#52: Lessons from the Pandemic

As a testament that anything can seem normal after doing it long enough, all three of you have been “distance” learning for the past few months now. The first month was basically a free for all, but over the last few weeks we’ve settled into something that resembles a schedule. The teachers are also settling in and providing some direction and assignments to you – some more successfully than others – and some learning is happening.

As parents, it’s been a massive change. Not only in scheduling and logistics but also in our expectations. Your mama and I don’t seem to have the natural capacity to be full-time teachers as the past few weeks have clearly shown. We’ve had to let go of expecting the same things we would have if all of you were out of the house and in class. But you three have been mostly taking it in stride, albeit with some angry missives to COVID and tearful laments missing your friends. But you have each other, which is more than many kids have now. Sure, there are flare-ups from undiagnosed Toomuchtimetogetheritis, but the symptoms are temporary and over quickly. We talk about our fears around the dinner table and at night before bedtime, and our assurances that this will all pass at some point seem to work. “I hate COVID daddy!” you all say often, and we agree. We hate it too.

But what we haven’t been telling you is that your mama and I have been worried about the lasting effects of this interlude. You’re all adept students, and you and your peers are all in the same boat. Allowances are being made by the school now and will have to be accounted for come the next term. (Whenever and however that will be.) But just as there always is some amount of “summer slide”, there will be some effect on academic progress undoubtedly.

On top of those worries, we also suffer from what every parent worries about, usually at 3am when we can’t go to sleep. But now, it’s with a COVID-19 kicker; How will this affect your future? How traumatic will this experience be? And most frightening of all, what kind of world are we raising you in? How can we even prepare you for the challenges of our post-pandemic world?

What I’ve been telling myself is that while you may be missing out on some of those school lessons, we have an unprecedented time together for all of us to learn – together- to learn some equally important (maybe even more so?) lessons. Such as:

The power of perseverance. Yes, this sucks. We all think it sucks, every bit of it. But the more we resist the reality, the more we suffer. We have to roll with what’s put in front of us.

The necessary adaptability we must have when life does unexpected things. We delude ourselves that the day-to-day life that we’ve been calling normal is actually anything but a momentary respite between inevitable change. Sure, those changes usually happen incrementally enough that they are difficult to discern in the moment, but then there are seismic changes like COVID. Even glaciers can move quickly and suddenly.

Finding positivity. It’s so easy to be caught up on what we can’t do or not allowed to do. Actively looking for and finding the good right now is exercising emotional muscles that we’re not used to.

The power of community. Pointing out and identifying the ways that people are coming together reinforces the idea that we live in communities, and communities support each other. Painting rocks, making masks, checking in on our neighbors, sending cards and drawings to people that we can’t see otherwise – all ways to reinforce and support the tribes we belong to.

COVID-19 will pass. It might take a couple of years, and the toll on the economy and society will be immense. But the lessons we all will learn from this pandemic will be greater than the classes you miss.