Turning ’21

Let’s face it. 2020 was NOT the year.  Not for any of us. And I don’t know anyone who isn’t more than ready for it to be over. 

The words pandemic and coronavirus have been permanently and boldly inscribed in the book of 2020.  But it wasn’t only about the complete awfulness of covid. A pandemic doesn’t change the basic things we still have to get through in life – kids, families, mortgages and bills, birthdays/ weddings/holidays, housework, laundry, cooking! The virus just amplified the stress. Less work equals less money equals more stress over mortgages and bills. Kids in online school equals more food to cook (although it might give you a laundry break). Cooking 37 meals in one day wears you out. Anxiety over not being able to see or hug family members for fear of being asymptomatic, makes you sad. Our emotions have run rampant in this past year and it has driven us to the brink of our sanity.

And right here is where we find the silver lining. Because we didn’t actually lose our sanity.  We didn’t give up or give in and let everything fly right out the window. In this time of extreme difficulty, of constant change, of overwhelming stress and genuine fear…we are standing here at the end of this nightmare year for several reasons. 

For me the biggest and most important reason I didn’t just curl up into a ball and lay crying these past months is friends.  We somehow learned to build better friendships in 2020. Closer connections.  We became more supportive,  more sympathic, more understanding of each other’s lives.  Maybe because we had more time to do so without all of the hurriedness that the virus forced us to leave behind. Maybe because in the midst of a worldwide pandemic we learned to reach out more when trying to cope with things out of our hands.  Or maybe being able to laugh at life together just adds an intangible to the mix.  And we did laugh – at  killer hornets, at weird packages of seeds, at dogs eating dentures (after we cried), at meth-gators and angry otters. We laughed at our bosses, our families, and each other. And memes. We laughed a lot at memes. 

Friendship & Laughter

Another reason we made it through this terrible, horrible, awful, very bad year is because in the midst of the chaos that was 2020, we remembered to be grateful. Yes, it was a hard year. Yes, we struggled to just get through some days. Yes, we lived in our yoga pants and pajamas. But how grateful and thankful were we for the days that went well, for the return to on campus school, for our teachers, our healthcare providers, Amazon deliveries? How grateful for healthy families, for a day watching your kid play baseball? How grateful for toilet paper or being able to get a haircut? And how grateful for those who have watched over us and blessed us with their love, who have somehow been able to ease our struggles? Or the ability to help others? We learned how to look at things differently, to change our perceptions of what mattered most. I know that not everyone learned these things. There are still people wasting their breath every day complaining about having to wear a mask. I can certainly think of worse things, but I am choosing to see better things.

It’s the end of a most unforgettable year. A year we are eager to see behind us. But this pandemic isn’t going to go away for awile, so I hope we can take the lessons of 2020 with us into 2021. I hope that we can build on them and share them and grow into being better humans in this new year. To more laughter, stronger friendships, and more gratitude. Cheers 🥂 ! And a very happy 2021!

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.