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Betsy Kneepkens: Hectic spring schedule takes a dramatic turn

My April column has taken a dramatic twist. Not too long ago I was overwhelmed by family and work scheduling obligations that were planned for this spring. I was anxious over prioritizing and trying as hard as possible to fit everything in. A part of my article was going to be about how wrong I was that life’s scheduling demands would get easier as my children got older.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

My thoughts were that although parenting younger children requires more day-to-day local obligations, parenting adult children creates
“desired scheduling,” meaning that as a parent you try to take advantage of as many opportunities you can to interact with your adult children when they are no longer at home with you.

I was going to write about the challenges of fitting in all the significant family functions. I was going to share some ideas on how best to accomplish those life memories alongside some special work events I had planned for this time of year. I wanted you to know that I was going to take each day at a time, because being stressed about being overly busy would destroy the main purpose of why life was hectic.

On the docket, I had multiple opportunities from college graduation, confirmations, my son’s wedding, and work-related items, like the women’s conference. I anticipated my schedule would be crazy, but I was excited that most of these events involved my children and other special life moments. I knew I couldn’t do everything; I knew that the time was limited and precious and I did not know what to leave out. These sorts of decisions were bringing me angst.

I knew the pandemic was concerning, but I did not realize how troubling the situation was until I received a phone call from my college senior son. Very distraught, he informed me that his in-person classes were moved online for the remainder of the year. He was most worried about his college graduation being canceled. He can sometimes be overly dramatic, so I told him to settle down, that he was overreacting. Because “educators” told my son a college degree was unrealistic for him, walking across the stage with honors was extremely important to him. I had to de-escalate his concern, because it sure seemed absurd at the time that his graduation two months from now would be canceled.

Shortly after getting off that phone call, my phone rang again. When I answered the phone this time, my daughter who was on the other end of the call was sobbing. Initially it was difficult to understand her. We realized that she was telling us that the state girls basketball tournament she was playing in just got canceled. Like my son’s goal, playing in the state tournament was one of her dreams and something she worked for every day. She was distraught because that moment was taken from her at no fault of her own. Telling her at that moment that this will be a great life lesson wasn’t going to cheer her up. I simply listened and tried to share in the pain with her. There just were no words to minimize the situation at that moment.

Finally getting my daughter to the point where I could hang up the phone, the dang thing rang again. When I answered the phone this time, it was our diocesan administrator, who shared that the Women’s Conference needs to be canceled — a conference that glories in having over 550 women from around our diocese come together in faith, an event that requires planning for nearly a year with a dozen dedicated volunteers, an event I look forward to all year, and a particular privilege because I work alongside some of the holiest women I know. In a matter of moments, the conference was canceled.

In the next subsequent 24 hours a trip to Philadelphia, a dream vacation to the NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four, an address at a Relay for Life in St. Louis, and my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower were all wiped from my calendar. Shortly after that, my freshman son who attends St. Louis University told me he had to be out of the dorms now, and my son in medical school said his in-person classes were canceled, so he was coming home to study for his boards.

At this point, no one is going anywhere. Three of my adult children are living at home, and a fourth will be here soon. My husband and I have been encouraged to work from home, and homemade meals have now become a priority again. Laundry is piling up. The house is getting messy, and we are dusting off board games. We are filling up time telling stories, baking cookies, and doing some exercising.

Our first streamed Mass together will be this Sunday. So, we are otherwise laughing, contemplating what this all means for the economy, and staying on top of the news together. As a family, we are resolved that we have no control over this matter, and so we say enjoy it anyways.

This pandemic will end, so I must wisely use this time to be present with my family. Certainly, I hope and pray that this horrible virus is driven from our planet, but I can’t help but hope that in this horror there are blessings. I am convicted to remain in touch with the gift of time God has given me to be with my family and free myself of any stress this situation could cause me. Stay at home, and stay well.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.