We welcome our first day of social distancing and online learning with warm pajamas, mugs of vanilla steamers, and a sparkler-like excitement about all the newness that surrounded us. Chromebooks position themselves in a row at our long, wood kitchen table. Sissy respectfully decorates her teal Chromebook case with flowers and butterflies – a form of inspiration and a declaration of her own self. We sharpen colored pencils with palm-sized sharper. We organize filing drawers with new labels, adapting to the home learning environment and the desire for a sense of school organization systems. Lined paper and composition books retreat from the depths of school backpacks to the tops of our counters and long, wood table. Overstuffed sitting chairs are pushed into the corners of our living room, making space and time for the coveted recess time, which, alas, is indoors because of the snow. And, of course, in the core of all of the school supplies draped across our daily lives, sit a moisturizing hand sanitizer gel.
And the transformation, as complete as I thought it was (and still is), continues to move and shift and gently shake our lives. The quintessential snapshot of my kids getting ready for a typical school day includes screaming and yelling and crying as we attempt to find the right outfit for the day, fill our bellies with nourishing food, and pull the sleep bugs from our eyes. The normal school day includes scurrying to the car at 7:55 AM with lunchboxes filled with goodies for the day, water bottles carrying icecubes and Gatorade, homework folders, Thursday folders, and small, non-essential treasures like a small metal pig in a pocket and a small stuffed ladybug in the hand. These mornings, laced with hints of chaos, were at the core of our day. This was our normal.
And now, the gentle shake to our lives has started. No longer does my daughter squirm when I ask, beg, – no demand – that she gets on her clothes for the day. Instead, Sissy now wakes herself up before 7:30 AM each morning. She brushes her hair in the looking glass that sits 3 feet above the floor. She sings a song about learning or the birds or the mermaids. She finds an outfit and then actually puts it on. And, then, she applies a creamy layer of hot pink lipstick. Puckering her lips, like her grandmother does so many times with her, she waltzes out of her room and down the stairs to make her big entrance into the family room. She lifts her arms high into the air – as if offering a grand standing ovation to her fans – and sings, “I’m ready for my homeschool day, Mommy!”
Press repeat for 5 days. Now, add in a dash of self-determination.
On day 2 of our home learning adventure, Buddy quickly realized the only pants left in his drawer were either the very uncomfortable wedding pants (pants with buttons) and his sweatpants that were splattered with paint. Neither pair of paints suffice. So, I hear the yell from the top of the stairs, “Mom, you haven’t done the laundry and I have nothing to wear!” I smile and walk over to the staircase, responding with: “I know, Buddy. I am behind on all the mom duties for the week because I am also trying to be your teacher.”
And then something happens …
“Ugh. Sigh. Ugh. This is ridiculous!” comes from the top of the stairs. Then there is a thump, thump, thump. And then there is a swish, swish, swish across the wood floors in our living room, followed by another, thump, thump, thump. “Mom, how do you turn on the washer machine?” I hear from the depths of the downstairs washroom. In less than two minutes, Buddy thumped and swished his laundry basket down the stairs and into the washer machine. In my 9 years as a mother, the laundry was always the thing that I took care of. It was always the chore that was a bit too difficult to complete because of the height of the washer, finding the correct temperature for the type of clothing, and then drying everything with soft-wool dryer balls. Inside, my mommy radar told me to go with it – and let this moment unfold.
So, I join Buddy and show him the correct button to push to start the laundry. As soon as the button chimes there is a click in the washer and the lid latches. Then the water begins to pour from the sides – like two water hoses filling up a pool. Buddy smacks his hands together and jumps up-and-down. He celebrates his small victory. He celebrates his new learning: cleaning clothes.
Despite the washer machine not having laundry soap in it or my daughter growing-up too fast with her pink lipstick smile, I will admit that many positive things are happening in our cooped-up, social-distancing, new normal lifestyle. We have loads of new baked goodies, small canvas filled with watercolor mosaics, and tiny birdhouses constructed by the youngest of engineers. And, while it is not the ideal lifestyle I want for my kids or for any of our children in our world, I do believe some beautiful gems can be uncovered as we gently shake our normal.