Friday, March 20, 2020…1:06pm
It’s been a week since our school district made the announcement that students would be remote learning until at least March 27th. This week has been both the longest one ever and the shortest one ever. I would say the same thing about each day of the past week, and each hour of all the days.
Strange and scary times in the world. My husband began predicting we’d be in this space several weeks ago. Given enough facts and information, he has the ability to clearly see what lies beyond the horizon. I tend to be more focused on immediate needs and would happily block out everything that doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies. So it took a few weeks of him repeating his belief that COVID-19 would hit the US hard, would force school closures, would severely limit our ability to be out, and would disrupt everything; before I allowed myself to pay attention to what he was saying. I wasn’t exactly an ostrich with my head in the sand, but I was certainly trying hard to keep my feet firmly planted in a “now” that did not include realities like global pandemic and social distancing.
It was early last week that I began to realize things were indeed about to change and that the change was going to come swiftly. By Thursday evening we had talked as a family about what was likely to happen in the coming days/weeks, I had done a larger than normal grocery run in anticipation of hungry teenagers being home around the clock, procured supplies to make hand sanitizer as what we had in our possession was almost gone, and been part of some conversations at work moving us toward some “what if” scenarios. Most importantly, I had begun to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the inevitability of social distancing in our cozy (small) bungalow style home.
The first couple of days went well. The kids came home from school on Friday with everything they needed out of their lockers and having heard from each teacher the plan for 2 weeks of remote learning. The weekend was spent trying to be as much in the world as we could while also trying to observe social distancing. The weekend also saw a flood of emails from almost every group and organization we are involved with canceling or postponing meetings, classes, and events. The world was shrinking quickly.
As we entered the new week, my new mantra became “one hour at a time”. Plans were adjusted and then readjusted several times a day as the altered reality of the global pandemic began to settle over us. My plan had been to keep getting up on weekday mornings to be at my church office by 8am – although we moved worship and meetings online over the weekend, we had decided to keep our preschool open as long as possible as a service to working parents. I wanted to be there to support the teachers and be available to the parents. My husband also went into his office each day as he tried to figure out how to keep his production lines running. That meant the kids were on their own with the expectation that school work needed to be done before video games, youtube, Instagram, FaceTime, etc. We knew they would either step up or fall down – something in-between did not seem likely.
My daughter took to remote learning as naturally as if she’d been doing it all along – she is organizing her time, getting everything done, and needing very little help. On Wednesday she remarked that if it weren’t for the fact that she doesn’t get in person time with her friends, she would like school this way all of the time. She is all about efficiency, and removing the inefficient distractions that are a natural part of any middle school classroom is definitely a plus in her mind.
At first glance it also seemed that the man-child was going to be ok. We know that the noise and energy of a classroom setting has been a cause of extreme anxiety for him this year – and in the classroom that has often meant he is focusing so hard on not having a panic attack at school that he has not completed classwork. At home he breezes through the work with no problem. At first we through he was going to step up to the challenge and be alright. But by Wednesday night, it became abundantly clear that was not the case.
We knew that the anxiety caused by COVID-19 was building up on top of the extreme anxiety the man-child battles every day. As the week went on we began to see cracks forming, and by Wednesday evening he shattered. He shattered in a million little pieces that sent shrapnel toward the rest of us. He shattered with intense volume, and ugly language, and physical force. He shattered in a way that made me thankful our neighbors know us well and know the challenges the man-child faces, because somebody who did not know us could have misunderstood and called the police.
He shattered. And then he was spent. And then we began to pick up the pieces. We adjusted and readjusted.
One of the thoughts that cut through the chaos of his breakdown was “I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t have a schedule. I don’t know what to do.” He may not have known what to do, but I knew in that instant without doubt that my time of trying to stay out in the world was over. It was time for me to adjust, time for me to be home, time for my work to move completely online, time for me to help him bring some order to the chaos.
That was on Wednesday. 24 hours later we would learn that everyone in California needed to stay at home except for essential work and errands. So while my decision to adjust didn’t come very long before the order to adjust was made, I am thankful that I was able to make the decision at the time that was right in the rhythm of our family. It was important that we gave both kids the opportunity to try things their own way. So much has been and will continue to be taken from them as the world adjusts and readjusts. Giving them this bit of autonomy at this time was the only right choice for our family and I would not change that decision. The events of this week were formative for what’s to come as we live through this crisis and whatever is waiting on the other side. Adjust and readjust. The kids did it. They saw my husband and I do it. We did it as a family. We are watching as the world does it.
As I sit in my living room – with my dog at my feet, my daughter in her room talking on the phone, my man-child playing video games across the room, and my husband at work providing calm leadership for his employees (his company is considered an essential business) – I do not know what tomorrow, or next week, or next month will bring. I do not have the ability to see the future clearly. What I do know is we are resilient, we lead with love, we make the next right decision, and we continue to adjust. One hour at time. One day at a time. One week at a time. Until we get to the other side. The only way out is through.
Be well my friends.