My daughter's large school district went "back to school" this past Tuesday. For my kindergarten and second grader it went great. Their on-line classes were an hour, and were extremely well-run by their teachers. I was exhausted by just navigating our new schedule and helping them get online by the time my second grader finished up, but also impressed.
Then we woke up Wednesday morning.
My girls were struggling the moment they woke up, and I soon realized it was because we'd lost what we had to look forward to. For awhile, we looked forward to Easter and then as soon as Easter was over we turned our attention to starting virtual school. Once that first day was completed we woke up on Wednesday to literally nothing else to look forward to but the routines inside our house. Of course, my children did not express this outright themselves, but after taking a moment and feeling where we were and reflecting on a class I'd been in the night before, I put it together. We took time and planned a virtual party for them and their friends on Friday. Clearly we are going to needing to actively work on making our own events we can look forward to in these coming weeks.
The "nothing to look forward to" problem solved, I busily started the day to prepare them for getting ready for virtual school - until we got an email saying there was a two hour delay due to improving security issues. OK, we can roll with this... Then we got another email from one teacher saying they were going to meet as planned... OK, we can roll with that. Our heads were starting to spin but this was important to our kids. Then we sat down to log on ... and tried... and tried... and tried. At first the error messages we were getting were amusing because they changed each time - Access forbidden! Error - try again! Network not available! You stupid parent, why can't you log on?
All of us were in tears, trying to log on using different devices, scanning Facebook to find out if other parents were in the same boat. "Keep trying" someone recommended on facebook. But no one said they got in.
Finally we sent an email to teacher saying we loved her but that we couldn't do this anymore. We'll try again tomorrow.
It was by far the worst day of our quarantine yet.
SO, we put down our expectations and hopes of the day and just sat in our disappointment. No more rolling with it. No more "this is going to be OK!" We let ourselves just sit in the suckiness of it all. And it sucked.
Yes, it sucks that we are stuck inside and you can't finish kindergarten in person. It sucks that there will be no kindergarten parade for you. We won't have our Kentucky Derby party. We can't hug our family members. You can't do gymnastics. We can't go to the park. You can't see your friends. You can't see your teachers. You've lost your autonomy outside of our family. It just sucks.
Sometimes we need to feel it all.
we ate ice cream Sundays for lunch.
We held each other.
We colored our massive coloring page a bit.
Amazon came and delivered all the audiobooks I ordered last week. I let my children stay in their pjs, blow off their virtual taekwondo classes, and binge listen to the Boxcar Children. They listened to THREE novels. At one point my husband and I wondered what they were up to. They were so quiet we were sure they were up to no good, but we were both getting work done so we let it go. Turns out, the girls were re-organizing their bookshelves while they listened.
My husband and I recognized that our low moods were not going to let us get any more work done today so we turned off our computers and walked away. We took time for us, ordered delivery for dinner, and just sat as a family.
That night at dinner we were able to reflect on the "worst day yet", and you know what, that reflection made it all worth it. We recognized all the things we needed to do to calm down, talking about how we are problem solvers and we can get through this and do hard things - but that sometimes to do hard things you just need to breath. One of my girls commented on the fact that I was really good at taking deep breaths while we were trying to get onto their classes today - and we talked about why I'd stopped talking for a bit and just started breathing.
We made meaning of all of it.
Research and academic writing on what makes children resilient shows that resilient children are not those with perfect childhoods, perfect parents, or children who are naturally not bothered by anything. Instead, resiliency is built from recognizing hard moments, sitting with those uncomfortable feelings, and reflecting on them later. We build our resiliency when we make meaning from how we handled the conflict, or how we restored a mismatch.
Yes, we lost it and yelled at someone, we sat and cried, we ate ice cream for lunch. Now, instead of ignoring the feelings we had then, we take those moments and create meaning.
On-line learning in our district is postponed until Monday so they can work out the kinks in the system. I now know better than to put all of our hope on Monday. There will be future bad days, and there may be many of them. We can't avoid them, we can hide from them, and we can't just pretend everything is OK.
These are the moments life is based on, and these are the moments we can come together and create the meaning we will rely on to move forward with the rest of our lives.
So breath deeply, slow down, honor the feelings of sadness and despair. Sometimes we need to go slow to go fast.