Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Reflections from a TeacherMom: New Normal

I don't have to tell you that we are in a new normal. You've read the news. You've experienced the changes in lifestyle. You have had calendared events cancelled and you have watched as students have made the transition from going to school every day to staying home. Every parent has suddenly become a homeschool parent and every teacher is navigating distance learning or some variation of it.

I will be using my blog to share some activity ideas and some of our own experiences. Our creative time here will include videography and podcasting, so we will share our creations as well.

But what I want to do right now is stop and reflect.

I am a die-hard baseball fan. Watching as first the season was to be postponed two weeks to then being postponed indefinitely was hard. I felt the lifestyle impacts greatly. I had baseball tickets, concert tickets, a conference to attend and tickets to see "Hamilton" all between now and the end of April. I had a similar line-up on the calendar for May and I am bracing myself for those erasing from my calendar as well. But, I am a grown-up. I can recognize the disappointment while simultaneously understanding the importance of these changes. I get it. I am a huge proponent of flattening the curve. I will do my part. Yes, I am disappointed. I even teared up when the start of baseball season became postponed indefinitely. However, I rebounded quickly. "I'll get some hot dogs and we can watch the DVDs of the 2012 World Series," I planned quietly to myself. (Let me know if you find any Nathan's hot dogs. I haven't found any yet.) But, my son is 12. He will turn 13 at the end of May. This is a very self-centered time. Not judging. Simply, acknowledging. My birthday is tomorrow. My birthday plans evolved, changed, and cancelled all within a matter of a couple of days. So, I ordered myself a gift and called it good.

My son, however, was struggling some. His concert with me last Thursday was postponed to October. He actually did ok. "At least it wasn't cancelled," he said eventually. Then his last basketball game was cancelled. He sunk. Then a run we were scheduled for on Saturday was cancelled. He sunk deeper. Then, the pancake breakfast he was scheduled to work was cancelled. He was sad, frustrated, angry. I could read it a mile away. He initially took it personally. "Why are they doing this to me?" As recently as this morning, when I mentioned the cancellation of something, he had a sarcastic tone. "Let me guess, the Coronavirus?!" So then the talk got really real. I had attempted to affirm his feelings while helping him understand before. We had talked about the fact that his perfect attendance may not be worth bringing this virus into our house (we share a home with my two parents and they CANNOT get exposed to this). Each time I thought he understood, a short time later, I realized he was still not quite getting it.

But, today, he got it. And it was less about "why are they doing this to me" and more about, "this sucks and I'm scared and I'm sad."

As we rolled into the parking lot this morning to drop off the kids for their last day of school, "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth came on the radio. I was struck immediately. I knew something they didn't. Based on the comments of California Goveror Gavin Newsom, I knew there was a chance this was their actual last day of the school year. And, with the shift our lives has been taking, I knew this could be their last, last day. But, also, suddenly everything became more real. There is so much unknown. I have spent time reassuring parents, fellow educators, and kids. I have immersed myself in helping. Now, it all struck me. It was heavy on my shoulders and in my eyes. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I helped the kids gather their things and as I reminded them what items they needed to bring home today. I hugged Connor, just a little tighter. "It's all going to be ok, mom," he said. He walked to class and I got in the car as the song continued. Now I was missing a friend who died last year, realizing how I was experiencing a bit of mourning for the schedule I've had to clear, and thoughts back to the kids and the unknown. The unknown. I sobbed. Sobbed.

I took my car in for an oil change today. All went well. Except, they checked EVERYTHING out. Turns out my $70 oil change would result in a very expensive shocks and tires need. I am full on in the "do not put anything off" camp right now. If my car needs a repair, it gets it. Turns out, in addition to not celebrating out with friends this year, my birthday gift is such an "adulting" moment. Shocks and tires. But, here's the moment where everything shifted. As I thought about it, I realized this was the way things were to be. Originally, I had been scheduled to drive to Palm Springs today. I probably would have checked the oil, topped it off, and waited to take it to my mechanic when I got home. Folks, my tires probably would not have survived the trip to Palm Springs and back as it turned out. And here, I started seeing things differently.

Are we frustrated? uncertain? overwhelmed? YES! All of this. But, there are silver linings. There are teachers doing what teachers do. There are late-night video chats. There are new learning opportunities. And, there are tires being fixed so that we can safely drive on to the next adventure. And, that is awesome. On my way back to get the kids, U2's "Beautiful Day" played and it caused me to step back and look. It really was a beautiful day. Gorgeous! Then I sang along with Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know." Then I cued up "Seasons of Love" from Rent for a sing-along with the kids.

I picked them up. They loaded into the car. Connor's teacher came up to his window before we pulled away. "I'm really going to miss you guys," she said. And at the moment a reality hit. Hard. Connor burst into tears.

I thought he didn't really get it. Turns out. He does. And it hurts.

The connections between teachers and students is so strong, so important. Everything I wrote up to now was the just setting the scene for that moment. A seventh grade boy burst into tears today because he did not want to leave school indefinitely. Ladies and gentlemen, we need to work together to get these kids through this. My kids will be fed. They will have great experiences and learning will happen. They have a schedule mapped out and a list of household responsibilities. They are already leaning into the new normal. However, what I can't give them is the drive to and from school. They will miss their friends and they will miss their teachers. They will do some Google Hangouts and other things, but this is still going to be hard. It was never about the basketball game or anything like that. It's all about the connection. Now imagine what it's like for the kids who do not have what my kids have.

Sending virtual hugs, peace, and love to all who read this. Do what you can to bridge the gap in this time. And look for the silver linings when you can. I promise you, they are there. They just may be harder to see sometimes.

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