In early March, my daughter left school for the last time this school year, though neither of us knew that at the time.
On social media, I saw other parent friends from across the country begin to talk about their experiences with online learning. One friend from college kept posting funny memes which made me laugh because it all seemed so ridiculous then. I didn’t know what virtual learning would look like for us and it was easier to laugh about it.
I texted her and she said they weren’t keeping up with much of the school work online—that instead, they were busy with games, puzzles and art projects. She said she hoped their young age would make up for any lapse in their education saying, “I figure keeping them healthy and happy is most important right now.”
I agreed because at the time that message felt like a no brainer to me. Her next text is what I should have paid more attention to. When she told me, “My friend has been trying to keep up with all the school work and they have so much that she’s about to have a nervous breakdown.”
I should have known that that person would eventually be me.
The first week was a “soft start,” but nothing about it felt soft. There were invitation codes to figure out and student logins to remember. The outlines were presented and I quickly realized that the only thing “online” about what needed to happen were the instructions. Everything else I had to provide for my daughter—guidance, redirection, encouragement, structure.
I used to teach before I had my daughter and I always had enough self-awareness to know that I could never teach my own child. We have been going toe-to-toe since the day she was born. While I’m assured she is a sweet, eager to please student at school, she sort of morphs into a defiant dictator the minute she gets home. It has always been this way. She has always been loving and kind but she never backs down from a battle of wills.
We stumbled our way through the first week and managed to stay on track despite the fact it took us nearly a week to figure out how to get the math app to work and despite the fact that my teething 8-month-old baby became an efficient crawler at the same time.
But it was the second week that broke me.
During the second week, the teachers introduced Zoom. That Monday, we logged into Zoom and I immediately heard the voices of my daughter’s classmates. “Eliana!” I heard several exclaim in glee as we entered the call. Then their happy smiling faces popped up. One by one the screen frantically changed to keep up with the cacophony of delighted sounds. It had been 24 days since we had unknowingly seen them for the last time. I burst into tears and quietly watched my daughter, a small smile on her face, as she waved to everyone.
“It’s not supposed to be like this,” I later sobbed to my husband. I was stressed by the pressure of now being in charge of my daughter’s education in a way I did not feel emotionally or physically prepared to do. More than that though, I was sad for her and her friends.
I was devastated that instead of excitedly greeting each other on the playground each morning they now had to scan a screen and wait to hear the voice of their friend before they saw their face pop up in recognition.
And now, this is our new normal.
Over the course of a few weeks, we lost so much—more than some people fully acknowledge. But among all the trauma and loss, our children’s teachers have figured out how to change the face of education at the drop of a hat. I am in complete awe.
When I first started writing this I thought that my biggest issue was the pressure of homeschooling. It’s more than that though.
It’s how quickly this all has happened which has me feeling as though we’ve all forgotten to stop to make sure we’re okay. We tried to normalize this massive shift in living and moving through the world so fast that we forgot to mourn our lives that once were.
The lives we were just living.
I know I need to pause and sit in my grief before I forge ahead. I don’t know how I will survive homeschooling my daughter for the rest of the year, but I want to figure out a way to survive—part of that is processing these feelings. These are extraordinary circumstances. What has happened in our world is traumatic and I don’t feel fine. That is okay.
I know I will be. I know we will be. It’ll just take some time, and luckily, we have a lot of it these days.