Our kids went back to school this week for the first time since last March. It’s only two days a week, but it has been a gift. There are a million protocols in place, even filling out Google Forms to go to the bathroom. It looks drastically different, but it is two full days of actual masked-face-to-masked-face in-person learning with teachers. We have a 6th grader who packed her backpack last week, picked out her outfit the night before, couldn’t sleep from excitement, and who would have gone back in August. We also have a 9th grader who would rather do school in his bed with his Ipad camera turned off. After Rowan came home from her second in-person school day, there were tears that night that she had to go back to virtual the next day. She was not phased by any of the new rules they had to follow. She would have done anything they asked her to, to be able to go back to school in person 5 days a week. And even though Ryder wouldn’t have admitted it, I could see the difference in him in just two days.
Last fall, I was the first to admit to being scared about sending them back to school. There was something reassuring about being able to have them home, having more control over their exposure. They both are smart and get good grades, and you would think both are thriving in virtual school. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rowan is more social and, yes, misses her friends. But she also really loves interaction with her teachers, and all of the virtual factors have been incredibly stressful. Ryder is wicked smart, but I have watched him grow increasingly less engaged and motivated.
So when it came time to make the decision whether or not to send them back, it was a no-brainer. They needed to be back in school. Our teachers are amazing and they are doing the best they can with the virtual side of things, but I have seen the toll it has taken after living this way for almost a year.
This year has been hard. Hard. There have been so many times in recent months when I sat down to try to write a blog, only to be at a total loss for words. This was especially true after the attack on the capital on January 6th. But while I may not always have the words, I have found great comfort in the words of others.
One of my favorite podcasts is by Nora McInerny, and it’s called “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” One of her recent social media posts just said simply, “Hard things are hard. There’s no magic trick, no way around it, nothing you’re doing wrong. No comparison will make it lighter for you or for someone else. It’s heavy because it’s heavy. It burned you because it’s hot. It’s hard because it’s hard.” Acknowledging that simple fact was just what I needed. Life is just hard right now. Hard in different ways, for different people. Yes, we count our blessings that we have a roof over our head, and food on the table, and healthy families, and we recognize that life is exponentially harder for so many others. And we are grateful. But life is still hard. “No comparison will make it lighter…”
So we have to just be willing to sit with that fact. And we have to teach our kids to be able to sit with that fact. In life, we have to do hard things. This Hard Thing has just gone on WAY longer than it should have! We can acknowledge the Hard with our kids, let them vent about their frustrations. Vent, but not wallow. What do we have control over? What can we change? What do we have to just learn to accept and how can we adjust our thinking?
We’ve had to also learn to sit with uncertainty. We are planners. We want to know when this will be over. When can life get back to normal? The present has always been the only thing that is for certain…but the pandemic has reminded us of that fact over and over and over again. Another podcast I was listening to recently said that the ability to sit with uncertainty is a muscle that has to be strengthened. Living with uncertainty is a huge part of the Hard of the past year.
There was a really great interactive article recently in the New York Times called The Primal Scream. It’s a focus on mothers, and how much the pandemic has affected them. They even set up a hotline where moms could call in and scream or cry or just vent their frustrations. One said, “There is just so much talking. Talking all the time. All day long. Words. Words. Words. So much talking. I just, I need no more talking. No more words. I need no more. So much talking. I just need silence. Please. Silence.”
Yes. Silence. That is what I didn’t realize I needed…until our kids went back to school for only two days this week, and for those two days our house was silent. And I got so much done in just a few hours. Now I just need to work on finding that silence in my brain, turning off the endless chatter and worry. That is a work in progress. But reading all of the NYT articles reminded me that I am not alone. Our struggles all look different, but we are all struggling. Sometimes that just needs to be acknowledged, and we need to feel seen. Sometimes we can’t help each other any more than to simply say, “I’m sorry this is so hard for you.”
Another whose words bring me great comfort is the blog called Inchstones by Kelly Cervantes. Her husband, Miguel, played the lead role in Hamilton in Chicago, and had just taken the lead on Broadway when Covid shut it all down. They lost their 3 year old daughter, Adelaide, in 2019. She knows Hard. Her blogs are about hope and healing, the need for compassion and empathy, and a reminder that “Life right now is epically hard. I don’t know anyone who is feeling strong and well. If it helps, if it brings you any solace, know that you are not alone in feeling this way. This crazy time will come to an end though, that is certain. Not soon enough, but there are better days waiting for us around the corner.”
So I want you to know that I see you. Life is hard. You are struggling. You are doing your best. And you are not alone.