My children are teaching me about how to approach the school year. My family learned many lessons over the last 6 months. We learned how much we valued each other, how much we could endure together, and how to help others. With four daughters at home ages 2,4,6, and 20, my school day looks different than most. I welcome the structure and support of the school district. As a former teacher, I believe in deliberate and measurable learning.
Allowing the district to do their job with our blended learning option is ideal. Because the truth is, if the world opens in a few months, will I really want to be at home with no support, and 6 months until summer. We have also chosen the blended learning model because my oldest special needs daughter will benefit from the support of the school staff. During this season, I’ve learned five important lessons from my children. I also have a bonus son in college, on campus.
From my bonus son, I’ve learned I needed to let him lead. Sitting alone during the unrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota was challenging for him. I had to trust that he knew what to do, and that the university was making the best possible decision for him at the time. I also had to trust he would ask for help when he needed it.
My six year old taught me the importance of a schedule. As the child with the most academic strengths, and the one who is emotionally connected to the impact of the pandemic, she needed structure. We created a school schedule during the initial lockdown, and placing her in a social distanced gymnastics camp was best for her mental and emotional health. Schedules are great tools for staying on track. As an Emergency Management Consultant, my husband is very structured. His strength is putting systems in place to help organizations run better. That definitely impacts the way my 6 year old appreciates schedules.
My four year old taught me how to be thoughtful with my words. Though she doesn't appear to have a large vocabulary, her thoughts are translated into action more than they are to words. When she wants something she starts to prepare for it, or she does it with little sound or introduction. This upcoming fall season will require the same type of movement. Rather than engaging in discussions, debates, and conversation around our choices, moving forward speaks for itself.
My two year old says no. She learned it over the last several weeks, and says it with such conviction, you would think she was asked a question first. Her “no” is focused, and commands even the ears of those not engaging with her. No is a word we don’t often use for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. But it is essential in this new school year. As we see the ask form on the lips of others, saying no like my youngest daughter will create a stance, boundaries, and an opportunity to yield to the things most important in your life.
My special needs daughter has taught me compassion. Her diagnosis of deafness and autism has been what defined our relationship for the last two decades. Completing three academic degrees including one from Yale, while raising her, meant sacrifice. As parents, the mundane tasks end for some after their child gains a certain level of independence. However, it has never really ended for us. As I consider her future and the pathway forward, I am moved to compassion, empathy and patience. Certain regressive behaviors have become challenging, and I hope I can ignite the passion to look at the upcoming school year with fresh eyes.
Even with all of the challenges over the last 6 months, I am incredibly grateful. I look forward to the future for our children despite all that is happening in the world.