Category Archives: Family

Dead Sounds So Boring

Wearing a cloth mask during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cloth mask

The other day my, very precocious, four year old daughter said, “Dead sounds so boring.” That’s when I realized her little ears may have been listening to our chatter about the Coronavirus more than we realized. It’s been nearly impossible to have many adult conversations lately because we are all home together. Neither of my kids have seen their friends, been to the park, or eaten in a restaurant for months. We have high risk people in our home so we are all being extra careful.

We don’t want to scare the kids with too much information, but we don’t want to scare the kids with too little information either. When this first started my oldest daughter cried and cried as she worried about babies and grandparents dying at unprecedented numbers. Her friends were playing “Coronavirus” at school and she was worried.

At the time we thought the virus wasn’t a big deal and our government would stop it in its tracks. When I think about that now it’s hard to believe we ever had that much faith in our government. We’ve never lived through anything like this, so in some ways it seemed impossible it would ever get this bad. We comforted our daughter and told her everything was going to be OK and we believed that to be true. Eventually school was cancelled for the year and our entire country shut down. My husband and I looked at each other and feared our daughter’s premonition may turn out to be true. This virus was much worse than we had anticipated.

We told the kids what we knew about the virus and watched and waited. Every few weeks we’d remind them that no, we couldn’t go to McDonald’s yet, and no, we can’t go play at your friends house, and no, school is still out until next year. They seemed satisfied with these answers, but occasionally would test us to see if anything had changed. They watched me make masks for family and friends. They played school and doctor, and watched movies. They made art projects and roasted marshmallows and fought like sister do.

As time went on we read more and more news, a habit that has been hard to set aside, and my husband and I found ourselves discussing politics, mask wearing, and the death toll on a daily basis. Before we knew it, the kids were in the room while we exclaimed things at each other in frustration. We’ve had discussions about money, and job losses, and whether or not the mortgage company was going to give us a grace period. We’ve talked about wills, cleaning supplies, and whether or not to take certain vitamins. We’ve whispered about friends and family members struggling to overcome Covid-19. We’ve waited anxiously, and had some sleepless nights, wondering if anyone we loved would be the next to die. Our kids witnessed more of this than we realized.

We’ve walked a fine line between wanting the kids to be informed and empowered, while also protecting them from gruesome details and the blatant cruelty we were witnessing. The kids attention is directed to the helpers and we remind them that this won’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever.

One day a week the kids leave the house to meet our librarian on the the library lawn. She hands out free books and take-home craft projects. This has become our new summer reading program. Then we drive around town for a while and watch other people go about their daily business. The kids wear masks and we praise them for doing their part to protect others from invisible germs.

We encourage civic duty, upholding social contracts, and the importance of taking care of one another. When I lament I may not be doing enough to help, my oldest often reminds me, “Staying home is the best way to fight the virus, Mom.” We want them to experience the commitment to community required to remain separated from our friends and in our own homes. We want them to know that we make these sacrifices out of love and for the deep respect we have for life.

Perhaps we’ve included them in the conversation a little too much, but perhaps not. This is a pandemic and it is serious. People are dying and this is going to be a big part of their childhood history. I don’t want them to be completely naive about what is happening. I want them to have the sense of pride that comes with giving things up for the larger community.

Around age four kids begin to grasp the finality of death. Last year our cat died. My four year old realized then that dead meant you were never coming back. She’s recently realized that dead also means you can’t eat ice cream or play dolls. You can’t color or swim. You can’t sleep in your own bed or sit by a fire and lick chocolate off your fingers. You can’t hug someone or tell them you love them. You can’t collect bugs, jump on trampolines, or bake brownies anymore either.

She’s wearing a mask because, “Dead sounds so boring.” It’s not because she is afraid. She just wants you to stay alive so we can all keep having fun together.

When she grows up she will tell her kids that she had to stay home for months with her family. She will tell them that anytime she left the house she wore a mask. When her kids ask why I am sure she will explain how the virus was contagious, but I also hope she tells them that we all wore masks during the Coronavirus pandemic to demonstrate how much we loved each other.

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. We got on the ride in November and we’ve been going full speed ahead, up and down, up and down, sideways, upside down and stop, stop, go ever since.  As a parent it is the best and the worst of times. It’s both energizing and exhausting. My only advice, If you are thinking about homeschooling, is make sure you put on your seat belt first.

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

There, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I’m going to dive in with why we love it. First, field trips are fun and we can do as many as we want. We can go any where, at any time. We can turn almost anything into a learning experience!

We take as long as we need to learn something.  When my daughter is struggling with the concept of doubles plus one, we can just hang out and practice it until she’s got it down. She doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of a classroom filled with other kids ready to move on. If we don’t like the book or curriculum we are using we can change it.

We spend lots of time together (this can also be stressful at times especially when you are a die hard introvert like I am). We get to witness our daughter learning. When she grasps a concept that she has been struggling with I turn into a real-life cheerleader, pom-poms and all. It’s one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. My daughter loves all of the undivided attention. I get to learn about how her mind works and what interests her.

A short lesson on dinosaurs can evolve into discussions about big things like space, the big bang theory, God, various religious beliefs, scientific theories, the life cycle of turtles, and evolution. We have all of the time in the world to talk, dissect, and explore.

The downside of homeschooling is pretty thrilling too. Like a psychological thriller. There are endless periods of anxiety where we question if we are teaching enough or if she is learning enough. We worry about whether we are teaching her the right things. Is she behind her peers? Is she ahead? Will she be able to make it in the adult world if I close up the books and use baking to teach her fractions instead? I can lie awake for hours pondering these questions while simultaneously googling for statistics, curriculum, and homeschool support networks.

There are also days where nobody wants to do anything at all. The baby is cranky, the six year old is determined to watch Netflix until her eyes fall out of her head and her brain turns into zombie mush. There are days so packed with social activities that we forget to do spelling, or math, or to read. It’s feast or famine around here with almost everything.

Some weeks my daughter will be obsessed with math. It’s math from morning to night.  Meanwhile I will fret over her undone phonics workbook pages and reading practice. The very next week she will hate math telling me it’s boring or too hard and she will want to read everything she can get her hands on including the small print on the dog food bag. I then, of course, fret over her unfinished math worksheets and fall into despair over whether or not this first grade math failure will prevent her from acceptance into MIT.

There are entire days devoted to art, music, and cinema. These days I will congratulate myself for exposing her to culture, imagination, and creativity. Then I will berate myself for neglecting the three r’s.

Other days will be about science and history and the all mighty playground. On these days I will fret about how messy my house is becoming and about how I have no time to myself anymore. I’ll worry that the baby is being shuffled around from place to place and doesn’t have the nap schedule she deserves or needs. I will look around and realize that the homeschool stuff is taking over every room of the house and wonder if we really need all of these items to produce a well-rounded education. In the next moment I’ll worry we don’t have enough stuff or that maybe I have invested in all of the wrong items. There is always the sense that we could do more or could do better.

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. I’m hoping over time the anxiety will settle and our schedule will become more consistent. I’m also hoping to learn to accept the ebb and flow and develop a stronger faith in the idea that things will turn out all right in the end. So far, none of us have wanted to get off the roller coaster, no matter how scary it gets, so I guess that speaks volumes about the experiment we are conducting. Tiny-Small said it best the other day when she was  clad in her pajamas at 1pm and eating chocolate while building a house out of gumdrops and toothpicks, “I’d never be able to do this if I was in school right now!” I picked up a chunk of her Rice Krispies earth model we had cut in half the night before, bit into it and said, “You got that right, Kid!”

Sometimes I Want The Biggest Piece Of Cake

A few years ago I was watching my husband serve cake and I noticed that he gave himself the biggest piece. I started paying more attention to how things were distributed. When I made dinner (or dessert) I gave my husband or my daughter the most, the biggest, the best looking, and let’s be honest, the least burnt of whatever I was making. I kind of just assumed that was what every cook did. Not my husband. He gave himself the prime choice.

Then I noticed that, given the choice, my daughter did the same. She’d try to get the biggest or best of what ever was being offered. This didn’t just happen with food either. It happened with all sorts of things. At first I thought getting the smallest piece was just a mom thing. Mom’s sacrifice for family all the time. My behavior wasn’t anything new or special. This was completely normal behavior and something I could blame on socialization and uber capitalism.

Then I observed myself stepping aside so other people, even non-family members, could have the first pick, first opportunity, best seat, or most coveted of whatever was being coveted. I figured they probably wanted it more than I did or possibly deserved it more than I did. I’d pride myself on being polite. I didn’t seem to need the biggest or the best. I just sat back and watched everyone else trying to get it. On the plus side I never had to feel bad for taking what someone else wanted. I could make-do with the smallest piece of cake guilt free.

Sometimes I Want The Biggest Piece Of Cake

After a while I started to wonder about myself, what kind of person doesn’t try to get the best or the most of everything? Was this a sign of low self-esteem? Was I so afraid of disappointing someone else that I would happily disappoint myself instead? I started to think about all of the opportunities and experiences I may have missed out on by settling for second best. All of the opportunities that had gone to someone else out of etiquette. Should I be resentful? Angry? Sad? Was there any benefit to perpetually occupying last place?

The answer to all of my questions was yes. Yes, sometimes I have let people have things because I thought I didn’t deserve them. I’ve suffered from Impostor’s Syndrome and that has stopped me from asserting myself more, but I’ve also found great joy in watching other people get what they want. I like giving my husband the least burnt toast and my daughter the biggest piece of pie. I like to see their faces light up. I enjoy seeing people who have worked hard win.

Still, I know I am angry with myself over some missed opportunities.  I am often frustrated with my incessant need to be nice while simultaneously struggling with feelings of guilt over the times I have chosen myself first. Those moment often appear in my thoughts when I go to bed. My personal, guilty boogey man.

Then I questioned if I was truly being nice. Maybe I was trying to avoid conflict. I’ve always found winning embarrassing. Maybe I just wanted to avoid the responsibility that comes with being or having the best.

I finally came to the conclusion that it was complicated. Navel gazing almost always is. It’s one of the quickest ways to exhaust yourself with mental gymnastics. There is no one answer and like most of life we are delving into many layers of gray and hoping to come out with something in black and white. I decided I should take action. All of this thinking wasn’t getting me anywhere anyway.

I gave myself the biggest piece of cake.

My family was shocked, but I think they understood when I explained that sometimes I want the biggest piece of cake too. The world didn’t end. I do, however, have to exercise more. The biggest piece of cake comes with a lot of extra, empty calories which means getting the biggest piece of cake may not always be what it is cracked up to be.