I had a really off day Thursday. I was feeling really weepy. My husband asked me to bring some stuff into him at work yesterday morning that he had forgotten at home. I walked into his office, saw his face and fought back the tears. I couldn’t leave. I sat down and cried, and completely and totally interrupted his meeting. I am so strong every day. I hold it together and am so strong for my family every day. Thursday I was not strong. If I could have taken a mental health day and taken the day off, I would have. I drove home and got distracted helping my daughters with their schoolwork at home. Mother’s don’t tend to be able to take a day off.
I want to tell myself, and all of you that it is okay to cry. Let it all out. I have been telling myself this for years and years. I have always looked at myself as weak when I cry. Doesn’t crying make me strong? Isn’t it good to show our true emotions and be totally authentic? I would imagine it is really good for our health to express and not stuff our emotions. Whenever we get angry, we tend to be covering up our sadness. I wasn’t feeling angry at all. I was just feeling sad. I try to let myself just feel it and then move on from there. I don’t want to allow myself to wallow in it. Feel the emotions and then pick myself up by my big girl pants and move forward into a positive direction. It just depends on how quickly I can do this. I tend to challenge myself to put a positive spin on most things.
My family had some friends dealing with health issues and mental health issues. My kids school district was drama central. I would say the weight of it all came crashing down on me yesterday. I want you to know that we all have what we would label as bad “feeling off” days. You usually see me so happy on my vlog. I want you all to know that sometimes I am sad. Sometimes I am angry. The best thing for everyone’s sanity is for us all to be completely and totally authentic. I try very hard to be real on Facebook and Instagram. I know how hard it is for people to see families looking all perfect. I want you to know that no one is perfect. No family is perfect. No marriage is perfect. If someone tells you that their marriage is perfect, then they are lying to you. Try to go share something very real on social media. I just shared on Social media that I was fighting back tears so that I could put on a brave face for my daughter who is doing her first full day of virtual school. Keeping it real.
It was Thursday night and I was so fortunate that my book club was getting together. I needed them. I needed a break from my family, and I needed to go laugh and smile with my friends. As I drove there, I had YouTube Live on to listen to, as our new acting Superintendent made the big announcement that grades 5-12 would be going fully remote beginning next Tuesday. I felt terrible that I was in the car instead of home with my sixth grader Ella. My son Max is in 8th grade and he seems to do such a good job rolling with things. This wasn’t ideal for either of them, but I was more worried about Ella. I wasn’t there when she heard the news with Seth. As I left the house, she told me that she was hoping she was going to be allowed to go back to school. She loved seeing her teachers and being at school. We had chosen the hybrid model for our children. They were going to get to go to school two days a week with that option. That option was now being taken away from them. I was wondering how she was doing. She got to go to school for her first day on Tuesday. She jumped into my car with a light in her eyes telling me how much she loved her teachers. She was going to be able to go for one more day this Monday and then full remote school was beginning on Tuesday. It was such a big tease to get to go to school. I feel like it would have gone smoother if they had never gotten to step foot in the school. My sad day continued as I felt the sadness for my middle schoolers. My fabulous friends did cheer me up!
I came home to a very sad sixth grader. This wasn’t good for her mental health. The idea of my kids online all day for their classes was making me cringe. I do social work continuing education online. My classes are usually for two hours and it is hard for me to stay engaged for two hours. How are they going to do this ALL day long? I know other districts are doing this. I know that we are not the only district going this route. I didn’t choose this option for my kids for a reason. I didn’t think it was what was best for them. I thought the hybrid method that they came up with was a fabulous plan!
I texted my mom very upset. My mom was looking on the bright side and texting me how happy she is that Ella won’t be carrying a huge backpack all over school. How is my peanut supposed to be carrying textbooks, a chromebook, folders, notebooks, and her lunch on her back all day? There were no lockers this year due to social distance requirements, so their lockers were being carried on their backs this year! This is definitely one silver lining. My mother continued to text me about their friend who was not doing well in the hospital. Health is most important I reminded myself. There are more important things going on in the world other than my children’s education. My parents were a lot more worried about their friend than they were about their grandchildren’s education right now. Sometimes we need to put things into perspective. I still didn’t think this was a good option for my children. My friend told me today that social isolation was more dangerous than the virus. She makes an excellent point. We are going to see a continued rise in mental health issues. It’s too bad the school can’t provide counseling for every child.
I attended a wonderful PTA meeting via Zoom for my children’s Middle school. The principal encouraged parents to reach out to teachers and staff if their children were having issues. I want to remind you all to do this. There are social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, teachers and staff all willing to help if you reach out to them. “They can’t read our minds,” was a great point made by our principal. We have to tell people what is going on and we have to ask for what our children need. We are always their best advocate. I also want you to remember that it is going to be harder for teachers to see if anything is going on with your child if they are only seeing them online.
It is now Monday and I am sitting here soaking up my last day alone. I love my children. I love time with them. Every mother will tell you that they need alone time. Every mother will tell you that they need some silence. I hope that Max and Ella are enjoying their “last” day of in person school. I hope that the district works this out and is able to get them back to school a couple days a week very soon. I do have concern that they will get them back to school again and turn around and close school due to Covid cases. I think this is truly the year of constant changes. I am doing my very best not to get attached to any plan. I’m trying really hard! “Go with the flow,” is the consistent message I give myself.
I was just listening to a Podcast about parenting on my walk with Tanner. It was talking about the teachers. She was talking about how anxious the teachers are feeling. In all my concerns for my children, I can sometimes forget about the teachers. The teachers are the superheros in this scenario. The ones who are having to try to bring their magic to the screen. The teachers who love to see their students in person every day. The ones who notice if their student is having a bad day. The ones trying to figure out how to be as effective and engaging as they can virtually. This is not an easy task. I appreciate them doing their best with whatever scenario is handed to them. They don’t tend to be given any notice with changes that are being made and they still rise to every occasion.
What about the bus driver who just found out that they are not needed this year? What about the teacher’s aid who just found out that their kids are going to be home every day and want to be home with them? What about the parent juggling full time work and kids at home doing remote learning? What about the child who is so upset that they can’t go to school? What about the student upset that they are going to be home alone doing schoolwork all day? What about the school administrator who hasn’t been able to sleep? The teacher who is now needing to take anti anxiety meds? The student feeling depressed? I hope that our villages can surround all these people with as much support as we can. I hope that we can be there for each other and try to understand everyone’s point of view. I hope that if you see someone having a hard time that you will do your best to be there for them. We are all in this situation together. One act of kindness can go very far. Especially right now. You are not alone!
I challenge you to try hard to find the silver linings:
- Ella doesn’t have to lug around a HUGE enormous backpack that weighs as much as she does.
- I can make Max and Ella a good lunch at home every day. I can even order them food if I feel like it or make them something warm.
- Mornings will be less crazy. I will only have one child to get to school on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- We can all sleep in later.
- Max and Ella are going to come out of this year being even more tech savvy than they already are.
- Our children are learning how to be flexible human beings.
- Max is very happy that his schedule allows him to sleep in on Wednesdays.
- Less germs / a safer option health wise.
- Max is loving life. I just checked on him during his break and he is laying in his bed! Ella is grabbing herself a snack on her break.
- I get to see their faces.
- Ella is very excited that I said I would run to Starbuck’s across the street and get her a drink during her virtual school days sometimes.
- I’m listening to all of Ella’s wonderful teachers talk to her. She has such engaging wonderful teachers who are truly doing their best with their given situations.
- I’m here for them. I know some of you are at work! I don’t know that my kids actually need me but I’m here if they do. I can oversee that they are doing what they need to do but at this point I completely trust them, and they are zooming from class to class virtually on their own.
What can you do:
- Write a letter. I will include mine below. I tend to be quiet and nice. Seth said that they didn’t know how happy we were with the hybrid model. Send it to your Superintendent, Principal, Board and teacher’s union.
- Realize that this is not the teacher’s fault. Please don’t take any of your anger out on the teachers.
- I see people in my district organizing peaceful protests. Looks like they are going to be on the news tonight! I love that they are showing their voice and I am sorry that I am sitting here typing instead of protesting with you.
- Make helpful suggestions. Having a voice is great but how about helping to come up with the solution.
- Use your supports! I will say this in every blog because it is that important. We can’t parent alone. It’s too hard!
- Seek counseling for yourself or your child if you feel it is needed due to depression, anxiety, eating disorder, etc. Talk to the school. There are also resources through school. My children have fabulous guidance counselors and I know there is a social worker on staff too that we haven’t met.
- Help your children to be social. Encourage them to call a friend or invite a friend over. Organize a movie night outside. Get creative and make sure your children are staying connected to some friends. Organize a learning pod with a few friends for them to get work done together.
- Take time for yourself. If mama isn’t happy than no one is! I will never be alone again. I’m totally exaggerating. I will have to be creative in how I get some alone time. Taking a walk is one of my time outs. Working out in the basement by myself helps me. Sneaking up to my bedroom with a good book. Tell me how you get some alone time or what your greatest coping strategy is. Now we have a sauna in the basement so I will be spending some time there a few times a week! Spending hours getting lost in my writing is super helpful to my sanity too. This blog has taken me from a puddle of mush to feeling stronger as I write.
- Make sure your children are taking breaks from the electronics. Their eyes will need it!
- If you want your children to get out of the house, I encourage you to sign them up for activities. Max gets out of the house doing a lot of soccer. Ella has a lot of theater. Lillie signed up for theater and dance classes. Both of my girls are going to continue with Girl Scouts this year. I decided that they need the connection.
- Spread kindness and support. You can be proactive and advocate without spreading hate.
Here is the letter that I sent. I hope that it can be helpful to you and that you will join me and write one too:
“Dear School Administrators (I sent this to our Superintendent, board members, Head of the teacher’s union and Principal),
I know that you are probably being flooded with emails right now. Please understand my feeling the need to write to you on behalf of my children. My husband Seth and I have three children. Max is 13 in 8th grade, Ella is 11 in sixth grade and Lillie is 7 in 3rd grade. We wanted to tell you all how excited we were when we saw the hybrid model for our children. We loved the idea of them being in school two days a week with half the amount of children to keep them safer. We loved the idea of a half day on Wednesdays virtually. We also agreed with the independent work days for Thursdays and Fridays. We were very engaged and happy with this model. Our children danced off to school. They had a great day on Tuesday.
Thursday night I left my house before the big announcement. Before I left, my 11 year old turned to me and said that she was so hoping she was going to be allowed to go back to school. We were all nervous for the 7:00 meeting. I saw how sad and nervous she looked, and I left the house with tears in my eyes.
I returned later that night to put my daughter to bed very upset. She asked me why her sister Lillie was able to still go to third grade and I did my best to explain this to her. I had a friend tell me today that social isolation is more dangerous than the virus is. As a social worker I have to agree with her. I am worried about my middle schoolers and all the other middle schoolers and high schoolers mental health. I commend you for trying to keep them all safe. I am so thankful for all the safety measures that have been put into place. I want you to know that I am worried. I am worried about how sad my 11 year old has become. She came out of school Tuesday with a bright light in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in a while. She hopped into my car telling me how much she loved her teachers. It was a great first day.
I completely and totally understand that there are a number of parents who have chosen to keep their children home. I understand that they want their kids to be fully remote and that you are trying your best to give that to them. I personally know some of them and what their reasons for this choice is. I don’t begrudge them their choice and they don’t begrudge me mine. I hope that you will be able to get the kids back into the school with a plan as soon as possible. I’m hopeful for before the November and January dates that we were given.
I also don’t know what the five days of school is going to look like virtually. My middle schoolers are currently totally disengaged in school. They have no interest in being online all day every day with their teachers. They do not enjoy it. It will be a daily fight for me to get them online. I am also concerned with them staring at a screen all day. If this has to be a choice right now maybe you could condense it into the Wednesday half day schedule, so they aren’t staring at their computer all day.
If there is anyway to reconsider and get them back into the classroom two days a week every week, I hope that you will do this. Even two days a week is so good for them. I know there are probably legal issues to the classrooms being viewed live by students at home. I have heard of a wonderful concept of a flipped classroom that I am wondering if that could work for the remote students. I am wondering if current hybrid teachers are willing to work remote classes into their schedules. I don’t want to give the teachers extra work. I am just trying to think of ideas. I have talked to many teachers who I know also love to be in the classroom with their students. The classroom is where the magic happens. I don’t know if they are able to bring that to the screen, but I know they will do their best.
I appreciate you worrying about our children’s health. I hope you will also hear my mental health concerns. The isolation at home is not good for them. Staring at screens all day is not good for them.
Thank you for reading this and for doing your very best for all the students. I want you to know how much we really loved the hybrid schedule.
Let us all come together in unity. I am sad for the divisiveness that I am seeing around me. If you live in my district it is not the remote families fault that we have ended up having grades 5-12 virtual. It is a result of poor collaboration and poor planning by my district. Let us not blame each other. Let us come together and work together. I want the hybrid families to be back in school. I want the remote families to be able to be home. I have faith that our district will get it together and make this happen for our kids. I hope that you will put yourself in other people’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from whether it is in regards to school, religion or politics. We are all always entitled to our feelings and beliefs but that never means our way is the only way. Our differences make the world go around. We need differences. I am always open to hearing someone’s point of view. For example, I have had a couple friends tell me that they chose remote learning for their kids to keep it consistent for the whole year. It was an excellent thought. I was impressed with both of them for even thinking of this. I am over here thinking that I wanted my kids to be in the classroom as much as they can. Different points of view. Neither opinion is the right opinion. We are all different. I also respect that every child is different and needs different things.
I wish you and your children a successful school year. Try to make the best of it and to have a successful year. If you chose remote learning for your children, I hope that it is going well (or about to go well if you live in my district). If you chose the hybrid model and your kids are still able to go to school, I hope that it is going well. If you are like me and the hybrid model was taken away, I hope that our kids can get back into the classroom as soon as possible. I am going to admit that the tears are flowing as I hear Ella on her ELA google meet with her class. I am sad for my kids. I also just read a beautiful letter written by students printed by our local newspaper giving solutions to be back in school. Here’s hoping it happens sooner than later. Here’s hoping that Max and Ella have an easy time going to all their classes virtually today. Good luck to all of you as we navigate through this school year. Stay mentally and physically healthy! We can do this!!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R