And… They’re Going… Maybe… Sorta

Finally, the school committee voted, on a new plan that was just proposed and wasn’t even discussed last week. One person abstained. Seriously, why be on the school council if you can’t own up to making a vote on such a hard choice. If you think it’s hard and messy right now, imagine being one of the parents who have to make some very difficult decisions right now. Yes, it’s a mess, but votes matter to constituents.

The new plan is a modified phased in approach, where the vocational students, vulnerable students, and those with IEPs/special needs attend school on the first day. Then 3 weeks later, they phase the next group of kids. Then the keep phasing kids in every 3 weeks until finally all the kids can be in school together. All of the kids in the schools together, while there’s a pandemic going on, right in time for flu season to hit. Then we get to play the fun game of “Is it COVID or Is It the Flu?” I do love a good mystery game…

What do I like? I could send my youngest, who receives services, to school and know that there won’t be as many kids. Maybe even less than 20 in the entire school, and it would be less risky for him and myself. Since he doesn’t really see his grandparents, because of you know… a pandemic, it’s only me that I have to worry about dying. Also, that means I get rid of my kid finally after having him 24/7 for what feels like a century. If you knew my precious little Loki, you’d get it.

There, I mentioned everything I like about the plan. One of the arguments is sending the kids for their social and emotional development. So my kid, being in a room potentially alone with a single teacher (because apparently the fine details aren’t important or something), isn’t getting that development from interacting with peers. Because he’ll have no peers. If they do intermix classrooms, how would that work of they separate the kids? How do you argue that they need to form a relationship with the teachers if that may not even be their teacher when full face to face opens?

Then, there are the high schoolers. They didn’t even have a plan out for the seniors returning to school. Are they just not returning? When they do return, what does the cohort system look like for them? Does my son still get AP classes? Will he have to suffer in classes he didn’t want rather than those he was really excited about, like his forensic case studies class? How are they going to ensure that the buses aren’t overloaded? Is the attendance policy voided for the year due to the circumstances, or are we going to have to pay hundreds of dollars in medical bills (if we’re lucky) every time our kid has a cough so they can be cleared for school?

As parents, I think we deserve more than “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there”. I definitely think that we deserve more than what we’ve seen on this school council to the point that I think we need to really reconsider the people who serve us. I think that if I had the funds, popularity, or even anything that I think would be a good quality in a school council member, I would run because I think I would do better. I think that you shouldn’t be able to abstain because you’re angry or because you’re too scared to vote either way. I think you should push for exact details before voting on a plan. If not to make an informed decision, to at least get details so the people your plans actually impact can know what to expect or what to do next. I think that you shouldn’t be as confused, or more confused, than your constituents who are watching the meeting. And I especially don’t think that you should make things even more confusing for us.

I understand the importance of being in school for kids. I understand being a working parent who doesn’t particularly like the idea of remote learning, because working from home while being a teacher is hard. Yes, I’m fortunate I do work from home and can accommodate the remote plan while others can’t. But I also can’t say I have any faith at all that my children will be safe going back to school, especially since I have more questions than answers. And honestly, the fact that so many people don’t actually know what the decision was even after watching that meeting shows just how awful the whole situation is. If we didn’t understand what’s going on, it’s the fault of those people in charge.

So what’s my plan? I guess I’ll find out when they can tell me what their plan is because I have no idea what’s going on. Or hope that the Governor scraps it and calls it a day because some school districts can’t get their stuff together.

An Impossible Position for Parents

Exactly a week ago, I wrote about the impossible position our schools are in. How no matter what their decision will be, there will be a lot of people pissed at them. Now, it’s time to talk about the impossible position we as parents are in right now.

As parents, it’s our number 1 priority to ensure the safety of our kids. We are responsible for making hard decisions every day about what’s best for them. We plan out where to live to make sure they are in the best schools we can provide them. We carefully pick out a pediatrician so that they get the best care we can provide them. We make every decision to do what we think is best for our kids. The minute a decision is made that isn’t in the best interest of our kids, that’s a failure on our part. We’re not perfect as parents; we’re just trying to make it through the day without anyone dead, if possible, and with as much of our sanity intact that we can salvage.

This pandemic has divided parents as much as other hot topics such as vaccines, breastfeeding, babywearing, and staying home/going to work. The thing is that at our core, every parent has their own ideological beliefs that drive them. Some parents think that school is so important to kids that they are willing to just risk it. It’s no worse than the flu anyways, right? Some parents don’t have the option because the world is fundamentally stacked against the working people, so they have to send their kids to school out of financial necessity whether they believe it’s safe or not. Some parents are so stuck on the idea of remote learning because of fear of the virus entering into their carefully crafted bubble or just because they believe that masks are deadlier to kids than the coronavirus is.

Then, there are parents like me that are torn. Sort of. My oldest, as long as if there are sports and he can participate in them, will likely do remote learning either way. I just don’t understand how they expect to keep high schoolers maintained enough for proper contact tracing if a virus outbreak in the school happens. I just have too many questions that I feel aren’t addressed. Does he get in a cohort with kids who have the same exact courses as he has? Does he have to sacrifice classes, like his AP classes, because he’s in a cohort that doesn’t offer those classes? Sure, it’s been 18 years since I’ve been in high school, but high schoolers like mischief. They like rebellion. They probably won’t wear masks, or they’ll pull that super awesomely effective move where they wear the mask under their nose. They’ll huddle around each other and the schools won’t properly monitor that. They’ll pull down their mask and cough on someone screaming “Corona!!!” thinking it’s hilarious. Plus, he’s on an already overly crowded bus. Even in cohorts, how are they going to manage the safety of the kids on the bus? There are too many questions and I personally enjoy having a child who is alive and being alive myself that I just can’t risk it.

The issue is then my youngest child. He receives services in school. He’ll be 8 when school starts. He has anxiety attacks and a sensory disorder that they said he would’ve grown out of by now, but hasn’t. He requires movement breaks and his noise-cancelling headset when he gets anxious or the class is too loud. How is that going to work in the new COVID classroom? How can we expect that these kids are going to keep their distance or even keep their mask on? How can we expect that they will wash their hands regularly? What about when they eat together? They need their mask off to eat, so how does that happen safely with kids? But, he’s at an age where school is so important for his social and emotional development, an area where he does need help in.

I understand that sending him to school is a preferable choice. Even at the beginning, I mentioned that my plan was to go hybrid for my youngest and remote learning for my oldest. But after last week’s school council meeting, I don’t trust that they really have a viable plan to keep my kids safe. Even if they have a plan, I’m not sure I trust the higher ups to follow through with their end of the bargain. This puts us parents who have to make this choice in a really hard spot. What are we supposed to do? The default for me as a parent is to err on the side of caution, suck it up, and do my best. That means both will be in remote learning, even though I’m risking the mental health of my child (and myself, the way last year went). But that’s our difficult decision.

Parents always find their way when making these impossible choices. It’s not for us to judge others for their choice. This isn’t a time where you call the remote learning families “scared wusses that fall for media scare tactics and propaganda”. This isn’t a time to put down those pushing remote learning as “bored, stay at home mom keyboard warriors and what about us parents who actually work”. We’re all trying to do the best we can in a situation that we’ve never had to face. There’s no parenting book on how to raise a child during the pandemic. Even if they were, how useful are parenting books anyways? They just make you feel bad about yourself because nothing works for you. We are forging our own paths here and a little more support and a little less judgement is the right play here.

Can I Send Them Back Yet?

Like most parents during this coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming school year has given me a lot of anxiety. This anxiety could be eased if I had some sort of expectation of what will be happening in the upcoming school year. With about 6 weeks to go until school starts, I’ve already started getting my youngest in the routine of going to bed/getting up early so he’d be awake for school. But aside from that, my normal preparations of buying school supplies and clothing that I’d normally start planning early based on sales isn’t going to happen for me yet. Why? Why should I buy $200 of school supplies per kid if they don’t end up back in the classroom? Why spend double that on clothes if they are just going to be in their pajamas behind a computer?

I understand why there is so much uncertainty. People were hoping this would be gone by August/September and the kids could go to school as usual and things would be great. But people are dumb (yes, I said it. Dumb people who don’t take precautions are why this is still a problem.), so things can’t go back to normal yet. But where does this leave us? They say we will have some idea of what’s going on by Friday of this week… or of next week. They did release something to give us an expectation of what to expect, plan-wise, but there are too many unknowns.

Based on the information as I interpreted it, there would be a hybrid option and a remote learning option. Every kid is different, and this is exactly the situation in my household. My oldest, who will be a senior this upcoming school year (yikes!), takes an overly crowded bus to school. My youngest walks to school and has a 504 plan in place. Both of these scenarios requires a different approach and I’m a firm believer in individualism.

If given the option, I would let my oldest take remote learning. He’s a bright kid who can work well attending classes online and would keep up with his work because he has goals of going to college and going into forensics, something that he takes very seriously. Plus, I would argue he is at a higher risk of infection because of him being on an overcrowded bus and just because he has a mask on, doesn’t mean the 3 people he’d be sharing the row of seats with would. There’s also the fact that high schoolers switch classes throughout the day, meaning there is an even higher risk of contact. Common sense would tell me if there was a kid that was going to be likely to bring it home with them, it would be the high schooler. He’s likely going to at least miss out on swimming anyways with everything going on, so there won’t be a risk of him not being able to participate because of remote learning.

Then there is my youngest. If given the option, I will be sending him for hybrid learning. First of all, he has a 504 plan with occupational therapy and I’ve tried unsuccessfully to perform those services for him. There’s also the social aspect of it. While my oldest spends all day texting or talking to his friends on Discord or playing games with them, my youngest still needs to develop those important social skills. How to behave in the classroom, how to interact with other kids. Those are things that can really only be learned in the classroom. Having time in the classroom if it’s safe enough, meaning that they can follow the safety guidelines, is beneficial to my youngest during this crucial time in his development. Would I be mad if I didn’t have this option? No, because safety is more important than anything and I’d rather do remote learning with my kids than put my family or other people at risk of getting sick. Honestly, parents already send their kids to school sick half the time because they can’t take the day off of work or they don’t want to deal with it. That’s just not acceptable under these circumstances, so who knows what kids are going to be going to school with. I hope it’s safe and while regulations are great, they puts a lot of assumption that people care enough to follow them. They don’t seem to do that already.

I don’t put any blame on our school district for not having more answers. Should they have been planning something since this all happened, just in case? I would hope that they already had some sort of idea of what the next school year could look like, even if they only recently received the state guidelines for reopening. I’m trusting in the teachers of this district to be the voices of our students, like I’ve trusted the teachers in this district since my own experiences growing up in these schools. My trust in the school council is far less certain, but I’m hoping for the best. This is something new that we’ve never experienced before. This is a new way of life that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, as cases are starting to spike in some areas.

Growing Up Girl

I saw a post on social media that inspired me. And it was the things that women are taught as girls growing up. I remember those lessons. They are as ingrained in my brain as when my parents taught me to cook or my dad taught me about the various tools and how to fix/assemble things as he would with his sons.

I remember them all. The importance of walking with a tall, confident posture because it makes you a less easy target. Holding your keys in your hand so that you can use it to defend yourself. The importance of a buddy system whenever you go out, especially at least another girl to go to the bathroom with you. While boys are not being taught to not rape, girls are forced to learn how to avoid it. Or at least try to. Sometimes, all the preparation in the world doesn’t protect you.

I remember being taught self-defense by my older brother when I was a teenager, my early teens. I remember he told me that this was one of the most important things I would need to learn in life. Mechanically speaking, I could probably severely injure someone if necessary thanks to those lessons. But we’re always taught to be afraid, aren’t we?

It’s always about being on high alert, that anything can happen at any second. We’re taught to be afraid because the unfortunate reality is that people aren’t safe in the world. The world is a terrible place. I have something I can use as a weapon in every room in the house. Why? Because I was taught that I should be afraid of the world.

This isn’t a bad thing, unless you let this fear control your life. These things that we learn are meant to empower us to be strong in the face of this fear. We’re supposed to take the threat of trauma, or our actual trauma, and take away some lesson from it that doesn’t involve blame. We have to take precautions, but knowing that every precaution in the world won’t necessarily protect you is important to not blaming yourself if it does.

The question isn’t about the lessons that girls learn, but what should boys learn? They need to learn about consent. They need to learn acceptable behaviors and how to properly interact with people. When my oldest became old enough to date, we gave him a talk that is almost as important as “The Talk”; one about how not to be a horrible person. We talked to him about how it’s not just “No Means No” but that it means “No” whether you haven’t even started or in the middle of it. How if you don’t get any actual consent of “Yes, this is okay”, then don’t. Someone who is drunk or under the influence can’t consent even if they did. Maybe we should focus less on teaching girls to be afraid and more about teaching our boys to be more respectful. Maybe that’s what our real problem is.

Navigating the Tricky Season of Preparing for School Next Year

The school district my boys attend had their last day of school yesterday. With another school district releasing their tentative guidelines for next year and the state releasing theirs, it has caused a lot of… mixed feelings. From uninformed people saying their kids are going to die of carbon dioxide poisoning if you make them wear masks and the others fighting about how selfish non-mask wearers are, there have been a lot of opinions on this topic. As usual, I’m here to share mine and I’m choosing to look on the positives.

For instance, the biggest positive is that I won’t have to do “distance learning” with my kid every day of the week. Sure, I’ll have to do it 2 or 3 days a week potentially, but I’ll take that over struggling to get them to do their work done every day. Those other days, they will have the teacher in the classroom helping them out as best as they can with restrictions in place. I’m sure their help, even as restricted as it may be, is going to be a lot better than what I’m doing as I frustratingly scream at my youngest saying “Just use a calculator, I don’t even care anymore.”

I have started “doomsday prepping”, if you will. I ordered materials to make masks for the boys for school so that they can comply, while being as cool as possible. I bought some Spongebob fabric for my youngest, and this really neat “peacock” colored fabric for my oldest. I bought supplies ahead of any announcement because honestly, I don’t want to be put in a place where I’m stuck without anything I need and I have to resort to “homeschooling”.

I will be sending my boys back, even if these strict guidelines are in place. My oldest is going to be a senior and he needs to have as much of this senior experience as he can. My youngest has his own set of issues and getting him back into the strict routine school offers is going to be the best thing for him. Will getting him to wear the mask be hard? Maybe. But as someone with a terrible immune system, I’m okay with having extra protections to ensure I don’t get sick. It’s fine when you’re a healthy person to throw a fit about making your kid wear a mask, but this is for as much my protection as it is his.

I think the smaller classroom sizes only benefit the kids, especially kids like mine with sensory issues. With less “noise” going on around him, he might be able to focus better. The teachers may not be able to closely interact with the students, but they are still going to get more individualized attention in the classroom instead of getting lost in the shuffle of 19 other students. The teacher will be able to take more time explaining things that other kids are struggling with.

People tend to always have this knee-jerk reaction of negativity, without looking at the positive. Like, now I get to send my kid back to school for at least some of the time and regain some of that “me-time” I haven’t had since March. If done well, this could be a positive thing for students. I have to start thinking about the positives because right now everything seems to be on fire around us in the world that we need to start looking at the positives in the situation.

Upending the Lives of Children

My child thrives on routine. Due to his many difficulties, routine is something that is sacred to him. If things don’t go to an exact routine, his entire day is destroyed and that’s the reality of having a child like him. Even my older son prefers to stick to a routine and gets a little antsy if things don’t go according to plan. But he’s far more flexible when his routine is shaken up. This is probably one of the biggest challenges I have so far.

I do have as strict of a routine as I possibly can for him, while also managing my own work expectations. This is something a lot of parents are trying to manage right now: juggling their work commitments to their home commitments. That’s not a new concept; working parents have been struggling with this for a long time. The problem is now we are trying to do everything at the same time. Spoiler alert: We’re all failing at it. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to admit that my son has failed every science project that we’ve received because he doesn’t follow the instructions, such as “work with a parent”. I’m honestly not sure how his teachers manage to get him to listen. His teachers are saints and magicians all at once.

Their lives are, and I don’t mean to be dramatic here, ruined. They aren’t getting that social interaction with other children that they need to thrive. They don’t get to run around at the playgrounds. Seniors are missing their year-end events. Juniors are missing out on prep time for their things like college tours, college fairs, and exams. These are experiences that they aren’t going to get back. And that’s sad. My heart hurts for them. Just because I didn’t care about these events, doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the milestones. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel compassion for those students missing out on this. You only have your youth for so long and to have these major moments not be a part of them, that does make me feel bad for them.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason for it. I keep seeing petitions about how people should be at risk to put these events on anyways. I agree about the importance of these events, but to put lives at risk for them? Until there’s testing made more available and a vaccine created, it’s never going to be safe out there. That’s science. There’s more evidence of the probability of reinfection than there is that there’s no risk of it. But this is so new that no one knows anything. If this were my kid, I wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony because it was too risky for me, nor could my parents who have a very close relationship with my son. There are safe ways to do things and there’s being completely stupid.

Some places have setup schedules where an individual student can bring a couple of family members to see them do the walk and the students get that experience, even if they can’t share it with their friends. That’s a safe idea. That’s a good approach. That allows for social distancing, while giving the child that experience. It won’t be the same as the grand graduation ceremony students usually get, but it’s better than a Zoom graduation.

People are making rash decisions because they aren’t thinking logistically; they are thinking selfishly. Your want to do something doesn’t take over the reality of the situation. The reality of the situation is that there are over 50,000 people across the country who have died and that number doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’d even be willing to bet that those places who have decided to say “eff it” and reopen are going to make those numbers jump even higher. Do I like it that I’m in charge of providing barely adequate education to my children? No. Does that mean I think the schools should open up just because I don’t want to deal with it? I’d rather have my children alive, I’m silly like that.

In a time when we should be growing closer together, helping each other, we are bickering like children. We are stubbornly following whatever our political affiliation wants to spoon-feed us and doing so blindly. This was a test to see if our country could unite to do the right thing and make the changes to become better, and I’m sad to say we failed.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I’m not a particularly positive person. I’m more of a jaded realist. The thing about being a realist is that you are often accused of pessimism. Am I guilty of pessimism? Who isn’t? Hope is the most treacherous of human fancies, after all. A motto I lived much of my teen years following.

Some time after becoming a parent, I lost the need for pessimism as a crutch though I still mention how my class voted me the class pessimist with my dear friend. We deserved it. I started more towards realism, still careful not to hope. Hope leaves you open for disappointment. I prefer logically considering things and determining the most likely outcome. Things didn’t turn out how I would have liked? I started living by “It could be worse.”

As it turns out, people hate that phrase. I like it because it centers me. It puts things in perspective. Sure, school is officially cancelled for the rest of the year leaving teacher Mom in charge. But, it could be worse. At least I know they are safe. I’m not going to be worried about them contracting the virus at school. I don’t have to worry if their schools become a statistic for school shootings or being bullied. I just have to worry more about whether or not I’m enough for them. And my never getting a moment of quiet time until this lockdown ends. Send help. By “help” I mean “wine”.

Does this new normal suck? Sure. I can’t take my kids to the park. I have to juggle trying to help with 2 sets of remote learning plans plus an OT learning plan. But we’re safe. Aside from the stomach bug that took over our house, we’re healthy. I don’t have as much time to clean because I have to juggle teaching, my own work, keeping them quiet so they don’t bother my husband as he works in the makeshift office in the basement. But, it could be worse.

Whenever someone vents to me about something, I try to remind them that sure things suck but life’s too short to stress over everything. That’s how I remain so seemingly emotionless. It’s not that I don’t care about the Patriots getting rid of another player. It’s just in the grand scheme of things, is that really something worth my already limited sanity? This is something we should appreciate now more than ever. Yes, you are validated in feeling emotionally done. But looking at how things could be worse doesn’t dismiss those real feelings of stress and anxiety; it helps puts things in perspective. At least we have a roof over our heads to stay safe during these difficult times. We have food in our fridge. Because there are a lot of people who don’t have these luxuries. They don’t have the luxury of remote learning capabilities. It could be so much worse for us.

Most importantly, we have each other. And as long as we each do our part, things will get better. We just have to do what needs to be done. This may be considered a war time, but do we have to go to war? No. We have to sit on our asses playing video games, catching up on our reading list, binge-watching whatever we want. Some people have to still go out and work, my husband being one of them. But he wears his mask, uses his hand sanitizer, and washes his hands because it’s more than just about him getting sick. This is our time to shine. This is our time to come together and ask for help and put a smile on another person’s face. Because they probably need it. We all do.

Managing a Tummy Ache During a Pandemic

What we’re learning so far is that life still needs to move on, even in a way that isn’t our usual, no matter what circumstances are going on around us. We still have to work to pay bills, if we’re fortunate enough to do so. We have to juggle that with remote learning plans to ensure our children are still exercising their brains. We have to manage their science projects from school that you messed up because your child was so excited he tore off the instructions and you were left going “oops” or you have to grow a plant even though you have the worst green thumb in the planet and ended up killing their science project.

Deep breath. Now, you just have an added worry. Fortunately, my husband has been spending a majority of this working from home though there have been times where he’s had to go out. He’s the one who goes out for groceries because his wife has a terrible immune system, so I stay home with the youngest. The only trips the youngest and I ever make out is to walk over to the school to grab their food packs, because it gives the kids some routine where they go out and get fresh air to do something.

That doesn’t mean no germs are coming into the house. Last weekend, my husband ended up with a stomach bug that we watched carefully, but it went away after a few days. Then, my youngest had it. This stomach bug is making its way through our house during a pandemic. That’s not great for my anxiety at all. This is where educating myself comes in. I understand the symptoms of the virus. I know that it’s a stomach bug because there’s a very low-grade fever, nothing with the respiratory tract, and the symptoms went away after a few days. Though it does seem to spread. My oldest is now showing symptoms. My house is doomed. Mommy is the last person standing, so you know that means she’s going to get smacked. Let’s see how these monsters last without me for a few days.

Still, it’s easy to freak out. It’s normal to. The idea that you can be as safe as possible and you just need someone else to do the same to avoid getting sick. That’s why we avoid going out. That’s why we avoid takeout as much as possible. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and #science. By denying science, denying how serious this illness is, by not educating yourself is not only hurting you but the people around you. It doesn’t matter that you’re young and healthy. It can still get you. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and healthy, the people you visit may not be. Is it really worth the risk?

Finding the right balance of being concerned without being overly freaked out is important for your sanity. Again, this is the importance of staying educated. That’s why you wear your mask out, even if you think you look ridiculous. Even if it fogs up your glasses. Even if you don’t think you can breathe in it. You can, I promise. That’s why you wash your hands constantly no matter how dry they get. Just buy a lotion from Lush Cosmetics, trust me they’re great. (Not paid sponsor, I’m not popular enough for that. But, I like sharing great products.) The sooner that people stop being idiots, the sooner this gets under control. Sure, you can be scared. I’m pretty terrified, if I’m going to be honest. Not just that this thing is going to cause serious damage to my friends, who are out there working despite all of this going on. Not just that my family can be impacted by it. But because if this keeps going on, we’re all going to run out of food and toilet paper because people panic buy everything. Then that makes other people panic buy even more because they are afraid they aren’t going to have any food because now you’re in a cycle where the only winners are the businesses selling us the food.

As for now, I’m going to practice my vomit exercise as one child has started vomiting in the bathroom (hopefully the toilet, but you never know with him) and the other into a bucket while laying on the couch. All while trying to keep my sanity and hold off this stomach bug as much as possible. Because that’s what mom’s do.

As It Turns Out, I Would’ve Been a Terrible Teacher

I know it’s been a while. Adjusting to this new normal has been a bit crazy, but I’ve finally gotten into the swing of things again to get back to doing this. I’m hoping now I can get back to my usual schedule, but these are uncertain times so who really knows. I do promise that I’m going to try my best.

If you’re new the the blog, then you probably don’t know that I originally went to college to be a teacher. After some time in the field and doing some of the coursework, I definitely reconsidered that choice. The teachers at my college basically informed us that it was a thankless job that we’d probably fail at and that we were just glorified babysitters that get abused by parents and administration. A few of the teachers I observed seemed to be less than thrilled with their choice. I had such high hopes of having an impact on the lives of my students while sharing my passion for books and literary theory. I slowly realized maybe that wasn’t what I was meant for. So now you have me here as an adequate blogger/author. Yay you?

I often toy around with the idea of going back to school, just to do it and try. Why not? But then this new normal of remote learning with me trying to teach my kids happened. Then I realized, I would have made a terrible teacher. It definitely confirmed that elementary school wasn’t going to be my area of specialty. Especially when dealing with a child who has a 504 plan that I’m also supposed to be sticking to. Who has anxiety struggles, sensory struggles, and attention problems. My oldest one is fine. He mostly just does it all himself without asking questions, unless he’s come up with great question and wants to discuss and debate it. That I enjoy.

I would be that teacher that sneaks wine in a soda can during school. Or Bailey’s in my coffee. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m trying to manage my workload on top of playing teacher. Or if I’m just super stressed dealing with everything and wish I could just take them to the park to burn off energy, even though my youngest never runs out of energy. (I live in a house but my neighbors don’t seem to be practicing social distancing and I’m not risking it.)

This is new to all of us parents who don’t already homeschool. Trying to make sure that they keep up while trying to adjust based on their needs is a struggle, especially when you have your own work to do. Times are tough right now. You try to avoid the news so that you don’t get anxious and spread that to your kids. You try to make their lives as normal as possible when there’s nothing normal about this situation. They are scared and you have to suck it up to be their light in a tunnel that just seems to get darker every day. These are trying times. These are new times that many of us have never experienced before. But, I’m hopeful that once we get through this tunnel, we can make it through anything.

The Two Most Important Questions to Ask Your Kids

Every day when I first see my boys after school, I ask my boys 2 simple questions: “How are you?” and “How was your day?” I consider these the most important questions that I will ask my kids every day. There’s a subtle difference between these two questions, even if you think I’m just asking the same question twice. But it’s very deliberate.

The first question I ask them every day is “How are you?” I’m asking them about how they emotionally feel after their day. Do they feel good? Excellent, even? Are they feeling a bit meh? I want to know how they are feeling because that’s the most important thing to me. I want to make sure that I ask because I want them to know that first and foremost, I care about their mental health. If they have a few days in a row where they shrug or answer negatively, I plan a surprise to cheer them up. I give them more individual time to see what’s going on. I make sure that they know how important they are.

The second question immediately follows. “How was your day?” This is me asking them what happened. Did anything fun or exciting happen? Was it a crappy day? This gives them the opening to know that I’m here to listen to them, no matter how great or boring or bad their day was. Surprisingly, they always open up. “This kid was a bully to me, but it’s okay because I just ignored them.” Or my oldest goes on long discussions about how amazing his forensics class is or how he roasted his friend. This can also give some excellent insight into how they are feeling.

These questions are incredibly important for a few reasons. First of all, it tells them that I honestly care about how their day was no matter how mundane it was. I give them my undivided attention as they answer these questions to show them that no matter what, I’m going to be annoyingly there for them. I stop work when they answer and any other time that they want to talk to me. I want them to know that I am there for them and have this open line of communication so if there is something big, they’ll let me know.

Most importantly, I’m emphasizing how important mental health is. In the past, mental health was shrugged off or seen as a weakness. Even today, there’s still so much stigma around it. I want them to know that they are loved and valued. I want them to know that I care about their emotional health more than I care about their grades. As it turns out, this is something that may even help them do better in school. My expectations for them are that they grow up happy, love what they do, give back, and just be productive people in society.

I stand by my belief that these are the most important questions to ask your kids every day. This forms a special and trusting bond that may be helpful to them when they need it the most. Maybe this can make a difference in their lives, no matter how annoying they find me today.