On the Wednesday of that week back in March when aspects of our lives began to disappear like lights on a power grid, I received a phone call from the school health aide that my daughter’s eye was pink and I needed to take her to the doctor before she could return to school. I knew it was allergies and informed her of this fact but she implied that I was lying and trying to pull a fast one on the school. So I left work and called the pediatrician as I drove to the school. The doctor’s office explained that if I didn’t suspect pink-eye, they recommended not bringing her in because of the COVID-19 outbreak but went ahead scheduled an appointment later that afternoon just in case. When I arrived at the school, the school health aide insisted that my daughter not return to school without a note from the doctor. Because I am a rule follower – I took her to the appointment. So not only did the school health aide expressed her disappointment in me for sending my daughter to school with a bloodshot eye, the nurses at the pediatrician office expressed their annoyance that I had unnecessarily expose her to germs during a pandemic because it wasn’t pink-eye (duh). I wiped away tears of frustration while driving home as my daughter asked from the backseat if I had allergy eyes like her. I told her yes because I didn’t feel like explaining that the previous couple of hours were a lesson in modern womanhood – no matter what you do, you’re bound to do the wrong thing in at least one person’s eyes. She’ll likely find that out on her own in the coming years anyway.
I consider myself a positive person – it takes a lot to bring me down and I am always able to find a silver lining, no matter how small. But like many women, I hate to fail and I continuously have lofty goals written down somewhere on a list that inevitably got shoved in a drawer. I’ve been working to extend more grace to myself, especially during these crazy times. But guys – it is so damn hard! Especially during a pandemic. It’s been a month since the kids have set foot in their classrooms. In our house, we’d been doing home learning (and admittedly a lot of electronics!) as we waited for the formal asynchronous and synchronous distance learning to start in our neck of the woods. We certainly weren’t perfect but we eventually found our groove as the kids worked on their activities and I worked from home. We even managed to have a little fun.
Today was the first official day of virtual distance learning. And like most first days of school, I snapped a picture of them smiling and excited for what the day would bring. I made sure they ate a balanced breakfast and even made chocolate chip pancakes to celebrate the occasion. A little bit before 9:00am, I logged into a meeting and got the kids situated with their work and computers. And you know what? It only took two-and-a-half hours before all three of us were in tears. At the same time.
I did not like today.
It all started with having to coordinate two synchronous lessons at the same time on a glitchy learning platform while participating in a virtual meeting of my own. Afterwards, I had the privilege of fielding complaints from my little darlings about how they didn’t understand how to do x,y,z and whining that they missed our old home learning, which was admittedly geared toward their interests for both their sanity and mine. I said things to my children that were rooted in nothing but frustration. It’s like the formal distance learning was specifically designed to highlight my inadequacies as both a mother and an educator. I ran on the treadmill while they ate lunch and by the 20-minute mark, I had angry frustrated tears spilling out again, only this time, the tears mixed with my sweat. If you’ve ever cried while sweating like a pig in heat, well – it isn’t pretty and it sort of stings. I walked up from the basement feeling like a 100% terrible, horrible, no good, very bad failure. Luckily when I informed the kids that it was time to do more schoolwork, I was met with groans, resistance, and “Do we have to?” in winey, sing-songy voices.
You know, when I look back on this morning and early afternoon, I suppose it actually wasn’t that bad. So I have to wonder if today just happened to be the day that every single feeling I’ve been apparently bottling up for the past month poured out any way they could – snot and all. I fancy that working hard to maintain a positive attitude has its drawbacks. One of my all time favorite quotes from one of my all-time favorite shows, ‘Parks and Recreation’, is “Never half ass two things – whole ass one thing.” And boy, do I feel like I am half-assing a lot of things around here, much to Ron Swanson’s dismay. Another favorite quote of mine is Chris Traeger’s “If I keep my body moving, and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.” Equally as fitting given the current state of affairs, which goes to prove that there is a ‘Parks and Recreation’ quote appropriate for any situation. Fight me on that.
Over the weekend, we hiked the trails that surround our neighborhood. At one point we needed to cross a creek using concrete stepping stones, which we did with ease. Since the beginning of time, water has been associated with creation, destruction, purification, regeneration and love. And not to equate myself with arguably the most important life-sustaining force, but I also have the power to create, to destroy, to purify, to regenerate, and to love. I mentioned that one of the many things social isolation has taught me is that my mood has the power to affect our entire family. Thats not to say that I need to pretend that everything is fine (“It’s fine!“), but I probably need to make more of an effort to assess my well-being instead of attempting to pour from an empty cup. I’m sure that some of it has to do with slipping into fight-or-flight mode due to the pandemic, which narrows my perspective and shortens my fuse. And the fact that every day life seems both otherworldly and monotonous at the same time probably isn’t helping.
I did not like today. But I am going to try and give myself grace. And to quote one Ms. Scarlett O’Hara, “After all, tomorrow is another day.“