Learning from the Lotus

in Fall 2021 by

Welcome back-to-school and Happy New Year, Park families! For 18 months and counting, we have been traversing what has become our “new normal;” managing the ever changing landscape of parenting, school, work, and well, life, in the midst of a pandemic. With COVID has come a dizzying array of logistical challenges such as wearing masks, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning protocols, weekly testing, and for some, vaccinations. Any hope that we might be able to begin this school year without restrictions has been tempered by the serious impact of the Delta variant. Clearly, staying the course with being more cautious increases the likelihood that our children will have a year where they can safely be in school, having most learning experiences indoors and outside at Park, together. Together, we’ll continue to both navigate the challenges and remember to experience the joy that is present in the moments, the days, and the months of this school year. We’ll also need to keep perspective during a time when the daily uncertainty and struggles can feel like too much; granting ourselves and our children grace and recognizing the wisdom of appreciating when “good enough” is actually pretty great.

So, parents, if you’re feeling just a bit weary of it all, you’re not alone. Pandemic fatigue is real. These months of interrupted normalcy have been stressful, causing many to experience varying degrees of depression, anxiety, isolation, or just an overall sense of malaise. As a parent, you may have experienced these feelings and you may have noted them with your child(ren). If you or someone in your family has had COVID or lost someone to COVID, you may be particularly in need of a second wind and a replenished well of encouragement for the year ahead. If so, keep reading!

Fortunately, nature offers us a spectacular exemplar of resilience. Consider the lotus flower whose existence stretches back some 145.5 million years, even surviving the Ice Age (1.8 million -10,000 years ago). This lovely blossom, which holds deeply sacred significance in some Eastern cultures and religions, can be found in Russia, Australia, China, Iran, surviving the most extreme climates. Indeed, their hardy seeds can survive for thousands of years without water. Lotus flowers are also known to be resistant to pollution and can even purify the water where they grow, thriving in acidic, murky, dirty waters. Indeed, they will grow in most soils and most environments, so long as they have mud or water, and as long as they can float. Staying afloat is due to the little air spaces in their leaves which allow them to be buoyant. Their long stems allow them to remain rooted to the mud. Each night, they submerge into the water, and each morning, they re-bloom, showing no signs of the residue from their environment. And yet, it is this murky, dirty, and seemingly inhospitable muddy space that gives rise to one of nature’s most resplendent and enduring flowers.  

We can learn a lot from the lotus flower about how to push through adversity and thrive in the midst of treacherous circumstances, while valuing the opportunity to “blossom” anew everyday, and always but always keeping the long game in mind. This school year will bring its share of uncertainty and murkiness. You and your child(ren) will be asked to adjust to new routines, make adjustments to how we remain both physically proximal and safe, and prepare for the likelihood that the rules may change just as soon as we get used to them. 

Keep in mind that your children will continue to need most what you as parents can best provide:  consistent routines and structure; enough hours of replenishing sleep; sound nutrition; physical exercise and fresh air; and nurturing, affirmation, and support from parents and other trusted adults. Mostly, our children take their cues from us, from what we say and particularly from what we do! Now more than ever, it will be important to take your child(ren)’s “emotional temperature,” encouraging them to talk about what they are feeling, to develop healthy ways of coping with upsetting emotions and stress, and to see all of this as a part of being a healthy person. Should you or your child need support along the way, reach out to me or to Julie Mumford, School Counselor. 

As we move into another pandemic-impacted school year, remember the lovely, resilient lotus flower, pushing through the mud and gloriously living and growing another day.  

Have a wonderful school year filled with learning, growing, and joy!

Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, PhD (“Dr. O”) is the Psychologist at The Park School. Olivia joined the Park community in 1998 and has over 30 years of experience in private practice, forensic, community mental health and school settings, including the Brookline and Wellesley public schools. As the Psychologist, Olivia supports both faculty and students to ensure that Park is a developmentally attuned and supportive environment for the broad range of children and families that we serve. She welcomes partnering with parents as they navigate their child’s evolving journey in learning and growing.