Hello From the Other Side

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

This week my kids went to school.

Normally that’s not a noteworthy accomplishment. But we’re living in anything but normal times.

Then on Wednesday the husband, who’s been merrily working remotely from our bedroom, went into the office. The door closed behind them and I was left with an empty house and an empty day.

I was left with what used to be normal.

I think I expected a moment of breathing space. Like one of those commercials with women breathing deeply over a cup of steaming tea. I expected a wave of calm to wash over me like a gentle breeze.

But what I was left with was not calm as much as a ball of confusion. Yes, it was quiet. Yes, the house was empty. But I was suddenly very much alone with everything I’d been shoving under the Rug of Feelings for the last two months.

For the last 67 days, I’ve put most of my own feelings, my own fear, my own work, my own life really, on hold to act as the Mom glue that holds everything together. I know I am not alone in this. For two months of emergency remote learning I continued to make packed lunches, just like I do every other day. I insisted upon showers in the morning. I extolled the importance of routine. I didn’t start any projects which I couldn’t drop at an instant if I needed to–and I did, plenty of times. I came up with a myriad of ways to make lockdown (I hoped) interesting: challenges, games, fun facts, forced acts of gratefulness. I was an annoying, chirping mom-o-analyst asking them every which way how they felt. I found ways to make sure we had our time apart because we were always together. And yet we were often together superficially–in different rooms, under headphones. And as bizarre as it sounds, I had to find ways for us to be together as well–often thrusting hand sanitizer and moisturizer at anyone and everyone while I rounded us up like a little family herd. Mom-Bo Peep.

As much as we could, we kept to our pre-Corona life. Most of that was due to me. I don’t take any great pleasure or sense of accomplishment in that, nor is it braggadocio. It’s just the way it worked out. There are lots of reasons why this job fell in my lap and I’m sure I’ll delve into that another time, but suffice it to say that for two months most of the responsibility of holding us together–mentally, physically, emotionally, academically–fell to me.

And now, suddenly, almost as overnight and as quickly as things changed, it feels like they mostly changed back.

Hello from the other side.

We’re on the road to back to normal–but of course the normal of today, post-lockdown (or in reality, mid-lifting lockdown) looks very different to what life looked like on March 10th.

But now, without the dull, throbbing need to keep everyone and everything together, I am faced with endless stretches in which all I can do is try to figure out what it all means.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

I’m a planner. You know how they say people like to have their T-s crossed and their I-s dotted? Well I like that plus I like my O-s closed, and my C-s curved. For the last two months there were no T-s. There were no I-s. We couldn’t plan more than a day or two in advance and a lot of that involved toilet paper.

It was terrifying, but oddly, it was also kind of freeing. But now? If lockdown meant that up was down and down was up, now we’re just kind of floating in this weird sideways limbo.

When I glance outside, things look normal. But that’s the external stuff. More people on the street. More shops open. But internally, there’s still hesitation.

And I’m not sure when….or if….that will go away any time soon.

Talking or planning more than a week in advance is still impossible. Summer plans? I got  nothing. October break? Nada. Christmas? Maybe, if we’re lucky.

Four months ago I had a minor freak out about college for my high school sophomore. Now? I don’t even know if colleges will still be functioning–oh, they’ll be up and running, but who knows how many are going to close between now and then? How will education change in the wake of Covid-19? How will that affect him? Us?

Right now the other side is like it was, but not. It’s the same, but different. There’s a definitive line between before and right now, but the border is translucent and porous. It’s taking big, leaping strides down the street because you can, keeping one eye on the corner because you’re fully expecting a boogey-man to jump out at  you and smack you over the head with a two-by-four.

I don’t know if that guard will ever drop completely–now that we all know just how quickly the world can change.

But we’re here. For now. One foot on the other side, wiggling our toes in the pool of new normal.

I can’t tell you how it feels yet because I don’t know myself.

But I promise I’ll keep you posted.

4 thoughts on “Hello From the Other Side

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  1. I would love for you to post on how the kids are adjusting to the new normal or social distancing at school. We are in Seattle (USA), so return to school is a long way off, but I’m fearful about the adjustment for my 10 and 12 year old boys when we do eventually return to a new version of school with social distancing, masks, etc.

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    1. It’s a good question.

      My kids have only been back for a few days now, and they’ll only be at school until mid-June before they break up. They return (assuming) in August and that is the great unknown.

      But…

      They were definitely getting fatigued from remote learning. The first few weeks were fine (and the school was great about it), but I could see it wearing on them. They were thrilled to go back–mostly to see their peers and have that social interaction they were craving.

      Because we’re internationals, they go to a private, international school, so I realize we’re starting from a place of privilege: smaller class sizes, more space, more $$ to throw at the problems. But the state Danish schools have gone back as well and so far, everyone seems to have been able to implement the requirements.

      Interestingly, the requirements in place look A LOT like that blue backed meme which was circulating on social media (the one that looked like it was coming from the CDC but wasn’t).

      There are one way staircases, hand-washing breaks, they eat lunch in their classrooms or in approved common spaces. No sharing of supplies, no field trips (yet), no hot lunch, no cafeteria, no lockers, no changing for PE, no group desks, desks 1 meter apart, social distancing. In the lower school there are staggered start times.

      It’s different. But it’s also fine. The kids talked about how it was different, but honestly, they just rolled with it.

      The biggest difference here is that we are not required or even asked to wear masks.

      I think school for the foreseeable future will look–and BE–different. But I think those differences will stand out to us as parents more than the students who will get used to it, adapt, and find ways to make it work.

      I hope that helps!

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      1. Oh my goodness, this is so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed reply. My kids also go to small, private schools here (under 100 kids), so the changes may be more doable than at large public schools. I am so happy to hear that your kids are able to just roll with the punches. Onward!

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