What got you through the end of the school year last spring? For our family, much of it was dependent on a few key things I plan on implementing as we begin our school year again. For both River and Oak, the education road looks slightly different this school year. With two kids comes two personalities, two different sets of needs, as well as strengths and weaknesses. And of course, we parents have our own sets of these things, too. There was also this reality: what I prioritize as an individual versus as their parent.
I would say that in considering what worked and what didn’t, there are three categories:
Rhythm and Expectation: Nurture or nature? To begin with, straying from a set rhythm can feel freeing and satisfying. It feels like the abandon I miss from my late teens and very early twenties, before I became a mother. But in the end, really, rhythm becomes our saving grace. Often, it is comparing seasons of plenty and absence, observing what we cling to. Without routine, we are sure to unravel.
Our rhythm has allowed for a set of expectations. Not in an archaic way, but progressive manner in which our family works as a team—all delivering for our greater good, with wheels fresh and oily and running smoothly so they will last all year. This idea lacks pressure, but relies on balance. Of course, I carry the heaviest load, but as the mother, thats what I could do, should do, and love to do. Still, parts of the rhythm and responsibility are also theirs. My therapist has helped me come to terms with this, and I believe in raising my children to become community-minded adults one day. More than that, it leaves less room for miscommunication and hurt feelings.
This spring, despite being upended, the rhythm of waking up, talking, putting on clothes, doing some school work and going outside kept this little family afloat. We held expectations to be kind and to be open and to listen when frustrated. Eventually it became second nature, but alone it was not enough. Space became our saving grace too.
Space: Having any kind of space in this particular season of life is a gift. I realize that as I roll over in the morning and head to my desk to type a few words, or can take a call from my bedroom behind a locked door. More importantly, I realized how my kids need space too. I saw that when River sat at her desk and wrote down notes for class, and when Oak stored a pack of pencils in his pencil case and placed it in between a stack of books. Personal space–their desks–created autonomy, and that helped them feel worthy and ready. The desks were simple, but grand tools of focus, each according to their own needs. They connected us to our tasks at-hand.
Socialization: We started nature journals the Monday after schools closed. They’re not in-depth and I haven’t even taken a full look at what the kids wrote. I am not an overseer, I just throw out ideas and we run with it. We found socialization by taking daily walks, spending time in our local park, and staying connected to the changes in the grass and trees–another gift of access for sure. We also stayed connected with friends through daily FaceTime dates and text groups. I didn’t allow myself to retreat inward, create a shell, which would have been tempting for me. I expanded the kids’ use of devices so that they could reach out, too.
If I had to consider what is most important to me, it’s this asppect. It was not just the trees, but also our friends and family, being forced into communication, building and bonding–even when we were on each others’ nerves.
Any 3 things of your own? I’d love to hear.
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1. New Traditions – It’s been hard trying to be socially distant as the parent of an only child, so we’ve been peppering our weeks with new traditions. On Saturday we have long mornings at the park before it gets too crowded. On Sundays we have a family movie picnic on our living room floor. Visits with her grandparents throughout the week help too.
2. Art – We splurged on tons of construction paper, markers, and glue at the beginning of quarantine. It’s an artsy mess but she loves it.
3. Curriculum – We’re homeschooling right now; I work fulltime and my mom teaches her while she watches her, and I teach her a bit in the evenings. Finding and purchasing an easygoing curriculum has been a lifesaver, providing lots of ideas of projects and activities when I’m too tired to think straight.