The first day of school this fall was a first day like no other. We took the obligatory first-day pictures of our fourth grader
…and our seventh grader.
But no one got on the bus. The boys logged in for Google meets, though I think the middle schooler missed a few. Distance learning is no one’s favorite around here, but we’re focusing on the positives. No long bus rides. You can take breaks when you want. You get to have a hot lunch at home – and you don’t even need to pack it.
The back-to-school shopping was different this year too. In addition to typical things like jeans and shoes – which were still necessary because they’re both growing like weeds – we bought a globe, a couple of magazine subscriptions, and portable desks (actually TV trays). Now everyone has a designated work space (including mom and dad).
Another, perhaps more exciting, first happened this week. We got to return to our local public library for browsing. It was the first time since March that we could wander through the stacks. (Though we were thankful for contact-less pick-up to tide us over.) We came home with a nice selection of library books, which we can hang on to for a whole month if we wish.
Other firsts have included a socially-distanced outdoor fourth-grade meet up, joining a masked soccer league, and the first day of youth group. We’re developing resiliency as we figure out how to thrive in this new normal. Some days are exhausting, some days are tear-filled, and some days I feel like I’ve accomplished almost nothing. But I’m holding out hope that one day we’ll look back at this period of time and remember it with a certain fondness. Here’s to the memories we’re making!
This week we’re closing the books on a school year like no other, complete with some big life lessons and the unique twists and turns of distance learning. Let’s recap by reviewing some of the defining words of this last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year.
Racism. You got a glimpse into just how much racism continues to plague this nation. The disturbing images on the news in recent weeks have left us all grieving. It’s been a bit overwhelming to witness such injustice, rage, and brokenness in our system and in our city – even in ourselves. You’ve grown up in a household in which two different races and cultures are represented. You have seen that people with different skin colors can live together in harmony, that our lives are richer for the diversity within our family and reciprocal friendships, and that different perspectives can be an asset when working together toward a shared goal. Your parents still have much to learn, but we hope we have at least been an example of recognizing our own shortcomings and working through misunderstandings with grace and humility. We are confident that you can be agents of positive change in this world as you discover your purpose in life and live out your part in the ultimate redemptive plan.
Fragility. We rarely like to think about our own limitations, but this pandemic has reminded us of our vulnerability and our mortality. It has shed light on the truth that we are not as in control of our world as we tend to think. As concern and fear of the coronavirus spread, leaders felt they had no better option than to call a halt to life as we knew it. We stayed home. Nearly everybody stayed home – all the time. You heard stories of empty grocery shelves (didn’t see them yourselves because you were at home.) You’ve grieved the loss of our familiar routines. You’ve felt pangs of isolation, missing friends from school, missing all the casual, commonplace interactions in a given day. We have all felt emotionally exhausted. We have been crankier than usual. We have been more easily moved to tears – or emotional outbursts. We have gotten lots practice asking for and extending forgiveness. We’ve grown closer. And stronger.
Resilience. You have shown yourselves able to adapt in the midst of adversity and stress. You have applied yourselves and learned the academic content your teachers delivered online. You have turned our kitchen into a science lab while floating foil boats, observing chemical reactions, and twirling convection snakes. You have become better problem solvers. You’ve asked good questions as we read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn together. You’ve been reminded that using one’s skills and time for the benefit of others is our responsibility and privilege. You have held on to hope. One day you will come to understand just how much fortitude you’ve gained by overcoming the challenges and frustrations of these past few months.
You’ve learned a lot this year – we all have – and we want to celebrate that learning. It has been a privilege to grow alongside you and help you develop in ways that will serve you well for years to come.
In the summers, my siblings and I used to ride our bikes about five miles to the nearest bookmobile stop. On our first visit, we applied for library cards. That small piece of orange tag board with a tiny metal rectangle in it became the ticket to a world of learning and exploring through books. Early public library visits turned me into a life-long library patron.
And when I had kids, I started taking them along.
Today, our older son got his first library card. It has a picture drawn by a child and the word “imagine” on it. He used it to check out three books.
What do you remember about your first library card?
Potty training began in earnest Monday at 9 a.m. We got out the big-boy underwear, let our two-year-old choose the ones he liked best and put them on him. I knew he was ready – for the past month or more he’s been telling us when it’s time for a diaper change – but I wasn’t so sure I was ready. What if it takes him years to figure this out? I’ve read stories from moms who’ve done it in one day. I won’t measure up.
With the small potty at the ready, I filled him up on fluids and explained that it’s time to say “bye-bye” diapers – that it’s time to use the potty. I put him on about every 30 minutes. We read lots of books. He had a few accidents and a few successes. In a matter of hours, our two-year-old transitioned from indifferent to strongly disinterested in the process.
I tried to ease up a bit when I realized both of us were getting stressed, but by the end of day one, I was suffering from a mild headache. Why is this so hard? It’s a messy process. It doesn’t happen instantly.
On the second and third days, we’ve seen more successes. He understands what he needs to do, though he doesn’t always make it to the potty on time. But, the boy earned a balloon for his good effort today. And we really are getting closer to saying, “Bye-bye, diapers.”
Our baby is now a toddler. Just last week he started to eschew crawling in favor of moving around on his feet. His smile reveals how pleased he is with his new skill. He does a lot of teetering and falling on his bottom, but that barely slows him down.
This week our big boy celebrated his fourth birthday. He’s been trying out new things too, like putting a step stool on top of a chair in order to get when we wants off the top of the fridge. The term “out of reach” is now under revision around here.
Our house guest of several months moved back to his home today. We’re praying he and his wife have found a long-term solution to their marriage problems.