For my fifth stay at home check in I come to you with weariness and optimism – weary optimism? That feels accurate. Simultaneously I feel so done with the current situation while also feeling nascent optimism about the effects of vaccines plus having a functional federal government. To write this update I went back to read my last check in post, all the way back in August, which feels so so long ago. We're still at home but since then a lot has changed. Our school situation has changed and we are considering changing it again and re-enrolling the boys in our neighborhood school. (More on that below.)
At the beginning of staying at home there was all the anxiety about how scary and devastating the pandemic would be. We didn't not even know how to slow the spread of COVID other than to shut things down. We wondered when there could possibly be a vaccine and tried to come to terms with the very real fact that it could be years. The pandemic has been scary and devastating but superhero doctors and scientists have developed multiple vaccines and we're getting closer to 10% of Americans having received their first vaccine. That number now includes people in my family and friend group which feels incredible. Plus we now know that wearing masks significantly cuts down on the spread of COVID and we have more effective treatments to prevent death from COVID. People are still getting sick and dying but hopefully we are turning the corner to get ourselves out of this pandemic.
The most recent New York Times Parenting newsletter included several articles as part of their series The Primal Scream which is about the effect of the pandemic on working mothers. Although I don't work outside the home (or inside the home as most people do right now) I related to the subheading of this article: "Eleven months, multiple breakdowns, one harrowing realization: They’ve got to get back up and do it all again tomorrow." Even though my days still offer little "off" time from parenting I no longer feel like I'm barely surviving the days. I think back to when school closed and we all collectively realized that life was changing more quickly than we could process. I felt overwhelmed at how I would manage the boys and soon a newborn. And it was not (is not) always easy. But we did it and are doing it.
Overall we have a better rhythm to our days than we did at the beginning of the pandemic. But I also don't want to give the impression that life feels breezy. I'm not running on fumes like I was a few months ago but my life's balance of parenting versus time not actively parenting feels far from ideal. I need a break from the boys. They need a break from us. They have each had their own difficult behaviors. I'm sure some is normal and developmentally appropriate. But how much is coming from being stuck at home and an overall lack of structure to our days (and past year)? I need to work on making sure I get a few hours break at least once a week. Having the studio makes this easier to do and the time "off" goes a long way in making my days feel manageable.
I'm noticing that while I miss aspects of "normal" life (the gym, restaurants, seeing friends, the movie theater) I don't dwell on them or feel frustrated that other people are enjoying them as I have felt previously. I feel good about foregoing those things to lower our exposure. Plus with vaccines in the community I'm hopeful that the things I miss the most are going to come back into our life within the next year - ?? I think our great winter weather also helps my mood. I take daily walks with Maeve and often a few walks a day. I'm listening to one audiobook after another and they make for enjoyable companions during my day.
When writing my last check in post the boys had recently started school online through a local charter school and it was all going okay. Since then we have gone through ups and downs with school and as I shared briefly in my last post we decided to withdraw both boys from their online programs. I think it was around October last year when we withdrew Cedric and mid-January when we withdrew Dash. What prompted us to make that decision was how resistant each of them was becoming to attending their live lessons resulting in power struggles and really difficult behavior throughout the days. Each time when we were faced with considering withdrawing them from their online program the decision felt really hard. My boys love (regular) school and are great students. It seemed like those things should translate to at least a tolerable online school experience. And for some kids they do. They did not for my boys.
When we stepped away from our assumptions about what should work for our kids we could see clearly that online school at their ages does not work for them. Which is completely unsurprising. Kindergarten and second grade! Kids at those ages are not supposed to learn online! In both cases as soon as we made the decision to stop online school I felt so much relief and peace. I think we also learned an important lesson about really seeing our kids, understanding how they're doing, and being able to advocate for them.
Since starting this blog post Chris and I have been having conversations about re-enrolling the boys in school and are leaning towards it. I honestly did not see that on the horizon! And yet here we are. As with so much this year it seems that as soon as we make one decision we have to recalibrate and consider another one. Life is changing faster than I can write a blog post. Our conversations have been spurred by those hard behaviors I mentioned above. We wonder if we've reached a point at which the toll of being home is outweighing the increased risk of sending the boys to school. Enrolling the boys in school will increase their and our exposure to coronavirus (the New York Times rates our county as "extremely high risk"). The data indicates that schools can operate relatively safely but the fact that a few families in my friend circle have contracted COVID-19 including their kids gives me anxiety. A friend and fellow school mom has shared with me all the measures the school is taking and I'll touch base with school administrators this week to learn more. It sounds like they have good measures in place. At least the numbers here are trending down and now we're about at the same point as the summer peak. But of course soon there could be the effects of Superbowl Sunday and spring break.
I think I'll wrap up there for this update. With likely sending the boys back to school it feels like we are in for another big change in our lives. Hopefully (and most likely??) it will be for the better overall. I am anticipating a transition period while we get back into the swing of school.
No matter what our experiences have been this past year I know we are all feeling weary. Hopefully the coming weeks will continue to bring us more reasons to feel optimistic about turning a corner on the pandemic.