Last week at bedtime, my oldest son, Harper (9 yrs.), and I disagreed about staying up late and where he would sleep (he’s afraid of the dark). The disagreement ended in tears. Soon the conversation shifted from bedtime to Harper asking why my husband and I work so much. Harper reflected on our months of “crisis home-schooling” and expressed worry for this school year. Through tears, he said, “I am not intelligent enough to take care of myself. I can’t make lunch on my own. Sometimes I need help remembering to get off the computer or to stop playing a game. I need more. I need your help.” What I heard was an intelligent, articulate child clearly saying, “I need YOU.”
The last day of school for Harper was March 12, 2020. School was canceled after discovering E. coli in our county drinking water. We assumed we’d return to school the following week, but then all schools closed due to COVID-19. None of us knew how bad it would get, or how long schools would be closed. We “crisis home-schooled” mid-March through early June and celebrated many socially distant drive-by birthday parties this summer.
Early in the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for Harper to go to his room around 11 am and lie down on the bed with our dog, Tonka, and remain there silently. He was grieving the loss of normalcy; we all were. Harper is an energetic kid full of curiosities who displays a level of personal insight that I admire, especially for his age. Over the months, Harper often shared how much he missed seeing people (other than mommy, daddy and his 3-year-old brother, Henry). He misses playing with friends at the playground. He misses school.
Recently the NC Union County School Board met to announce plans for reopening schools in August. Beginning August 17, 2020, students will attend face-to-face learning one day per week and remote learning four days per week. It’s a no-win situation. I want my child to learn and socialize (both of which positively impact his mental well-being), but I fear for his physical health. As working parents, my husband and I have been juggling two kids and work, anticipating what the 2020-21 school year might look like, and here it is. As a working mom who cares deeply about both my children and my career, I have spent hours worrying (and at times crying), concerned about meeting the needs of both. How do I ensure Harper doesn’t fall behind in school? Will the school be able to support kids with 504 plans/IEPs in a remote setting? Do we have the financial means to hire private tutors if needed? Do I deserve this option when others have so little, and yet we are fortunate to still have so much? Am I meeting Harper’s emotional needs? What about Henry’s needs? How are other parents “doing it all”? Why can’t I seem to “do it all”? Can I afford to cut back my work hours? Will I be letting my team down? Why the heck won’t people wear masks?! As you can see, my mind has been busy living in fear for the future and not living in faith while fully tuning in to the present.
How do I respond? I quiet myself. I listen to my children. Like many other working families, I am working hard to balance my career while prioritizing my family’s health and well-being. With support from HERO, beginning in August, I will work limited hours to prioritize the well-being of my children. I know that this is a moment in the arc of my life that I must attend to. For today, I am choosing to live in faith and not fear. Alone I can’t, but together we can.