Distance learning. The words hit me in the chest like a sack full of my old, four-inch thick British lit textbooks.
My children’s school district announced that the upcoming school year will start virtually. No option for a hybrid (part-time in school, part-time at home) schedule, at least for the time being.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to pout. I wanted to…breathe a sigh of relief?
Although I was praying for the kids to go back to school, I had my reservations. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of them wearing masks all day or being glued to their desks with no real play time.
I am terrified of them getting sick.
But I want them to be kids: to make friends; learn how to react when someone cuts in front of them in line; swing on the monkey bars; practice patience when waiting for the teacher to notice their raised hand.
And, I’ll admit, I want time to myself.
My children are less than fourteen months apart, so with them both now in elementary school, I was finally going to get a break. Every. Day.
Five hours where I could run errands in peace or clean a room and not have it immediately trashed again. Where I could go to the gym and not have to keep an eye on the clock.
And mostly, five hours a day that I could use to finish my book and work on getting it published.
It feels horribly selfish to think about that, though. Because, let’s be honest—I’m a college-educated, stay-at-home mom, whose husband’s job has not been affected by this pandemic. The type-A side of me is even a little excited to turn the playroom into a classroom, to organize the pencils and construction paper in various shades, to make flashcards and wall calendars.
But admitting my hesitation, my anxieties, about this situation doesn’t take away from others’ struggles, and denying my feelings doesn’t help anyone.
None of us have any idea what to expect.
I understand there is a difference between distance learning and crisis learning. I know teachers will do everything they can to make this situation work. And I have the utmost respect for educators. But my children are young. I will be the one making sure they log on to their Zoom classes on time and don’t get too distracted. I will be the one helping them with their worksheets. I will be the one trying to get them to read the words in a book rather than looking at the illustrations and guessing what it says.
I keep reminding myself that this won’t last forever. That one day, when my daughters are all grown up, I’ll be able to remind them about the craziness of 2020. I’ll tell them stories about how they learned to use a computer, how P.E. was taking our dog for a walk and jumping on the trampoline, how some days recess was vacuuming the floor and lunch was an ice cream sundae.
So, no, I didn’t sign up for this. But neither did my children. It is my job as a parent to make the best of it. To make it fun, to comfort them when they are sad they can’t be with friends, to answer their questions about “the sickness” without frightening them.
It is my job to take care of myself. Whether that means starting the day with a workout while the kids watch cartoons, sending them outside for lunch so I can get a few minutes of peace, or ignoring a mounting pile of laundry for another day.
And it is my job to enjoy this extra time we now have together. Because one day, I will miss it.