…And Then They Canceled The Rest Of The School Year

It was roughly 180 years ago when I was first introduced to the term “social distancing”. We were told by carrier pigeon and villagers on horse-drawn carriages to stay in our homes until the coronavirus passed. I believe I was churning butter at the time.

Fine. Maybe it just felt that long ago, but my Little House on the Prairie memories aren’t that far off. It was Friday the 13th, mid-March, when we were first told that there would be a “voluntary quarantine”. I saw it all as a minor annoyance, with the kids likely home until April. We all were sad that my daughter’s school play would be cancelled.

Well, April came and went. Now it’s May. Everything from Easter to my son’s birthday to WrestleMania has been done behind locked doors, and now, my daughter’s birthday is creeping up within weeks. My yearly birth reminder, firmly planted in July, isn’t even out of the quarantined question. This entire process went from a minor annoyance to a major catastrophe. Suddenly the new normal today was something that would have seemed like science fiction in February.

The annoyances stretch even beyond the situation itself. There are the people you see in the streets without masks or a care in the world, acting like it’s Mardi Gras. Then there are their mortal enemies, the polar opposites, who jump on social media and post all caps demands that you “STAY THE F HOME!” It makes you want to reach through the screen, grab them, and scream back, “I am staying home! I have been home for months! Stop yelling at me!

The biggest issue of all? School. Food deliveries are a close second, but, for parents, school is the runaway winner.

cnclIt was a challenge at first. My daughter, although dealing with a less than ideal situation, is knocking it all out of the park. She has almost an obsessive nature with finishing her work, so everything gets done almost immediately. I know where she gets it from and I am both shameful and proud to have passed the trait onto her. It’s a great quality to have…sometimes. It eliminates long term stress, but creates a ton of short term stress. It all depends on which type of stress is your favorite.

My son, being non-verbal with autism, is a different story. Lucas gets many services in school. There’s PT, OT, and many other things that have a T in them, which help him grow every day. Going without these needed lessons is something that, six months ago, would have been unheard of. Now, it’s a shoulder shrug and an, “OK, we’ll wait it out.”

The worst part is that there’s no one to get mad at. The teachers are just as frustrated as we are. You hear it in their voices during phone calls and see it in their Flipgrid’d faces. They want to be teaching our kids just as much as we want our kids to be taught. All they can do is try their best to make good for a boy who isn’t exactly on board with video conferencing. We all have to improvise, compromise, and hope for the best.

Luckily, I had always tried to keep communication open with my son’s team and, through notes home and text messages, I always knew what they are working on. It has made his transition to homeschool a lot easier. There has been little in the way of regression and, truth be told, he seems to be doing well.

But I can’t help but think that he would be doing really well if school was open.

This entire experience has been like a giant reality show. We need Mario Lopez to pop out with a microphone and say:

Now Mom and Dad, today your task is to teach your kids math, science, and physical balance. You have ten Tic-Tacs, a pool noodle, two scooters, and platter of cheese. You have 24 hours starting…now!

Sure, it gets done, but as you’re balancing your son on a pillow and counting out Jolly Ranchers to learn ratios, something seems off. I wasn’t trained for any of this. Few of us were. Even when things are going great, a part of you still whispers inside, “You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it all wrong.”

That’s why the announcement that New York schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year was like a roundhouse COVID kick to the face last week. The little hope we had of some normalcy went right out the window and our homemade lessons, mixed with teacher suggestions, continue forward.

It’s moments like this that pull you back down and, despite the rainbows in the windows and the clapping at 7pm, it’s OK to feel low sometimes. For all the seniors missing out on prom to all the children with special needs missing out on vital services, the spectrum of things to be upset about runs pretty long. We’re all affected.

So, let’s find the light at the end of this tunnel, shall we? After all, this would be quite a downer of a post if it ended with “…and that sucks. Goodnight”. I mean, it does suck. But this isn’t goodnight.

Just as I never imagined I could make it caged in this house until May, I can’t imagine July, but it will be here in the blink of an eye. The same will happen for August and everything after. When school is ready to reopen and when jobs are ready to reopen and when life is ready to reopen, I’ll be ready to be reopen too. We all will.

And when that day comes, we’re going to appreciate it more than we ever have before. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone and, after a lifetime of complaining about the day-to-day stuff, I never realized how much I would miss it when it was gone. Now I do and, when it’s back, we’ll all be living it from a new perspective.