Have you ever noticed how our handwriting reflects how we’re feeling? The careful calligraphy or slapdash scrawls, certain words circled or starred, others followed by a string of exclamation points (or question marks)—instant giveaways, all of them, into our inner psyche at that moment.
My inner psyche last Tuesday, March 17, was…hmmm…shaky at best, according to the scribbles in my notebook. This was the first official day of “learning at home” in our house. That morning, I read through various documents that Grace’s elementary school emailed me. They all contained extremely helpful and encouraging information about academic skills, mental health and continued connections between the school and all the families. I so appreciated these materials, and scribble, scribble, scribbled highlights in my notebook.
As I was preparing for Day 1, I also was wondering how I would entertain preschool-aged Anna while overseeing Grace’s online math and reading assignments, and selecting enriching physical education, music and art activities, as Stanton managed a cascading set of dilemmas with his work and responded to my various calls and texts with the default, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.” All manageable, and nothing to complain about, all things considered…but certainly a curveball from our day-to-day routine just the week before. Scribble, scribble.
The careful calligraphy or slapdash scrawls, certain words circled or starred, others followed by a string of exclamation points (or question marks)…
You could classify those first couple of days into our new routine as comedy or tragedy, depending on your glass-half-full-or-empty predisposition. Personally, there were moments when I laughed, and one when, like a cliché, I exited stage left into a bathroom to cry. Tragicomedy, perhaps.
One of these early days, I played a Scholastic video. The theme for the day was social studies, and the video explored the question, “What kind of community do you live in?” (In case you’re blanking on second-grade social studies, the three main types are urban, suburban and rural.) An accompanying “draw and write” activity instructed, “Create your own community.” Dutifully, I relayed this information to my daughters.
Grace paused. “So Mom, you’re saying I could make a candy cane forest?”
I paused even longer. “Sure,” I finally said. I actually loved the idea of a candy cane forest and told Grace so, but in the back of my mind, I wondered…should we have stuck to drawing and writing about real-life communities?
I pretty much don’t know what I’m doing here, friends.
Possibly the most challenging thing for me right now, as my daughters’ learning-from-home guide, is when they ask me, “What’s next?”
I’ll play a Scholastic video (5 minutes). We’ll do the activity that goes with it (another 5 minutes). I’ll set up my computer so that Grace can work on math problems (15 minutes) while Anna and I do something together. (Recently, Anna overheard me saying I should have gotten a haircut the week before, and she offered to cut my hair. Nooooo.)
After each thing—video, activity, hiding the scissors from Anna—the girls will ask, “What’s next, Mom?”
Many times, I don’t know. I just don’t know.
I imagine many of us feel this way, wherever we are and whatever our circumstances might be. When you get right down to it, it’s a scary question: What’s next? It’s a scary question even in the best of times.
On Saturday afternoon, I took a long walk. It was a beautiful day: sunny, birds chirping, picture perfect. I was completely there, in the moment.
And I had a bit of an epiphany, walking along the Rail Trail here in upstate New York. I won’t always know exactly what’s next, but I can zero in on what we’re doing now.
It’s a scary question even in the best of times.
I don’t know when school will start again, or Stanton will answer my calls on the first couple of rings again, or I’ll be doing the work I love again.
I don’t know, unless I look back at the Google Doc, what action item comes after “at least 20 minutes of independent reading.”
I don’t know when I’ll hug my Grandma again.
But I do know that as of now, my girls are playing together in the backyard, and that’s OK. That’s awesome, in fact. We’ll do more school work a little later today.
I took these free moments to write a grocery list (and this blog post 😉 ). My grocery-list handwriting is much more legible than last Tuesday’s notebook chicken scratch. A good sign. Also a little later, I’ll get groceries. That’s what we’re doing now.
The more I settle into now, rather than what’s next, the more at peace I feel. The more hopeful I feel. The more I want to say, with confidence, YES, let’s draw candy cane forests.
Photo credit: Pixabay
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