All Together Now!

Header picture by Geralt, from http://www.pixabay.com

At our house, today begins the seventh week of our Littles’ online schooling. In our state, kids usually go back to school mid-August. Due to the pandemic, our governor allowed districts to push the start of this school year back to September 9th (just after the national holiday Labor Day here in the states). This decision was made to allow districts more time to gather sanitary/safety supplies, and for teachers to make adjustments for online or hybrid teaching.

Seeing these events unfolding, the Four Parents* decided to take the iota of control available to us. Although COVID-19 cases in our county were relatively low over the summer, living in a college town, we knew that was bound to change once the university opened. We enrolled our children in an online school program that is run by a school district halfway across the state, but is administered independently from that school district. This particular program has been running for twenty years, and has a solid curriculum.

It turned out to be the best choice for our family, because just a few days later, our local school district decided to return to classes 100% online for the first six weeks of school. Kids going to their local school programs have to be online for roughly the equivalent of a school day: 6.25 hours. Kids in separate homeschool programs need only be online long enough to finish their schoolwork (with the exception of count days).

Not only had I never planned on being a stay-at-home parent, I definitely never planned on being a stay-at-home co-parent-teacher. Yet, here I am. Because, here we are.

In case this is your first time stopping by, you need to know that both of our children live with moderate ADHD. They have struggled to be in school at times, and have struggled in extra-curricular programs (think Boys’ & Girls’ Club). In fact, this year, we had decided to keep them out of BGC for the summer, and juggle our work schedules in order to accommodate this.

And then COVID-19 happened. And we were together all of the time. Allofthetime. Except for my husband, who, as an essential worker, escaped outside of the home to… work.

I know, logically, that he goes outside of the house to work. He’s not at the park, reading a book in a hammock. He’s not at the cafe, having a slice of pie and drinking coffee. He’s not hiking a trail that ends in rainbow-flecked waterfalls. He’s going to work.

What that did mean, though, was that the rhythm of his life remained relatively unchanged. Conversely, my life and the kids’ lives changed in ways we were not prepared for. We were used to being together for an hour or two in the morning (between waking and going to school), and four or five hours in the evening (between school and bed time). I was not prepared to be with them every waking hour they are at our house. And, to be fair, they were not prepared to be with me every waking hour that they are at our house, either (and the same for being at their mom and step-mom’s house).

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: there have been a lot of dicey days at our house, especially since school started. There was a learning curve to the school program we are using. On top of that, our kids and their schooling go between two homes several times a week–navigating that has had some challenges. Not only had I never planned on being a stay-at-home parent, but I definitely never planned on being a stay-at-home co-parent-teacher. Yet, here I am. Because, here we are.

So much time together has allowed me to see more of my kids… both their good sides (how smart they are at certain subjects), and also more of their not-as-good sides (how upset they get at times, and the behavior that comes with it). And I’m acutely aware that they’re seeing the same in me.

I know that I am not alone in this position. I know that too many people are just now realizing what many of us have long known: when push comes to shove, you can have a job, or you can have kids. I miss my regular job, which I’m participating in very minimally at this point.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels their blood pressure rise when they see people’s noses hanging out of their masks, or people not bothering to wear a mask at all, silently judging and maybe blaming them for the fact that we are still in this mess.

I know that I’m not alone in feeling a special mix of angry and sad that we don’t have the infrastructure in place for even very privileged people to close their lives down completely for two to four weeks, let alone average folks, and absolutely not folks who need a lot of medical support, or those in poverty or living on the streets, in order to get a real handle on this virus.

I know all of these things. Yet I still Have Feelings about the situation. I’m still working out ways to be more available to our kids in positive ways when things feel fairly constantly negative. I’m still working on ways to give myself time and space when both are precious commodities. I’m still working on ways to keep any good part of myself–my humor, my joy, my love–available for my spouse when it feels that I’m spending every part of myself just to get through the day.

And we don’t have to worry whether the mortgage will get paid. And we don’t have to worry if there will be food. And we don’t have to worry about minor, incidental needs that arise. At least not right now. We are fortunate.

Someday, some of this will be over. I hope, though, that some of it stays as it is now. I hope that those who have found flexibility or even the first-time ability to do work from home get to keep that option. I hope that families who have felt that it is a positive opportunity to be more involved in their children’s educations maintain that involvement. For those who have formed stronger ties with their neighbors, I hope those ties remain. I hope.

*The children in my house were adopted by my husband and his ex-wife. We share custody of them with their mom and her wife.

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