School and the New Normal

I really am not fond of the term “new normal”. And yet it is what it is and indeed, we are all having to adapt and make changes to what was our normal.

For me, the biggest challenge has been adjusting to schooling at home. Less than a week in and I have already determined that this is going to kill me. I am frustrated. The child is frustrated. A war that I am not prepared to fight has erupted right here in my dining room.

To begin with, I must be able to navigate an iPad. I am not. I am perfectly comfortable on my smart phone, but just figuring out how to connect to wifi on this vile piece of technology took me over an hour and the intelligence of someone much younger than I. Then this morning, I could not even get it to cooperate long enough to turn it on.

The teacher has said that the child should be leading this experiment in education. She tells me that he knows how to operate the system and maneuver his way through it. The teacher says that the child has been using this exact iPad at school and understands how to use it. The teacher, a wonderful source of support and therapy, who immediately responds to every email and phone call, is not here.

The child said that part of his problem in school was not understanding how to navigate through things like turning assignments in. The child says he needs help. The child says that he doesn’t know.

And here I am just wanting to get from point A to point B. I want the iPad turned on and ready for 9:00 Zoom meetings (something else that’s new) and I want the child to be able to complete the work assigned to him. I want for there to not be a daily battle as we struggle through schooling at home. I want peace to drink my coffee, like I had when he went to school. I want the arguing and yelling and the general onslaught of frustration to cease.

I already knew that I was not called to be a teacher and what almost every parent/grandparent/caregiver knows by now is that you should never have to teach your own child.  There is an entirely different attitude that your child presents to you than to their teacher. At home, their self-doubts and fears realize into anger and blame. I have already been told that I am not very smart about this iPad  – something I know he would never say to his teacher. Also, it is my fault that I need clarification on the questions that he haphazardly throws my way. In the very best of circumstances, I will never be smarter than a 6th grader is about technology.

We are having to learn and adapt very quickly to the changes happening all around us. And by we, I mean students, parents, teachers and administrators. I am more than sure that the people who work in my school district are having many more sleepless nights than I. The planning and support required to convert an entire system of normal to something new in a matter of days is unimaginable. I thank my lucky stars that I do not have to be part of that process as well.

A new normal. It isn’t something that we will achieve while pretending that everything is ok. It will be hard. It may be brutal. But I am sure that we will get through it. Things being what they are, we don’t really have a choice. If the 6th grader and I are still speaking to one another at the end of each school day, I will have to consider it a success.

Note: I say schooling at home because we are not homeschooling. That is a whole different basket of eggs.

Anxiety Meet The Coronavirus

So much anxiety out there in the world today. This pandemic has caused even the calmest to freak out a little bit. I get it – it’s scary. Everyone should be concerned. Someone you know, a parent, a child, a friend, will probably contract this virus. And the unknowns of it make it all the more worrisome.

Never in my lifetime has government across the country asked us to “shelter in place”. Nor have I ever had to send my children to school on-line to keep them safe. I never before thought my job in the restaurant business as one that would be defined as essential. So many things from our normal world have changed so quickly. It is unnerving. It is anxiety causing.

By nature, I am an introvert, not very social, somewhat hermitty. I like time by myself and after dealing with the public or social gatherings, I need time by myself. Social distancing is not something I fear. But even for me, someone who works only part time and is self- capable, the disruptive force of the coronavirus on my limited contact with people is more than maddening. In full, I don’t know what I feel. Some loneliness? Some alone-ness? I am not worried about the virus as much as I am worried about the people being shut away from one another. At a time when we as people most need a comforting hug, it is not safe to give each other one. There are people who feel alone or lonely when the world is not turning on an axis of quickly spreading infection. How do they feel now? Do they have people to help them thru this? Do they feel as safe as they can feel? Is there someone who is reaching out? This is my anxiety. Is everyone being looked after? And the answer is no, not everyone.

I know that what I can do is to purposefully stay in contact with my friends and family thru phone calls, texts and emails. I can reach out to the anxious and try to lessen their fears or make them laugh or just listen. I can support them with my love. And doing that takes away the extreme-ness of our distancing for me as well. We are all still here. We are together. We are just not in the same room.

Esther’s Face

I am starting to look more like my grandmother every day. Just a quick glimpse of myself in a mirror tells me this. This is not the person I want to look like. Not the grandmother I was close to and felt warmly loved by.

But there they are, the sagging jowels, the heavily lidded eyes. Yep, definitely my dad’s mom in that mirror. And aside from the skillful use of a medical scalpel, there isn’t much I can do to stop it. I have always favored that side of the family. I just wish more of my me was showing through those dominant family genetics.

It’s funny how we turn into other people overnight. We reach a certain number of years and the mirror no longer reflects the face we have always seen. Suddenly, you are your own grand-ma. Your face, the one from your 20’s and 30’s, maybe your 40’s, is surely somewhere behind this one. It’s just not visible to your own eyes. All you see now is grandma.

Maybe it would feel better if it were my other grandmother’s face. The one I loved and adored – the one whose hands I have. Oh yes, these are very certainly Jean’s hands. I love these hands.

And yet, this face…Esther’s face. There is something there. Something recognizable and strong. It is a link to my heritage and to the women who came before me. Women with stories who travelled far from their homelands to come here to America, who lived through world wars, the great depression and decades of changes in industry and technologies. Women who raised families on farms and in cities. And who cooked and baked amazing foods and did beautiful needlework. All of these things, I can see in this face in my mirror.

It’s the face that will continue on with me for the rest of my journey. And in the end it will tell my story.