I Cried Today Because (Fill in the Blank)
today at 3:47 pm
For my family, this week marked the start of eLearning. It brought with it everything you might expect coming off of months of togetherness, an unclear future, underlying fears for our health and safety, a new routine and so much mystery. Both of my kids (4th and 7th) used the words excited and terrified in the same sentence on the eve of this school year.
When I dropped my masked 4th grader in the parking lot of a place he’s always been comfortable and happy, he mustered his strength and confidence despite being rattled with nerves. He met his teacher and peers outside for a half hour while I rolled through the well-executed school supply pick-up line. In my vision were clusters of Kindy and 1st-grade teachers and students all safely seated in large circles reading books together. And I got a huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
There has been so much controversy around going back to school. I think much of it’s being driven by adults festering so much emotion and some – more than others – working hard to manage it, protect our kids from it and create environments that have what each individual family (and each person!) needs to survive. If you’re thriving, amazing, but for the most part, let’s strive to survive. And learn, and control our fears, our tears and our anger. And let’s be sure we’re empathetic.
I know why I cried. I cried because this was an in-real-life visual of what the pandemic has taken from us. And I didn’t like it. Sadness overwhelmed me because this pandemic has robbed our children and our teachers from the first-day high-fives, reunion hugs and giant smiles – for now. (I cry at the birthday car parades, too.)
I cried again when I pulled back through the lot to pick up my boy, and this time it was different. The teachers bustled around, their happy eyes sparkled so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see their faces – I knew they were smiling so hard! And I knew I had to continue my message of having faith, despite the returning lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
No matter what this fall looks like for you – if you’re a teacher, a parent, a student of elementary or college-aged kids, a staff member in a building, the janitor, the nurse or the principal (who bears so much weight I can hardly imagine how she was smiling so brightly when I waved to her from the car) – it’s critical we have faith.
And we have to let ourselves have our moments and cry, too. Families with special-needs students; parents working full time (or any time!); partners in parenting who have to juggle one student, or two or three or more; kids who love eLearning, kids who despise it; teachers with or without students of their own who are navigating this new format and their own worries; the list goes on and on, so anywhere we land on the pandemic-era back-to-school spectrum we have to know it’s ok to cry because (fill in your blank).
But those tears will ebb if we muster faith and gratitude. Faith in whatever drives you to survive or thrive. And gratitude for even the tiniest successes in our one-day-at-a-time marathon.
Yesterday – the first full day of eLearning – brought something I didn’t expect again. I felt a sense of calm once everyone got up and running. Did I love the day-long Zoom-fest? Nope. But I was happy that I got to hunker down and truly get back to my job, which I do love and appreciate. I was proud that the kids had to find resilience and challenge themselves to figure this shit out. And, for me, I’ve always felt calm and safe at home. So I felt a sense of gratitude that we had to be here – I didn’t need to find a safe activity to fulfill movement, brain work or social engagement because we could justify just staying home. Our al fresco lunch and recess helped fuel the rest of the day, and I felt so grateful for – quite literally – each minute of calm. I know it wasn’t easy for anyone, and I’m not saying it should or will be.
I’m just digging deep – and imploring all of you – to find faith and gratitude. Find the support you need if you need it, ask for help, take your more flexible friends and family up on their offers and, when you need it, cry. Cry because:
(this is hard), (this is challenging beyond our wildest dreams), (my kid is thriving), (my kid is struggling), (we have lost so much), (we do actually have things to gain), (our teachers rock), (our grocery store clerks stocked the shelves), (our docs are learning how to treat this villain of a virus), (someone’s smiling eyes looked at you), (your partner is your teammate), (you have a full bottle of wine), (someone else cleaned up), (Starbucks has a drive-thru), (nonprofits are helping students and families stay safe, fed and ready for school), (nurses are comforting those who need it), (the sun has been shining way more than normal in the Midwest), (new school supplies are so pretty), (masks work), and (fill in your blank).
Faith, gratitude and tears when you need them – and if you need Grateful Girl’s hopefulness, reach out. I’m working hard to maintain my gratitude-inspired lifestyle, and it’s helping so far. I’m happy to help you, too!