To say that school has changed since our oldest was in school is an understatement. My husband and I have five children, Alexia 25, Alan 22, Mario 19, David 16, and Alina 8. Two of our children graduated high school through “normal” circumstances. One graduated in May of 2020 during the onset of Covid.
Alexia, our oldest is a Registered Nurse, our son Alan is the President of One Stop Janitorial Company, and our middle son is a cadet at West Point Academy. At home, we still have a third grader in elementary school, and a junior in high school.
I am grateful for my children’s teachers, and the reality is that they have to hold our children accountable. As parents, we have always supported accountability. I also understand that teachers are being held accountable when it comes to scores, and grades. The state expects our children and teachers to follow the same scope and sequence of a “normal” school year, when we are nowhere near to normal. Some children are failing, and some children are passing. Some children are thriving, mine are not.
Just the other night, I was having trouble sleeping. I know for a fact our little daughter is struggling with math. In fact, she was struggling with math before Covid showed up, and disrupted our “normal” school lives. This new academic year she started “school” at a new campus, so not only is online learning new, but also the school. I was thinking mainly of her, while at the same time grateful that she has a kind, understanding, and caring teacher.
I was particularly thinking of the accumulated assignments my kid Alina had compiled in one subject. I didn’t even want my brain to start focusing on David, because high school is another world with many more assignments and responsibilities. Thinking of incomplete assignments reminded me of myself, the many times that I can’t seem to complete my projects which are due within hours. Only to remind myself that my best work is always created under pressure.
The difference of course is that I am almost 50, and well, they are 8 and 16. In this tossing and turning I kept thinking about my Alina. How this year is almost halfway over. School ends in May, we are now in January. I kept thinking to myself, “She has missed out on so much. Maybe she does not know enough math to make it.” I started to feel super anxious. I began to compare her to her little classmates. Some of which are done with assignments before the due date. I know this because I see when the little kids post “done” after the teacher submits a note. All I can do is think “Who are these super hero kids?” and “Why is mine not DONE!?”
I have received my share of teacher emails, and phone calls about my children not completing assignments. I won’t ever forget finding out that our son was failing some classes. David has attention deficit disorder, and being in a home setting has not been his best outcome. All of his teachers and coaches want to help him succeed, and go out of their way to offer solutions and support. But yet, there seems to be this shame that I feel as a parent. Why is my kid not doing what he or she is supposed to be doing?
Questions keep popping into my brain. What? My son is failing?? My daughter has tons of incomplete assignments? But I am a teacher! Our kids should set the example, and have straight A’s, and shine during online learning. They have a laptop, they have the internet, they have food, a house, and parents. What else do they need?
What I have come to realize is that expecting my kids to be perfect is insanity. Comparing them to other kids who are thriving is insanity. Comparing myself as a parent is insanity. And I refuse to be insane. Not anymore.
The reality for my Alina, is that this kid is not worried about class or school. Although she does share that she wishes she could be there in person. She wants to play at recess and make new friends, and hug her teacher. But that is not happening anytime soon.
When it comes to online school, my kid is more worried about dancing, creating mansions in her online building games, helping me with what to write in my children’s book, cooking her own piece of chicken like a grown up, singing in Spanish, painting, and chasing the dog around the house.
I know that I am not alone in my thoughts of fear, and concern. Am I being a good mom because I am allowing my kid to finish the homework later tonight instead of this very second? Or am I being an amazing mom because I am forcing my kid to turn on her camera when she is crying because she can’t comprehend place value online?
I think the hardest position for me to deal with, is that I am a teacher. I have been a teacher for 20 some years. I even hold a doctorate. I am all about education. Should I wake up every morning and run a tight ship with this online learning? Should I have my kid sit at the desk that I have in the room? Or allow him to sit on the couch? As a teacher I was not your normal teacher, I was the untraditional weird one that would take her kids outside to read a chapter book. Normal does not exist for me, not now, not then.
What keeps me sane? Knowing that everyday is a learning experience. Maybe online learning is not my daughter’s or my son’s best way to learn. But my babies are learning. I can see Alina find math in her day when she is figuring out how many cups of food our Rottweiler needs to eat a day. Or maybe it is the reasoning that takes place when she is having to navigate from her English to speak to her grandmother in Spanish. Maybe it is seeing how she runs outside to offer the lawnmowing guy a cup of water, and a bag of chips. For David, he is learning when he is cautious about Covid, and ensuring that his grandmother is safe. Football has kept David going during this online learning. He was constantly ensuring his classmates were staying safe so that their games would not be cancelled. Learning also happens when he bakes his own pizza, and carefully measures the ingredients. I don’t even do that, my Mexican way to cook is by using my hands to throw in ingredients. But not David, he measures everything.
I remember several months ago we woke up and went downstairs to find our kitchen full of water which was dripping from upstairs. On the floor were different pans and buckets, several towels arranged on the floor, which were keeping the water droplets contained. My husband and I tried to figure out who made the mess, which eventually saved our kitchen. We later found out that our little Alina woke up at 2 am for a midnight snack. She saw the water leakage, and acted on it. Alina did not wake us up, instead she handled the situation. I remember asking Alina why didn’t she wake us up. She replied that she was scared that she would get in trouble for going into the kitchen late at night, and knew that instead she had to find a way to help fix the water leak.
Our kids are living; therefore, they are learning. Our children are learning how we deal with obstacles. Our kids are watching how we are handling the pandemic, and the changes that are taking place in our world. Our children are living and seeing how death does not discriminate. They are discovering how to adapt to different situations. They are learning to navigate through a crisis, not to mention the political crisis that they see on the news. The learning might not include the books, but it is including real life situations which will help them in their future.
And the last time I checked, real life experience also counts as learning.
Embrace everyday. Do what you can, with what you have. Be grateful, and know that one day this will all be but a memory. Make sure it's not a stressful memory, but a memory that taught us how to be resilient, compassionate, kind, and optimistic in the midst of change.