I’ve always wanted to be a mom. As a teenager, I imagined I would have three kids: one girl and two boys—who would of course be fiercely protective of their sister—and they would share an unbreakable bond.
I would be a working mom—even then I knew that I was not cut out to be a homeschooling momma—and we would live happily ever after.
Of course life did as life does, and took my plans and rearranged them. I did end up with three kids—two girls and one boy; they do have an unbreakable bond. And until recently I was not a homeschooling parent.
Until Covid-19, I had a pretty specific idea of what it meant to be an academically responsible parent: ensuring my children knew I took their academics seriously. Communicating with their teachers regularly. Providing additional support at home for any area that needed strengthening. And making sure my kids participated in extracurricular activities that piqued their interest.
As a mom of three, I operated this system like a well-oiled machine, and I found significant validation in just how well I managed such a hectic routine.
I don’t want my children to remember this as the time when their whole world changed, and their mom was raging with anger because she was so concerned with making sure they didn’t “fall behind” academically.
And then my kids’ school closed, along with the rest of the country, and I quickly embraced a new perspective of not only “academic responsible parenting” but parenting in general.
As my children’s school scrambled to provide thoughtful and engaging virtual assignments, I scrambled to figure out exactly all the things we would need to function basically 24 hours a day 7 days a week in our house together.
As I worked to check off the list of things to accomplish everyday—food, activities, hygiene, school work, etc.—I found myself overwhelmed. To make matters worse, I was overwhelmed over something that I could do very little about, except surrender.
This is a pivotal moment in my children’s lives, and how I respond now will greatly affect how they remember this moment in history. I have come to realize I don’t want my children to remember this as the time when their whole world changed, and their mom was raging with anger because she was so concerned with making sure they didn’t “fall behind” academically.
That’s why, in our house we are done with school for now.
Instead, we are creating our own new routines that work for where we are now. That routine looks different for each of my children, ages 10, 6, and 3, but there are a few staples that are included for everyone.
Related from The Philadelphia Citizen: Have Fun, Do Good: The Social Distancing Edition A regularly updated guide featuring fun things to do in Philadelphia during the coronavirus quarantine, including live-streamed arts performances, tours of local museums and more
Collectively we are taking walks through our neighborhood. Sometimes we bring chalk, and “tag” the streets with kind words for whomever may walk by.
We have dance parties (something that was already a staple in our home prior to the lockdown), as well as “affirmation speeches” in which the kids individually stand on the sofa or bed or chair and yell out how awesome they are and how much they are loved. And there are lots of family movies.
For all the bonding these activities create, unexpectedly being with my kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is also draining. So in the midst of all the family fun I’m intentionally cultivating, I’m also trying to find little ways to escape.
We are all learning to cope. But not merely cope; we are learning how to live under these new conditions and be happy, not just normal. Because normal no longer exists.
Normally that is a daily walk, alone, for about an hour. On one of my most drained days, I took a new approach to the “family meal.” Instead of all us gathering around the table breaking bread over large dishes, I instead washed a big bowl of grapes, made lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, poured a bowl full of chips, cut apple slices and made cups of water. I placed all the food in the center of the dining room table and told them to eat it whenever they felt hungry, and not to ask me for more food until dinner time.
So, we are all learning to cope. But not merely cope; we are learning how to live under these new conditions and be happy, not just normal. Because normal no longer exists.
We aren’t going to try and navigate how to virtually homeschool three kids, while simultaneously working from home and tending to all the things that make a house a home.
I’ve found a lot of beauty in this uneasy time at home, and I’m grateful to even be able to write those words. Perhaps that part of me that was so proud of how well I managed to juggle an over-scheduled routine is grateful to have a “valid” reason to simply stop.
Though we are done with school until the buildings reopen, my children are learning more valuable lessons. Like what it really takes to adapt to change. That they are, truly, each other’s first best friends. When they each need space, and when they need community. And that if given enough time, and not so much responsibility, their mom really does enjoy taking long walks through the neighborhood.
When they look back on this event in history, I want them to remember that this was not the most stressful time of their lives, but one of the most fun and creative—a time when we learned all those lessons, and the most important one of all: How to take care of ourselves and each other.