School is in session

On top of everyone’s level of unpredictability rising, we have had a tumultuous time of change at our house. Joy moved out to do grad school, Bianca headed to her next family, Flora joined the family, we spent a lot of time up north, and somewhere in the middle of all of that four of our kids started virtual school.

Those changes are a challenge for adults to digest, but they are untenable to little kids. We’ve discussed them at nauseam, put them on the calendar in sticker form, prepared, celebrated, you name it! And our kids, as they always do, are rising to the occasion.

For months, I have seen our Labor Day weekend at a favorite lake as the end of the change era. As we returned home last night, I realized that the many months of upheaval are coming down from this point forward. It’s weird to think about back to school as an improvement in that regard, as we are all still cooped up in the house! But it is.

Our school and teachers have worked really hard to bring structure to the madness. This is only our second week, and I know we are all feeling better than we were in the spring. Thinking about how much work goes into any simple opera performance these days makes me well aware of the blood, sweat, and tears that these teachers are putting into every hour of class they are providing.

The big kids were nervous to start a new grade, which I suspect is tied to feeling like they didn’t really finish the last one. Griffin was crushed, as this was the year he was finally supposed to go on the school bus. But he is so intrigued by his teacher and by so much computer time that I think it will be quickly forgotten. And we had worried about Sylvie having tons of time as the youngest at home without her siblings around her – clearly no longer concern!

Tess is still heavily into art, although she is now also chasing caterpillars and tadpoles. It’s fun to see our girly girl get her hands dirty with such glee. Remy is still heavily into bikes, superheroes and Legos, although he is also becoming a big bookworm as his reading gets stronger. Nothing could make me happier! Lilou loves playing in the water and following the big kids, but she has become the biggest helper in the house. She’s an amazing big sister, and is always aware of what other people are doing and how they are feeling. She is right there with Tess with nature, although her current obsession is frogs. Griffin is excited by anything with wheels! He also loves to be in the water, but if there’s a scooter or bike nearby he will be on it. He loves to play games where he can create the rules as they go, and he’s always grinning when he gets to play with a group. Especially now. Sylvie can’t get engrossed in anything, but she is adding handfuls of words every day, in English and French. She loves Elmo and is obsessed with the music from frozen. Hearing her try to sing the songs is hilarious and awesome.

So we read, ride bikes, play outside, dress up as superheroes and have unplanned sing-along’s. The dance parties continue, as do the kids skill sets in gardening, cooking and cleaning. All of that can be done at home, and together. Our rules are less strict, our time less structured outside of school and work. And we have decided as a family that whatever brings us joy that is feasible will be tackled. We don’t always know what that means, but we do know how hard so many months without friends can feel like. When we look back, we want some happy memories mixed in with the weirdness. And that is a great goal to strive for.


Apple crumble and emails

Dave and I are coming up on 11 years of marriage. My awesome sister-in-law gave us access to a really cool place that’s impossible to book. We got one night out in the woods, a night to chat calmly over dinner we didn’t make while admiring the beautiful trees and sky all around us. I read a novel and went to bed early. It was divine! We didn’t hear a peep from home, and hoped for the best but feared the worst. After a beautiful hike on the way home, we came back to a calm house. The kids were working their way through school and arguing with Flora in French about their homework – which is a win in many ways! They worked together to make an apple crumble the night before, which was delicious! I will admit easily that Dave and I would never have pulled off baking on a school night. Hats off to Katherine and Flora.

We worried about virtual school all summer. We accepted supply boxes with trepidation, and winced as the kids got frustrated with the video days. And yet, within a few weeks, we’ve all adapted pretty well. Let’s not pretend that we are beyond the era of temper tantrums and stomping away from “class”. Still, I am in awe of these teachers in the school. They are teaching in a new way with empathy, patience, creativity and success. We would love for the world to be different, but we can survive this just fine.

All of the kids miss their friends. They miss recess and chatting at their tables. They miss lunch and exploring other kids lockers. School has built-in social time, but I know it’s not the same.

Tess is old enough to do some thing about it. She and a friend have started emailing each other, and it suddenly occurred to Tess that she could email more people. It’s amazing to see how much her language skills have grown, and how suddenly meaningful our communication style can become. I know full well that email belongs to my generation and older! But watching modern day penpals bloom is pretty awesome. Bringing email back!

As summer ends, our freedom to swim and play outdoors with abandon is coming to an end. We will transition to bikes and painting in the garage, but losing swimming will hurt. As much as I keep assuring myself that we are through the latest wave of change, I have a feeling that changes will keep coming for quite some time. At least Dave and I feel ready to steward the kids through the next few rounds.