It’s only been one month! I don’t think I can do this.
As I was washing the backpack and lunch bag we haven’t needed for the past few weeks – it hit me. My 3rd grader may not be going back to school again. At least not this year. Will he have to do 3rd grade over again when schools re-open in September? Or will they start them in 4th grade as they would have before all of this mess happened? The rumor is we will be dismissed until September and every parent I know is on pins and needles just waiting for the dreaded news to drop.
How can I do this for the rest of the school year?
The thought of having to work my full-time position as Communications Manager for The Institute for Learning Innovation and guide him through math I myself don’t even understand for the next 5 months made me nauseous. It’s hard enough doing things like buying milk and filling prescriptions and organizing the finances right now. I don’t feel like communicating. Or thinking. Or planning.
I don’t feel like teaching or learning. I just want a break.
My throat tightened. And the dam broke. I found myself standing there, sobbing like a baby while holding an Incredible Hulk lunch bag, the weight of the last few weeks spilling all over the floor in front of me.
This is hard.
A small voice behind me whispered, “What’s wrong Mom?”
“I guess I am having a little trouble adjusting to our new routine,” I said sniffing.
He looked at me suddenly looking somehow even smaller than he did just moments earlier. “I hate the Coronavirus. I miss my friends. I want my life back the way it was. I hate Zoom calls. I hate learning apps. I miss eating lunch with Ben in the cafeteria! I want to play on the playground and I can’t even do that!” he crumbled.
He broke into tears and my heart broke into pieces.
“Son, I know you do. It’s hard. But I need you to remember something – this will NOT last forever. You will be back at school, you’ll be back in gym class, you’ll eat lunch with Ben in the cafeteria again, you will. I promise you that. You WILL play on the playground.”
“But they put tape all around it and a sign that says CAUTION, KEEP OUT.” His shoulders shook.
I searched the room silently wishing for someone else to come and save me from this moment and remembered that no one was coming. I’m the parent. I’m the fixer now. I felt my eye begin to twitch.
I put my arms around him.
“You know what, you can’t play on the playground today but I do have an idea. Remember my boss at work, John? He sent us a book with some fun activities in it! There is one in there that we can do right now if you want. Let’s get Dad. We’ll put some snacks in this lunch bag, go outside and build our own Pint-Sized Playground!”
“I do want to, but pints are small. Who’s going to play on it? Ants?” He smiled.
“OR LADYBUGS!” I shouted running up the stairs.
We walked the perimeter of the yard gathering our construction materials…sticks, leaves, rocks, dried seeds, pinecones and grasses and put them inside the empty lunch bag.
As we began building, my son corrected us each step of the way.
“That’s too heavy. DAD! Put that on the bottom. That’s too bendy, we need something stiff.” He instructed.
We followed his lead.
Suddenly he looked up at us and said:
This is why I want to be an engineer – I’m great at designing things and they make a lot of money. I want a swimming pool inside my house one day and I am going to design it!
Me: Cool! I can’t wait to come over and swim with you in your pool. Listen Bubs, I’m sorry for getting all upset earlier, I know that this is tough and weird and I didn’t mean to worry you or make you cry too. I guess my feelings just caught up with me.
Small Engineer: How many Corona’s have YOU had in your life?
[Husband laughs, I shoot him a look to shut down all pending Dad jokes]
Me: This is my very first one. This virus is new.
Small Engineer: Your VERY first ever pan-MED-ic?
Me: Pan-DEM-ic – Yep, first one! Hopefully, the last one too.
Small Engineer: Wow! You’re pretty good at pandemics then. I’m kinda impressed.
I let that sink in.
We’re healthy. I’m keeping things as normal as possible at home. We still get outside. He’s fed. Maybe too many cookies but hey, he’s learning, I’m honoring deadlines and commitments at work, we’re getting fresh air, I’m checking on my loved ones via text. I’m being (mostly) kind. I’m trying.
Not every day is going to feel like a success. I’m going to blow a work deadline at some point or miss a call by accident. I know it’s coming.
I know there are going to be (more) days when my son gets too much TV and the only thing he learns are Minecraft hacks and Beyblade tricks on YouTube Kids. I need to keep reminding myself, it’s important for kids to de-stress and do kid things too.
I’m going to screw things up. More than once … and when I do, I am going to just try to do better the next day.
It’s my very first pandemic. (Yours too!)
So, say that out loud to your boss if you need to, say it to your husband, your wife or your child – but above all else say it to YOURSELF as often as necessary because this is going to be how it works for now. Every one of us is stumbling.
If the best you can do is create learning opportunities through play—that’s enough right now. A book before bed, a crossword puzzle book, a few minutes of flashcards, a board game—it all counts.
It’s all enough. No matter how much, no matter how little. YOU are enough.
If you’re still holding on, still waking up committed to trying your best – The fact is – YOU are pretty good at pandemics too.
Stacey Sheehan, Communications Manager/MOM
Posted Apr 13, 2020