I am the mother of four amazing children. Four times I’ve endured the college application process. The first three kids, I was a super mom in the process. Applications were perfect, submitted early, it was just plain amazing. I was a true superstar in that process the first three times around. A superstar!
Then Sam died. About 18 months after he died, it was time for our youngest to go through the college application process. Now, this was a time when I was doing really well if I had on matching shoes when I went to work. Grief made me slow, emotional, and unable to think clearly. One day when I was at work, a friend who also happened to be his guidance counselor called me and reminded me that there was only one more round of SATs, and our youngest hadn’t taken them yet. I had completely forgotten the need for him to do the SATs while I grieved. With tears streaming down my face, I got off the phone and registered him for the test.
I felt like a failure as a parent. A complete and total failure. All the other senior mothers had made sure their kids were ready, all the boxes checked off in the process, and I (an educator!) had forgotten the stupid SATs. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt like a loser.
Fast forward to current times, and I am reminded of this time period in my own life. As I watch the current online social media posts about the wonders that some families are enacting in their own home school environments during school closures, my heart aches for many parents and children out there.
The perfect learning environments created at home for schooling? The creative daily schedules? The videos of the perfect creative lessons parents are enacting? Great if you can do it, but talk about making other parents feel inadequate and inferior. And their children? How many ways can they be told that their families and lives aren’t great? How many times can they be reminded of how they are somehow perceived as lesser in our society? How many times to they (and their families) need to see the perfect cooking lessons in other homes while they are waiting for a school bus to bring them needed food or they will go to bed hungry?
If you don’t have a parent who normally works at home, or is working remotely now, you are having to figure out how to do the best you can in your own situation. If you live in a tiny apartment (or a homeless shelter), you may not be able to create a “school room” for this duration. If you are grieving, have health issues, are financially stressed, all of those things are weighing on your mind, and seeing the constant reminders of how everyone else is doing it so well is not good for mental health in our communities. In a time where anxiety is rampant, we all need to do our part to reduce the anxiety around us instead of exacerbating it.
The ability to stay at home with your children, to create wonderful and meaningful lessons and units for your children, the money to buy supplies for projects or ingredients for recipes, having internet, being able to read and write yourself, the mental health to juggle everything right now, those are luxuries for many people. Luxuries that if you have them, you should be very, very grateful to have.
I implore us all to work on a sense of community and connection right now. If you are able to create an educational utopia in your home right now, that is wonderful. But do you really need to post about it obsessively, making sure your neighbors (and their children!) know how deficient they are in these areas?
Instead, I humbly suggest that if you want to chronicle what you are doing at home, make a scrapbook (hardcopy or digital) of images and videos and share them with grandparents or relatives. If you feel inclined to post online each day, post what you and your child or children did to help someone else. Did you call grandparents? Did you rake a neighbor’s lawn (with social distance of course)? Or post a picture or an inspirational quote to make others smile and feel hopeful.
One of the things that I carry with me each day is that Sam had the gift of being able to see well beyond the surface of people. He could see beyond poverty or illiteracy, see beyond wealth and privilege, and instead see the heart in people. In this challenging time, I ask us all to “do a Sam” and share love and acceptance, not drive the wedge deeper between us all. Love is all that matters.