVID-19. Things are not ideal in many, fundamental ways, and yet here we are. Though hopefully not forever, this is our reality, and probably will be for a while.

This begs big questions for parents and educators alike—do we anchor on what is ideal or on what is real as we support our kids during such a wild time? Do we hold kids precious and protect them from this reality, or do we help them to navigate within and adapt to it? Which will help them to thrive more in the long term?

My vote: Let go of ‘ideal’ and parent for real.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. —Abraham Maslow

Kids will roll with it if you let them.

Humans—especially wee ones—are naturally quite resilient, adaptable and hopeful. Kids don’t rage against reality like we adults often do—they tend to roll with things, especially if we give them the okay and support to do so.

Kids don’t suffer the loss of the ideal

Many of us are torn between the ideal and real—between taking and foregoing chances to help kids adjust to this moment. It’s a hard balance to strike. Many people are leaning into this new normal and bringing their children along, showing them how to learn new ways of doing things and make this new reality work. On the other hand, I have heard equally caring adults grow fiercely attached to an ideal view of life for kids.

For example, I’ve heard people say that it would be psychologically damaging to ask a child to keep social distance from a friend or loved one. For sure, it feels neither natural nor easy for kids to hold back from being close and even embracing one another or their elders. Again, as an early childhood educator, I would certainly not advise it under normal circumstances. That desire to touch is a sweet feature of our early days on the planet. It is also understandable that educators and parents alike find it easier not to ask kids to even try, especially if you live in a place where you may be judged when your child needs reminders or practice.

But is it really damaging to ask kids to learn to keep close to family while keeping a 6-foot bubble from others? Really? The alternative to asking kids to learn to keep social distance can mean isolation from friends and family, lost chances to be among other people and feel part of a community. For many families, that would also mean not seeing grandparents who are at risk. Is that a better option? And what lesson does avoiding these social encounters teach our kids?

Let’s put ideal in our back pocket and parent for real

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” —Oprah Winfrey

So much of how our kids adapt to new challenges is how we present and respond to those challenges. That has never been more true than it is now.

Let’s never lose sight of what is ideal. Let’s agree to look forward to days when it’s easier, more natural and more free to let our kids be and play like kids have long been able to do. But, let’s not let the ideal be the enemy of all of the good lessons and good chances to be together that are real in this moment.

To read the article in full, please follow the link below.

Fitzgerald, Meghan. (2020). Motherly: To families starting school: This year isn’t ideal, but let’s make the best of it. Retrieved from