My one sentence contribution to this great piece.
Since school became something done by “distance,” throughout each day I think I hear school buses drive up and down my street. They are not school buses just some form of a truck. There are no school buses because the buses have nowhere to go and no one to travel in them.
The swift and dramatic change may not have come as a surprise but that doesn’t matter as it did occur and is bringing our kids directly to the end of their school year. My daugher is completing 4th grade in a manner none of us ever imagined in our lifetime. And yes, there are consequences. So many consequences: educationally (kudos to my daughter’s school for being ahead of the game and literally beginning their distance learning when the call to close the schools occurred), financially for families, and, of course, our children’s mental health as well as our own. Yes, there are so many more consequences for our kids but I am focusing on the mental health aspect as it pertains to my family and our personal experience of this unheard of pandemic.
My daughter shows a brave face but I can tell there’s more going on inside her head, emotionally and internally. My husband and I, individually, talk with her alone and together, resetting our safe space, as a family and within our home. No bite. There have been two times since this began in March when she talked to me late at night, sobbing, that she wants things to be “normal” again. She wants to actually be in school and see her friends in person. I told her both times how much I want that for her, too, for all of us and I was clear that while I did not have answers for her, that the 3 of us are together and that her daddy and I love her so much. She was able to then go to sleep those nights after getting to a point of comfort and love (I hope and assume).
Her father and I are tired, weary, running on fumes but we get up every day just like we did before the middle of March and begin, what is, our routine du jour. We definitely have allowed her to play too much Minecraft, allowed some behavior slips, but, like every other parent out there, we are doing the best we can. Yesterday, though, my husband and I discussed that she can’t stay inside all day. When the school day is over (online), she needs to be outside. We had a good flow of this for a while but got off-track these past few weeks, again, her father and I guilty of allowing too much Minecraft. Today she’ll take a walk with me and probably play in the backyard. We have one child and a sibling would come in handy at this time! The 3 of us are it and it’s hard. This is cabin fever on steroids yet we will continue to follow protocol as we want to stay healthy.
What is the answer? What do we do? These are million dollar questions right now. I certainly don’t have answers to them and I’m a clinical social worker with a specialization of working with children and families! I do think opening the lines of communication, in an age appropriate way, is a good step. Kids want to feel protected, taken care of, loved and while that’s an everyday scenario, there may need to be more of an emphasis on that right now. Physical and emotional support means everything to a 10 year old as she leans on me while watching TV and I braid her wet hair at night while watching some painful tween TV show. I’m “holding” her in different ways but conveying the same intention, “I love you, I will do my best to keep you safe and I will always be here for you.”
I think using the very real idea that we are at home, together, for now, can be a good thing. My daughter and I were talking about this about a half hour ago and she said, “ you have to look for the silver linings.” I’m not sure if she heard that from someone or somewhere else but she understood it and proceeded to tell me how lucky I am to have her home all of the time (joke). What is interesting is that when I began writing a biographical description of my struggles with mental illness (circa 2016, not in the works currently), my working title was, Silver Linings.
She also talked about the weekends and being together and I mentioned how I’m not currently working therefore I’m home on Sunday mornings and how nice it is to be lazy together. We talked about our discovery of how much we like hiking and how we found a couple of great spots to do so. Would that have happened otherwise, pre-pandemic? Perhaps, but probably not in the same way.
We have each other in a very different way right now and I just want to hold on to her and my husband and be smart and safe. I want to continue to be honest with her that I simply don’t have all of the answers as I will not lie to her and I will continue to do my very best at keeping her safe.
I will not hear the sound of school buses, until the fall or maybe later. Look for the silver linings. I will hear the laughter of my 10 year old, see her develop powerpoint presentations on why she should be allowed a new Xbox game (yes, she does that), create and complete her own art projects and spend this time with my two favorite people in the world.