Today is the Day We Broke
It's only the beginning, I remind myself. I had to look back at my calendar and check off the days. Every day feels like Groundhog Day.
Day 10 the children broke and the wheels fell off the bus.
Days one through nine seemed like a dream. The children, a daughter who is almost 12 and a son who just turned 9 were compliant and positive.
We canceled my son's birthday party, that would have been day 2 of the Social Distancing. We knew the parent's of the little boys were not going to allow their precious petri dishes to socialize in the unknown. And frankly, I didn't want any of their germs at my house either. My little guy took it in stride, not even a tear.
Somehow, my kids knew this was a big deal. That our normal would never be the same again. Looking back over the last 10 days it seems eerily calm that they rose to the occasion.
At the beginning, we identified "school hours" and what distance learning would look like for our family. The children obliged. I was happy for the structure. I receive a report from the children at the end of the day with what they accomplished. We decided that standing over them with a ruler was not going to be useful. Not for them. Not for me. I relinquished my desire to control this situation and allowed them to show me how they wanted to learn. My daughter helped my son with math, science and Spanish language. They both signed up for an online class they were interested in, and they were off to show me they could do it.
Honestly, this was great for me. If they were busy proving to me that they could execute their assignments, I could work. Win-win.
Days went by, the system was working. I was anxious about what was happening around us and wondering if my kids were falling short in their education. But I was managing my emotions. I carved out time to bake for Home Ec class. We went for family walks for PE class. "Seems like we've got this. The children are angels. Who knew they could actually do chores (without complaining) with their newfound time." I had kids doing dishes, cleaning the floors, and laundry --- all things I didn't have to do. YAY!
But as all of this "new normal" was happening, I was quietly and obsessively reading the news and Facebook. Texting my friends, "what do you think the numbers will show today?" My anxiety was going through the roof.
I'm happy that I get to be home with my family.
I'm grateful we are all together and we have what we need.
I'm anxious for myself, my family, my neighbors, my community and my country.
I'm pretty good at managing my calendar, checking myself, creating boundaries and Intentional Margins for my priorities. I preach the idea that we have CHOICE in the way we show up and how we respond to the things we cannot control. I live by this idea. In fact, I show others how to do the same. I find that CHOICE gives me the control I so desperately want right now.
But still ... as I write this post in the very early morning, when it's still dark outside, the lack of certainty, structure and way forward is giving me a run for my money - emotionally.
And then, it was Day 10. March 23, 2020. This is the day, we broke.
After hiding out in my home office to get some work done, I made my way to check on the kids around noon. But before I tell you what I saw, let me give you a little context. My daughter has long stick-straight hair. My son, the tightest, curliest hair you've ever seen. We have to cut his hair ever six weeks because it grows like a weed and becomes unmanageable. We had a haircut appointment for the next day, so it's long-ish, for this little boy.
I walk to the children, who are snuggled in our bed (who knows why?) on their iPads building houses in Minecraft. And my little boys hair looks, well, let's just say "wilder than normal".
Come to find out, my daughter tried flat ironing his hair to see what he would look like with straight hair. The things they come up with. ;) They must have spent an hour trying to do this. His hair is clumped and sticking straight out. She tried, but there was no hope. He will always have tight curly hair. All I could do was laugh.
Later in the day, my little guy hit his head on the banister while walking down the stairs for "art class". I seriously have no idea how this can actually happen. But he managed to hit a corner, it hurt, he cried. And cried. And cried.
At some point, it wasn't about the bump on his head anymore. It was clear to me, he desperately needed a release. My mom-heart burst wide open. The guilt came rushing in. Was I not giving the kids time and space to process their emotions about this situation? The crying was a huge wake-up call. I needed to pay attention to my emphatic little boy who had been humming along following the rest of his family, playing by the new rules, when inside, he was unsure.
After we processed his emotions. We were ready to join his sister making a rainbow on our sliding glass doors. I fully admit, I got sucked into a Facebook post about tissue paper rainbows on windows and thought, "I want to do that". The final product does make me happy when I walk into my kitchen, but I'm not sure the kids cared that much about it. I realized. It wasn't for them. It was for me. They did it to make me happy. Again, my mom-heart burst wide open. The guilt came rushing in. What was I doing?
Later in the day, we learned that Virginia public school students would not be finishing this school year in the school buildings with their friends and beloved teachers. My daughter found out on a group chat minutes before I was able to tell her myself. She was already in tears. She's in her first year of middle school, a brand new school, where she didn't know anyone when she started, but has made the most wonderful friends and is having a wonderful year. The thought of not seeing her friends and not performing in her first school play is devastating to her. Her emotions are valid, and I tried to encourage her to let them out, as she fought back tears when I walked into her room. We talked about her disappointment and that it's okay to acknowledge that this sucks. Again, my mom-heart burst wide open.
After we re-grouped. And let's be real, took our mind off of the heaviness with some fun TV, we ate a picnic dinner in the living room, while watching Kids Baking Championship on TV. And my little boy was so happy, this was his first time being able to eat in the living room. It would never have crossed my mind that he would care so much about eating dinner in the living room, all of us sitting on the floor huddled around a tray of goodness (i.e. mostly unhealthy snacks) on the ottoman. But he was so excited. It was the little things that got us through the day.
In reflection, I failed to realize that nothing feels normal right now. Not for me and certainly not for my kids. I can't make this feel normal. Their old normal will never be the same again. We all need to process that - and that takes time. We've eaten more at the dining room table in the last week than we have in the last year. It's not "our" normal. I totally missed the parenting boat on this. My mom-heart bursts wide open, again.
What I've learned over the past ten days, is that we are all doing the best we can. After chatting about this with friends, it became clear that we all have that point when we "break" and we all get back up again. Our resiliency has been tested and I believe we're all still winning.
When I look at our future, it's bright.
When I look at the opportunity to home school my kids, I'm excited.
When I consider the togetherness, it makes me happy.
I'm embracing Intentional Margins and identifying my priorities.
I refuse to look back at this time and wonder if those were the good 'ol days.
My positive attitude does not mean I've put my head in the sand, it means, I've chosen to accept the things I cannot change and make the best out of the things I can.
... and when I told Kyle, my husband, who had been working in our basement all day, about the hair, the crying, the school closure... and so many things. He looked and me, laughed, and said "this is the day we broke" and I replied .... The wheels have fallen off the bus.
Cheers to another day.