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Challenge: Back to School 2020

Settling the Heart

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E very time my heart feels unsettled, I wrestle with that feeling until I figure out why this was given to me, and what I am supposed to learn from the feelings. Sometimes I do this in a hurry-one emotion giving way to the next- and sometimes it’s achingly slow. It’s A steady march to a place I’m not certain I want to go.

The feelings that came with this school year have been a slow march. First, the anticipation of the start and if it would even happen. Next, the excitement that we were going to go to the place we missed so dearly. Finally, the realization that nothing was as we left it.

It’s funny to think that a place we left 6 months ago would be just as we left it. I suppose that even if it was, we would see it differently, because we have changed. Perhaps it’s the new eyes that we see things with, that makes our hearts hurt. Perhaps it’s just reckoning with the grief that we cannot change the version of us that this new school year requires. A more distant and disciplined version of us, is here to stay. At least for a while.

The grief that I felt in March and April, seems to have made its way to my kids, in September. While I recognize the privilege this is to spare them the pain for this long, I also recognize that for me, as I would imagine many parents feel, it’s second wave of grief for us. We are only as happy as our least happy child. And for many, that is a reality we don’t want to face. And as they learn about what it means to be a student in 2020, we don’t necessarily have answers that work- or answers they are interested in hear- or we are interested in saying. I also recognize that it’s too early to tell how this experience will change them- something I need to remind myself of when my anxiety leads me down a rabbit hole- here is what I know to be true, for me today:

  • My feelings are intense and fleeting. So are my child’s. Although both kids find something about this school year challenging, the intensity of their emotional reactions have tempered. That’s what happens with time, and acceptance, and allowing our heart and brain to reckon with our triggers, name them, and either leave them be, or decide where to put them.
  • Watching our children suffer is a special kind of torture. I need to constantly remind myself that as a parent, it’s not my job to remove the pain or struggle, it’s to support my child as they figure out what tool they have to use in order to navigate through it. I hate this part. And I love this part. If I solve it for them, it removes my discomfort, but if I am brave enough to sit in my discomfort, and allow them space to dig through their tool box, or even ask for help, they grow and understand that all they need lies within them. I cannot imagine a better gift to give my children.
  • In March, our world changed. I don’t think I can undo the changes that have taken place in my heart, or my families. I guess I don’t want to. What started as fear and anxiety about the unknown, allowed us to form a bond that was not as strong as it was prior to COVID. I have to keep the same faith that this school year- whatever it brings- will do the same. I have too keep the faith that the grief we all feel for the changes we are experiencing, will lead to a profound rebirth of connection, cooperation between school and home, and a genuine feeling of gratitude for an educational system that is more complex than most parents realize, and provides more love, connection, opportunity for growth for our kids that we knew was possible. School is a gift. I hope we learn to fund it, and support it, and the people inside, like it deserves to be.
  • Kids are so stinking smart. Where they struggled with separation from peers, not being able to sing and play instruments, refraining from gym class games, sitting father away from peers, or eating lunch solo, they have already created ways to reconnect. My kids bring a joke in their lunch box every day to tell the people sitting around them. They have figured out how to play the games they used to last year, by refining the rules, asking new kids to play, and even compromising their original idea, for one that better fits their circumstances. If we are honest, most of us lack these skills- the ability to reinvent ourselves and our ideas and invite new people in to our world. Our kids did this- and figured out how to do it with little direction. I would have missed out on seeing this beautiful development if I was able to solve this problem for our kids. I am so glad I couldn’t, and didn’t.
  • Any time you express something online for the world to see, you have to recognize that some people will agree, and some people will disagree. If you are simply looking for someone to agree with you, then you should go straight to that source, and not to a wide audience. My teary post elicited a lot of support, and some people that were uncomfortable with how I shared, and what I shared. I appreciate all of it. It’s not always easy to take, but with every positive note and criticism, we have a choice to learn from it, or become resentful. I will choose to learn, and show-up, again, with a new appreciation and understanding of the varying perspectives people see me from.
  • As hard as 2020 is, and as difficult as social media can be sometimes, I am so grateful for the community that I find, here. I write and share because I know that I am not the only person experiencing my emotions or specific circumstances, and hope that in sharing, I can show others that they are not alone. In turn, you absolutely do the same for me. I am so very grateful.

Sometimes, when it’s hard to hope, we just need a laugh to remind us what joy feels like. So here is my gift to you, today:

What is a police officer’s favorite kind of treat? A cop-cake. 🙂 That’s my kid’s favorite lunch joke, so far. It’s the little things.

Don’t lose hope. The kids will help us. We just need to let them go, and follow their lead.


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