I want to tell you about a conversation I had with my kids last week. But first, let me provide you some context.
If you’re like me, your kids have been doing online distance learning until the past month or so of school. If you’re not like me, and your kids have been in school all year, I should have moved in with you months ago! But seriously, I know in some states, in smaller districts and in some private schools, kids have been in school almost full time since fall. My kids only began going back to a hybrid model in April. APRIL, MY FRIENDS!! My 8th grader had moved to a new school and was only there for a few months before the world shut down. My daughter began her freshman year and was thriving only to see her new high school again last month. And yet, I feel fortunate – privileged in fact – that we had solid wi-fi and my children can manage themselves for the most part.
For those of you with kinders – their first experience was online. What was that like for them? Were they nervous? Were they, like, “what evs”…this does not feel new and special?
For those of you with elementary students – ACK – I’m so sorry. Do you know we lost 1.5 million women from the workforce because moms had to choose between providing for their families and managing distance learning?
For those of you with seniors who missed out on so much. How have you celebrated?
Here’s what I see that I want to acknowledge right now…
To the mamas and dads that quit or took a break from work to become full-time teachers, I see you. Some of you made the decision intentionally while others had no choice.
To the mamas and dads who could not quit work because of the financial impact it would have, I see you. Many of you had no choice and held immense worry.
To the dads who learned state capitols, moms who managed algebra, grandparents that helped with projects and big sisters that helped with foreign language, I see you.
To the parents who had no wi-fi, worried about their kids and did the best they could with so little, I see you.
To the mamas who worked all day and then came home, managed distance learning platforms, graded papers and encouraged homework (WASN’T’ IT ALL HOME WORK??), I see you.
To the dads who tried to make learning fun, worried about the toll on their kids, became teachers, coaches, and meal-makers, I see you.
It looks like we’ll be going back full time in the fall, so we might be able to remove the multiple hats that we’ve worn this past year. We might see more women return to work, find balance and regain regularity. We might see more parents worry less about educational gaps and more about bridging social gaps.
And you know, if you’re a teacher, I love you and I’ve sang the praises of teachers, helped teachers and providing training for teachers for the past year.
But have we thanked our kids? They just keep showing up, trying, wearing masks, turning in online work, returning to school with new rules, new norms and they question almost nothing. They turn on cameras, wear shields, learn behind plexi-glass, meet in breakout rooms, get vaccinations, timidly approach new friends, learn online platforms, navigate new every day. And we expect them to because we’re all making sacrifices. And they should. And they’ll build resilience by doing things they never thought they could or should – and they’ll be stronger for it. And, amidst all of this…gratitude goes a long way.
So, here’s how the conversation went last week. My son got up at 6 am to leave for school with his sister. One of only two days they get to meet with teachers in-person. He made sure his school-issued I-Pad was charged, ear phones in his backpack, mask in his pocket. He transferred everything from his home desk (since he was online the day) before to his back pack. My daughter was up early as well, excited to swim with her peers even if it meant masks and waiting outside for her turn in order to be physically distanced. She schlepped her backpack laden with books to transition to her in-person opportunities. That kid is one of the only kids I’ve seen who has had her camera on to engage with teachers 100% of the time.
I was up early too – headed to work (to see clients virtually) – and said goodbye to them. But before I did, I felt an immense sense of pride and gratitude for them.
“Hey you two. I wanted to thank you. I know this hasn’t been easy. I haven’t said it enough because I’ve been wrapped up in my own stress and chaos, but I see what you’ve done. I know you hate wearing masks at school and I know it’s better than being on a computer; but I also know that I simply expect you to comply. And for the most part, you have done exactly what everyone has asked of you. Thank you. I love you both. Have a great day of in-person learning.”
They paused for just a moment, then waved goodbye and went about their way. “Love you too, mom.” And then off they went. Wow, kids are freaking incredible!!!
We’ve thanked doctors and first responders and teachers, but I don’t know that we’ve thanked our kids.
Hug your kindergartener and tell him/her that next year 1st grade will be incredible It will smell like paste and macaroni and that teachers will fill the halls.
Tell your senior that they’ve endured through incredible odds.
Tell you band student or theater student that ensemble will come back and voices will fill chambers again. Tell them thank you for mucking through plays and instruments on zoom or google meets.
Tell your middle schooler or high schooler that games, dances, crushes and clubs will ensue.
Believe me, there’s a lot that I don’t want to take with me as we move forward. We’ve learned a lot during the pandemic as a family and we’re not entirely out of the woods yet. But there’s a lot that I know kids have missed out on. And kids from less fortunate homes have suffered even more than mine and, maybe yours.
All I’m saying is that acknowledgement goes a long way and gratitude builds confidence and esteem.
Tell them they are INCREDIBLE.