I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to return to normal after a year-long hibernation in a pandemic. I got both of my COVID-19 vaccines and I'm signing my kids up for theirs, so I should be happy. But instead, I am spending these last days of the school year, in the painful awkwardness of the inevitable... Should I send my kids to virtual academy in the fall or force them to be around their peers? Is it ok for me to never leave the house again or will that become taboo? How can I protect the comfort we’ve built together through this year?
I’m feeling these feelings while watching the entire world broadcast this adventurous tone of getting as far away from home as possible. It’s like no one enjoyed being away from other people this year. Corporate America is trying to figure out how to con people out of their sweats and back into cubicles in high-rent buildings, education is seducing parents with ideas of a normal fall, and I’m sure every other industry is doing their best to drag us out of the house and back into the world again. But I’m not interested. I don’t want to go.
Maybe that’s a privileged statement. Prior to the pandemic, I worked from home but travelled enough to be a polite stranger to my kids. When I wasn’t on a plane or train, I was dragging my kids through an insane schedule of activities, sports, and birthday parties that kept us out of the house literally every night of the week and all weekends. I thought that living in our van part time was what every mom was supposed to do. So I did it.
Prior to the pandemic, I considered myself a decent parent who listened… But my kids had become these little strangers that happened to look like me. Little people I was giving all these important experiences to. It felt like I was constantly throwing survival skills and lessons at them rather than providing space for them to unpack their thoughts about the world around them.
Did they want to do all this stuff or was I assuming that these were the experiences that would get them into the “right college” or prepare them to have skills to get the “right job”? I knew I loved them because they were mine but was I so caught up in their future that I didn’t have the time to get to know who they were in the present?
I didn’t really know them. The pandemic forced us to stop. It forced us to be creative. It forced us to value each other and the space we shared. The pandemic forced us to value silence, spirituality, and meditation.
I know everyone is excited to get back to normal... well I’m not.
I really loved interrupting school to burst through my kids’ door to tell a bad joke.
I loved seeing their faces during breaks and talking about the drama in the Zoom chat.
I loved listening to their classes… it’s become a weird sort of white noise while I work.
I loved going outside and randomly playing tag for a couple minutes.
I enjoyed not driving to Baltimore every weekend for tournaments.
I enjoyed the safety of our cocoon during tumultuous times.
I enjoyed movie night and politely declining party invitations that didn’t exist.
I enjoyed that there was no social pressure to go anywhere, do anything…
I loved watching the sunrise and the sunset from my window with a cup of coffee or tea, listening to birds.
I loved not buying gas for weeks on end.
Yes, there’s virtual academy. And yes, I have the autonomy to say “no” to party invites moving forward. And yes, our family was privileged to have a quiet, safe, learning environment all year, but it doesn’t change the fact that I appreciated being forced to drop everything and get to know my kids. Never for one moment during the pandemic did I wish I were doing anything else, with any other people, in any other place. This year I was right where I wanted to be, right where I needed to be.
I hope everyone who wants to be out here rubbing up against other people, sharing party dip from the same bowl, hugging strangers, and touching surfaces that were touched by others who don’t wash their hands, finds what they’re looking for. I really do. I hope it’s beautiful, safe, and fun. I hope it’s everything you dreamed about as you spent your days pining away in a pandemic. But I also hope you found a renewed value in yourself and the people, pets, and plants you’ve shared space with this year.
I hope you found the time to read more, play more games, and appreciate your life. I hope you found new talents and strengths you didn’t know you had and that you continue to cultivate them even as the world opens back up. I hope you found the time to pick up some empathy for others and some grace for yourself. I pray that as you joyfully jump back into your new life, that the protests for Black lives, the toxic election cycle, and the insurrection in D.C., serve as a reminder that life isn’t perfect and that while we’re out here hanging out together, we have an obligation to each other.
I’ll be dragging my feet for as long as I can. Maybe one day I’ll see you back out there again.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.