Social Distancing Week 13…Kind of a Big Deal

Friday, June 12, 2020…11:23am

“Lucky” number 13.

The stitches came out of my husband’s foot and he got the go ahead to begin physical therapy. I got a haircut for the first time in 4.5 months and worked at my actual office for a few hours one morning. Most notably, it was also the last week of school – 7th and 8th grades completed with three months of distance learning.

The man-child promoted out of middle school. There was a virtual ceremony. We set up a Zoom link so we could watch the ceremony along with family spread across 3 states. It was weird, but weird is central to the experience of life during COVID-19.

A definite upside for a kid who lives with often debilitating anxiety, was the fact that a virtual ceremony meant we watched from the comfort of home and he did not have to wear a polyester gown in the late afternoon heat of the football stadium. He also was not subjected to endless rounds of posed photos with family while wearing the uncomfortable polyester gown, and he was afforded the gift of privacy to wrestle with his (understandable) disappointment when he did not win any of the awards of excellence for which he was nominated. But the virtual ceremony also meant he did not get to say goodbye to teachers, celebrate with friends or be able to do any of the things that would have added personal meaning to the communal milestone. Although we tried to make the altered milestone as memorable as possible for him, I think we all would agree it was somewhat anti-climatic. At one point during the virtual ceremony, he leaned over to me and said, “What’s the point? I’ll get a piece of paper in the mail saying I finished middle school. Big deal.”

He doesn’t see it now, but it really is kind of a big deal.

While I mourn alongside him for the loss of a traditionally celebratory end to middle school, I have come to believe that forced isolation of this time has been a gift to him. Battling anxiety and depression in the public arena of middle school meant he was never fully relaxed or fully himself at school. He was always “fighting or flighting” both from himself and in reaction to the people, pressures, and noise of middle school. We could see and palpably feel that he was constantly uncomfortable in his own skin.

In the most recent weeks of social distancing, we have watched as the man-child has relaxed into himself. The global pandemic that has stripped away so much from so many, has also gifted him with the space, and the silence, and the grace to be himself. That’s not to say his anxiety and depression have gone away – those are pervasive mental health issues that will be his to manage for life – but he is smiling and laughing more. He is slower to anger and quicker to realize when he has crossed a line. He is more optimistic. His shoulders have relaxed and his eyes are brighter. By stripping away the people, pressures, and noise of the world, the man-child has been able to fully accept and own who he is and begin to claim his space in the world. It’s definitely a big deal.

I knew this was all happening. I could see it and feel it. But about a month ago, in the most GenZ and conflict averse way possible, the man-child gave the world proof that he is ready to stand on his own feet. First a text message to me and his father, confirming something my heart already knew but that was not mine to ask until he was ready to share…

Then following a face to face conversation with us, a separate text message to his sister (with the same meme)and lots of hugs, he posted to Instagram. This was a post to his locked down account that is followed mostly by classmates, cousins, and family friends…and that he has given me explicit permission to share here. (“Share it. It’s my truth Mom. I don’t care who you tell, other people don’t change who I am.”)

Like I said, he’s kind of a big deal.

Clearly his truth is his truth and he would have always found a time and a way to share that with the world. But I firmly believe the space and grace of this time at home gave him the clarity to share that truth now. It’s a gift. It’s a big deal. He’s a gift and he’s a big deal. And I am lucky to be his mom.

We made it to the finish line of this strange school year! 3 months of distance learning. The girl maintained her 4.0 gpa, fine tuned her organizational skills and has managed to maintain a busy social life via FaceTime and text messages. The man-child came into his own as a person and will return to school in August as the most genuine version of himself. My husband and were reminded how incredible our kids truly are, and are more thankful than ever for the amazing teachers and administrators at their schools!

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