There’s no roadmap when it comes to parenting, Hyde Park mother of three Teila Gray said — especially during the challenges of the pandemic.
This Mother’s Day, Gray said she’s reflecting on the silver linings: all the extra time the pandemic has given her to bond with her sons Kaysen, 15, and Xavier, 8, and her 10-year-old daughter, Alora — and the welcome extension of her family as Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors gave her helping hands and open hearts.
“Cherish the time. This year I’ve had so much time. I’ve asked for it for so long and here I get it. It’s made us stronger and closer,” Gray told the Herald.
Over the summer, Gray said she and her kids spent every day at the beach, and they’ve also enjoyed plenty of time at the park and at home cooking and playing games.
“I think it’s about having fun and loving each other,” Gray said.
Of course, there were tough moments at home during lockdown when they couldn’t bear another game of Monopoly, and food was flying out of the pantry as soon as it came in.
On Sunday, Gray said her children will likely make her breakfast, visit their grandmother and go out to eat.
“Every day is Mother’s Day,” Gray said.
As a busy working mom, Gray also had the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts to get her through some of the longest pandemic days and weeks.
Each one of her children has been matched with a mentor who Gray said have become additional members of the family.
“They are truly there for everything. All the milestones,” Gray said.
When the pandemic hit, Chelsea Parham, director of program services for the nonprofit, said 2,500 active mentor matches switched to virtual interactions with their “littles,” and 90% of those matches have consistently connected over the past year.
Kaysen, Alora and Xavier’s “bigs” went the extra mile, said Gray, and didn’t let the pandemic get in the way of their fun.
They played video games online, watched movies over Zoom, ate meals outside, and Kaysen’s big even attended his drive-by eighth-grade graduation celebration.
Gray said the extra support from the mentors gave her a break at times, and even deepened the connection with her kids.
“Each one of my bigs have been able to help support me in breaking down barriers and emotional walls that my kids might have with me,” Gray said, adding that the mentors not only check in on the kids, but on her as well.
She added, “Having someone outside of the household that they feel they can confide in makes all the difference for me because now I understand my child better.”
Parham said the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs aims to help children develop life skills, one of which being emotional competency. It’s a skill that has been strengthened between bigs and littles via virtual communication like Zoom calls.
Building community connections via Big Brothers Big Sisters is always an incredible opportunity, Parham said.
“We couldn’t do that without these guardians, these moms, reaching out and putting their trust in us to find a mentor for their child,” Parham said.
For other moms seeking support from community organizations, Gray said, “Just go for it, trust the process and live a little.”