I may be the only parent to say this but I liked e-learning. Don’t get me wrong, there were nonstop arguments in my house, frustration over the details, and major difficulty navigating this new schedule. I liked being involved in my kids’ learning from a perspective I never have before. I liked that my 1st grader was referring to a lesson I gave him when we were reading a bedtime story and I knew how to compound onto it from what we’d worked on in school. I realize that I could have done a better job following along in our normal life. But our normal life was moving so fast, I always felt one to two steps behind.
Tomorrow starts the next chapter of this Coronavirus 2020 lifestyle. And as much as it was an uncertain feeling when this started in March, we were lucky enough to be guided by the school system. For better or worse, they set the tone with an abundance of expectations – zoom calls, videos to watch and homework to submit. Now that it’s all over, where does that leave us?
Teachers provided links to apps that are still available in the summer time. There are tons of online resources for scavenger hunts and games that you can seek out. All of this is fine and dandy but it’s different than an obligation that you and your children are bound to. First of all, my kids are different ages and genders. What works for my 7 year old, most certainly does not for my 12 year old. Have I mentioned that my 12 year old believes that the end of school means that he has his entire summer of freedom ahead. It’s not for lack of conversation about schedules and boundaries. Yet he still exists in this world where summer means something different than Coronavirus 2020 part 2.
Regardless of how your e-learning experience was (and despite my positive attitude for it, there was still a ton of fighting and trouble navigating it), there were clear defined activities that I felt focused and pressured to complete (no surprise I’m type A). And now what is there? Mom guilt to keep them active in a productive way all day? Time to get on the computer and do some of the apps the teachers recommended? I just finished fighting with my kids about e-learning just to go back and do the non-mandatory assignments? I don’t think so.
There are revised camp options. But what normally becomes long days full of playing outside and complete exhaustion at the end of these warm days, are turning into a couple of hours of revised play (no pools, social distance activities, etc.). What does that mean for the next few months?
When we first embarked on e-learning in March, it was filled with uncertainty and concerns. It all worked out. It may not have been the experience we all dreamed of but we survived and we’re now on the other end of it. The same will hold true for the summer, regardless if you have an inflatable pool or not. I’m not sure we’ll get in all the school apps I dream of. I’m pretty sure I may lose my voice from yelling at my monsters time and again. If I hear “Mom!!! He/She is bothering me” one more time, I’m going to lose it – however, it’s time to accept that it’s officially lost and go with it. These are unusual circumstances and our best bet is to put our best foot forward, embrace the uncertainty and try to have fun. At least that’s my attitude on the last day of school…
More than that, they fill up our lives with extra joy. Halloween is not just about going to Target and buying an over-priced costume, but rather the customs we’ve come to appreciate – going back home with friends and eating chili, hanging up certain decorations year after year and spending a day carving pumpkins. It’s not just about doing these things but continuing to make these memories.
This past weekend was Memorial Day. Yes, Memorial Day is designed for us to memorialize our fallen soldiers. Yes, Memorial Day has a meaning far more than how we normally celebrate. But year after year Memorial Day has a specific feel. We spend time with our family, we visit with friends, we have bbqs, pools open, etc. Without those things happening, without the experiences we have come to expect out of this holiday – is it really the holiday for us?
We are starting summer. When you live in Chicago, summer is a VERY big deal. In many ways, it feels like we have to create a whole year of fun times outside to make up for the bad weather all year. And with those fun times come all the things we are used to doing to signify summer in Chicago. Without tickets to a Cubs game, without fireworks for 4th of July, without pool play dates, without concerts in the park, without travel baseball, without overnight camp can it really be summer?
Have you tried buying a new bike? What about a blow up pool? People across the country (or maybe just the Northshore of Chicago which feels like the world when you’re living in it) are making every effort to save the summer. Without all the milestones of a traditional summer, is our only option to buy an inflatable pool to save summer? Is the only way to make summer feel right to buy every piece of sporting equipment we can get our hands on? How else are we going to keep our children busy and outside?
Would our kids know what to do on Christmas or Chanukah if we didn’t create these customs? Do they come out of the womb saying that they need to sit on Santa Claus’ lap? We teach them the fun of these holidays, we create customs that become memories. So this summer isn’t going to be easy because the normal annual summer experiences won’t be there to lead us the way they normally do. It doesn’t mean the weather won’t be warm. It doesn’t mean that the 4th of July Independence Day won’t happen. It just means that we, as parents, are going to have to work harder to make them special. We won’t have the help of fireworks but we’ll have to create the joy of fireworks another way. It might not be easy but something tells me this summer may be more memorable than the last four combined!
Remember that time in March 2020 when we were forced into isolation with our children? Remember when we were forced to be face-to-face with the products we have created? Remember that time when life slowed down and we were left to our own devices, literally. It has been very eye opening.
For one, my kids have been WAY over-scheduled. I knew it was happening. I didn’t like that I was doing it because my days had turned into a shlep-fest and my pocket book was looking very lean from all the expenses. Yet, I still allowed it to happen. When forced to turn down all the extra noise of our lives, we all (us adults included) retreated to our devices for our reprieve from life. In a time where we should be joining together and lifting each other up, our natural inclination was to find our own separate places. How else am I going to catch up on all the shows everyone on Facebook is talking about?!
After the first couple weeks of quarantine, I came to the startling realization that the direction our family was going in was not productive for anyone – least of all my children. I’ve convinced myself that everything I do, I do for my kids. Is that a lie I’ve been telling myself? Am I scheduling them after school to avoid them being on their screens or to make it easier for me to do work? Am I taking them on elaborate vacations because we need the family time or because I’m not creating that family time in our normal life setting?
Because I never really make anything easy on myself, we had a team meeting and re-established guidelines for our current status. This is including essential family time in our daily routines. It wasn’t received well because we have all grown accustomed to our screen time and independence. Once we reset the baseline, it has elevated our days. Yes, sometimes it includes a show where we all huddle together and laugh about a masked singer’s performance. But sometimes it includes a stuffed animal party or a giant game of hide and seek. And you know what? It’s been fun! What in my normal life was preventing me from enjoying these times with my kids at this amazing age they are at? Why have I convinced myself that we can’t have this important memory building time unless we are at an all-inclusive in Mexico?
For several weeks now, I’ve been rethinking my life. How can I make life as we know it more simple even when we go back to the real world? How can I shift my focus? I always thought everything I did was for them but was it? If we experience something, bad or good, and we don’t learn from it – we have really suffered a tragedy. How can I take these lessons and bring them to life moving forward, especially when old habits are so hard to break. When we re-enter our old lives, can we bring these new lessons with us?
I am an extrovert. I miss being around people, I miss hugging my loved ones, I miss interacting with my work family, etc. Yet the thought of going back to all of that scares me. At first I felt uncomfortable wearing a mask while shopping, am I ever going to feel comfortable NOT wearing a mask again?
Why am I scared? Am I scared of getting the coronavirus? Not really. At this point, I know several people around my age who have gotten the coronavirus. It definitely doesn’t sound fun. And the thought of being sick certainly isn’t ideal. Am I afraid of dying from it? I don’t think that’s what’s haunting me; although I’d definitely prefer to be around for my kids’ next birthdays.
There is something in my heart that is propelling me to run to the other side of the street when faced with another human being. There is something that is keeping our house on extreme lock down that is larger than any specific rational feeling.
In a 24 hour news cycle, one station is trying to get more viewers than the next. What’s going to help draw those ratings – hysteria, worry, unnecessarily dramatic titles, etc. Just yesterday there was an article about a medical professional committing suicide from the awful things she has been exposed to during this process. As much as I try and hide from this kind of gut wrenching, negative feeling inducing articles, they creep into my feed and are impossible to hide from. Is that why I’m scared?
There continues to be stories about friends of friends dying from this illness. There continues to be numbers of deaths that are unimaginable. Is that really what is scaring me? Is that why I don’t want to hug my mom? I understand the concept of the curve and I’m committed to doing my part to help flatten it. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, whether correct or not, I feel that if everyone did their part to avoid contact with people – we’d be able to go back to normal life faster. My commitment to that concept is what propels me through the tough days of wanting to share physical space with my loved ones.
But after all this time in this new bizarre universe, what is it going to look like when we try to submerge into normal life again? How are we going to retrain ourselves that interacting with other human beings is ok? Is the only way we’ll ever feel secure again after a vaccine is discovered? If there is no vaccine, will we ever find a sense of security? And I think this is where my fear lies.
After all this soul searching – I am scared that we will never feel safe again (did we ever in the first place?). I will never be able to protect my family. Right now controlling all the little controllables I can, keeping us bunkered down in my house and not allowing any external interactions makes me feel like I can keep my family safe. Probably the only time I will ever feel this way. So rather than feeling out of control due to covid, I’ve never been more in control in my house and my family. And I’m scared of losing that.]]>
I had a sneaking suspicion school would be cancelled. It didn’t come as a surprise to me. And luckily for my family, no one is graduating or reaching a school milestone this year but it’s still heart breaking. There are so many end of the school year festivities like field day, the talent show, innovation night and end of school bash that we look forward to as symbols leading to the culmination of a successful school year. What about our entire spring sports season that didn’t happen?! Can we still find the success of the school year when we’ve spent the last three months in quarantine? Will we still find the closure for 1st, 4th and 6th grades?
Friday has historically been met with a sense of accomplishment for a week well played. I have often joked with my Friday morning cycle class that I have felt that balloons and streamers should fall from the ceiling celebrating the conclusion of my crazy week. Our weeks have become way more relaxed with no activities to rush off to, no meals in the car on the way to games and no late night work events. But with that sense of accomplishment comes an excitement for the weekend – who are we hanging out with, where will we eat, something that identifies a weekend feeling that just isn’t happening from the confines of my house.
We’ve been celebrating a variety of friends’ 40th birthdays with parties, outings and giant festivities. And while my husband, Adam, wasn’t interested in celebrating like that, it’s much harder to feel that a milestone birthday is anything like a milestone when you can’t interact with any friends and family. How do you make an average quarantined day into a milestone birthday celebration?
Originally when I first started saying home, I relished the opportunity to hang out with the kids. I was reminiscent of my days as a stay at home mom and was/am in a groove. When my employer announced my position being furloughed, I felt my heart sink because it was hard to hear. However, the truth was that I was wrapped up in being with my kids and was relieved to not have the extra pressure of fitting in conference calls and work priorities. Now that time has passed, I miss the interactions and responsibilities I have at my job. I miss the feeling of finding professional success. I miss working hard at something that extends past this house and myself. I miss my outlet, my passion, I miss my job. And there’s absolutely no clarity as to when or if anything can or will change.
I’ve worked very hard to avoid the media and the 24/7 media circus that is reporting this illness. Not because I want to be unaware of necessary changes. Rather, because it’s easy to go on a downward spiral of worry and fear once you open yourself up to all of it. In the past week, people I know have family members and friends that have died from this illness. This illness started so broad – people across the world. It has quickly crept to be landing in our backyard. Where will it go from here? Will it land in our laps next?
I feel sad. It’s ok to be sad. There’s a lot to feel sad about. We are mourning the loss (although hopefully short term) of a life we are used to. With this loss has come a restart that I believe is necessary. With this loss has given us a golden opportunity with our children that we wouldn’t otherwise have. With this loss, we have the chance to re-prioritize our lives. I think all of this is good and I’ve been able to focus most of my thoughts on those things. Except right now, where I just feel sad and I’m allowing it for right now.
As the days have gone on, we’ve settled into a schedule. Everyone now understands the expectations, what needs to get done first, when we take breaks, and how to navigate the software. Suddenly I’ve found patience that I didn’t know I had, and definitely didn’t have day 1 of e-learning.
Since I’ve been working full time, Adam does the majority of after school situating and homework. The couple hours at the end of the day are spent asking questions so I can have some basic understanding of their school life but it’s been very high level. What specials did you have today? Who did you play with at recess? What did you do your project on? It’s near impossible to be super involved in every aspect of school, have a full-time demanding job and run a house all while building meaningful relationships with these people that live here.
Quarantine 2020 (previously known as e-learning hell), I’m not only teaching the lessons to my kids – I’m learning the lessons, I’m seeing how they process the information, I’m watching their comprehension grow with each day and I’m actively involved with their education. If someone had asked me if I thought I could be the patient person next to them teaching them, questioning them and encouraging them – I would definitely say no.
I did not go to school for education, I have no understanding on how to enrich the material and I’m not sure I’m giving them nearly as much as they would get in a traditional school setting. But what I am giving them is my attention, my dedication to them and my love. And sometimes my attention, dedication and love comes with at an elevated octave. But I’m doing my best and I think they are meeting me with theirs as well. It’s definitely not easy, something I would under normal circumstances reserve for the specialists.
In this strange time of our lives, I’m grateful for this opportunity. I’m grateful to be intimately involved with my 6th grader’s science project and all leading up to it. I’m grateful to observe how serious and organized my normally messy and crazy 4th grader is. I’m grateful to be able to snuggle with my 1st grader while learning all the different Cinderella stories there are out there. If life hadn’t dealt us this curve ball, I would have never gotten this chance to see my children and their lives through this lens.
Patience is still not a strong virtue of mine, but I’m exercising it on a daily basis because we all have no choice. And what I’ve found by working on it, is that once I get past the initial struggle – there’s a beauty there that I’ve never been patient enough to uncover. Once this is all over I may never fess up to this again, but I’m actually liking e-learning. This is the one and only time I’ll admit this out loud
My most picky eater doesn’t like any kind of protein but LOVES fruits and vegetables – especially loves tomatoes. She won’t eat chicken but she’ll eat a tomato like an apple! Go figure. So I decided to try this concoction out for size. One of the best parts that have come out of quarantine 2020 has been the ability to cook as much as I have. So I’m sharing this recipe in particular because…it was a hit for everyone! This doesn’t happen often so it was well worth documenting!!!
Monday early morning until late Sunday night it’s “try and squeeze everything about into every minute.” And it’s exhausting. Above all, though, I recently looked over at my first born and realized he is a second away from a teenager. A teenager!!! He was my baby three seconds ago so I’m not sure how this happened. Life seems to be going by at record speeds and I’m too busy to even notice.
Then the world gets thrown off it’s axis and this pandemic has shaken up everything we ever thought we knew. There’s so much uncertainty and worry. The fear of the sickness is almost as grandiose as the concern about the financial and economical implications. And the media isn’t helping that nervous nelly voice in the back of my head. All of this is awful and I, by no means, want to minimize that.
My days have been spent sleeping in. Yeah, we all are! Or maybe not sleeping in but not jumping out of bed and getting ready like it’s an Olympic speed sport. I’m able to make a healthy breakfast for my kids and me rather than shoveling food in our mouths while screaming at them to get their shoes on. At lunchtime, my hubs pauses working to have lunch and we all eat together in the middle of the day!!! I’ve been making more elaborate recipes for dinner since I actually have time to prepare something rather than slapping pasta sauce and noodles together and calling it a meal! Not to mention that we were getting to the point where we barely had meals together with everyone’s schedules. We get 2-3 meals a day as a family!
Let’s be honest, pressure is high in these parts. I’m walking a tightrope everyday dealing with these monsters. I play judge and jury to whoever is slinging the most mud at each other. I’m juggling strong personalities and anxiety ridden children. But in between wanting to kill them all, there’s a moment where I look around and think that this isn’t half bad. When in our normal life would I have the time to do a puzzle with my daughter? Never!
I wouldn’t ever choose this quarantine life style. I desperately miss my extended family, my friends, my LTF family and being in the club. I feel blessed to have the opportunity in the chaos of our life to pause and hang out with my kids and live a less complicated life for a while. Keep in mind I haven’t made it 2 weeks yet. I’m sure it’ll get old real fast
This past year has been tremendous for you. To see you work so hard in school to conquer reading and writing has been so impressive. The growth that you’ve had has been enormous and everyone who works with you is blown away. As a parent, we always want our children to have easy, successful lives. But most of the time those two components don’t go hand in hand. With success comes hard work. You have learned that at a young age but I think your drive and motivation will continue to propel you towards success in your life!
I can talk about how hard you work in school, how you have an infectious positive attitude or how I love hanging out with you but my favorite part of you is how well you slide into any situation. We could be with adults or kids and either group will be in love with you in five minutes flat. You make friends everywhere we go, you’re warm and friendly and so extremely likable. I feel confident that this part of your personality will always lead you down a good path.
This summer brings a new dynamic to our family. You will spend four weeks as the oldest child in our house. You will have the opportunity to be the leader. I hope with this new short term dynamic that you will learn to lead by positive example – being a good friend and sister to your younger brother. I hope that the opportunity to do the things that you like and interest you will give you a stronger sense of self. I hope that the opportunity to have more of our attention makes you feel more secure and less competitive with your brothers. You are a very important person to this family and we love you more than anything.
Watching the three of you get on the camp bus and sit together provides me reassurance that you do find comfort in each other as a support system.
And as we enter a new school year, with all three of you in one building, my heart swells at the thought of you all having each other there. I hope you always find some common ground with your brothers that reassures you.
Happy birthday to my special little girl. I love you so much!