The shock is wearing off. Reality is setting in.
It’s safe to say we are all sailing in unchartered territory. Certainly in my lifetime. And my parents’ too. Life amid the coronavirus pandemic is different and dynamic, with nonstop information coming at us, and life as we know it changing by the minute. My Bay Area county (and 5 neighboring ones) is about to announce a shelter in place plan to limit our comings and goings, interactions and inevitable spread of this virus.
As I write this, and apparently temporarily resuscitate my mommy-blog that had completely fallen by the wayside, I’m listening to my three young daughters work on their first round of “homework” that I created in our new “homeschool”. To them, the STEAM lesson I planned is a small shift from their norm — instead of creating leprechaun traps in their classrooms and with their classmates, they’re forced to create it at home with their sisters as their new learning contemporaries. But to me, it’s just the beginning of my newest identity shift where I add “homeschool teacher” to the many hats I wear on a given day.
I’ve been in nonstop texting and Facebook threads with other moms, passing ideas of schedules, lessons, chore charts, and so on, back and forth, using our collective brainpower to collaborate in this era of ever-changing reality. The texts and the Facebook threads are our lifeline not only to collaboration, but to survival. Where once we could grab a glass of wine at our local Whole Foods, settle into each other’s couches for book club or to watch the Bachelor, or take the kids for an impromptu playdate at the park, we are now within the confines of our own homes. Collaboration, humor and discourse are our virtual escape.
It’s this blurred reality that reminds me that my job, first and foremost, is to protect my children and help them make sense of the world. How my husband and I respond to the pandemic — the words we choose, the way we speak to each other and to friends and family on the phone, the attitude we carry — will have a direct impact on our children for years to follow. Whereas my parents’ generation still recalls where they were when JFK was shot, and my peers and I share stories of 9/11 and the days and weeks that followed, our children will talk about this. The pandemic. The shelter in place. They’ll ask each other what their experience was like, how they felt, what they remember.
People we know will likely become diagnosed with coronavirus… assuming testing is possible. It’s inevitable. And from what I’m reading, things could get worse before they get better. We are on information overload and things seem to be changing by the day. And so, while I sit at my dining table making color-coded schedules, scouring the internet for lesson plans, bookmarking online yoga classes, and preparing science experiments to continue exercising my daughters’ brains and bodies, I realize that my responsibility is even more-so to help them come out of this on the other side with a grounded sense of reality (somewhere between hysteria and denial) and to instill in them resilience, compassion and a burning desire to do their part to make a difference.
So when I put on that “homeschool teacher” hat each morning, I’ll remind myself of the bigger picture, too, and give myself some leeway to learn alongside my kids, to make mistakes, to know that some days will go better than others, and strive to be a positive role model for them amid pandemic-life. No, I’m not formally trained to teach long division (nor do I really remember it!); I’m not versed in strategies to help them move through the designated reading levels their classes follow. I’m now their homeschool teacher and I’ll certainly do my best. But, the first hat I wear is their mom, and I’ll do everything in my power to teach them, protect them, shelter them, guide them, and love them through each day ahead.
Yes, we are in a new “homeschool” situation, which is coupled with a double “work from home” environment between myself and my husband. Yes, they’ll complete math and reading lessons daily, practice their piano, engage in PE, and work on the virtual projects coming at us from their teachers, but we’ll also bake, watch movies, play games, have dance parties, organize closets, snuggle, and laugh. We’ll draw pictures and mail them to nursing homes where residents aren’t allowed to have visitors. We’ll FaceTime with friends and family. We’ll write letters and mail them to friends. We’ll learn new skills and take on new responsibilities.
Because when we come out on the other side of this, I want my children to remember how it felt to be home, and to remember just how far the walls of our home and our hearts could stretch.