Part of my goal with the launch of Authentically CLE is to be able to share more in-depth, my-life stories, along with the stories of movers and shakers around Cleveland. And while there is so much that can be said about living through this extraordinary time, to me the biggest challenge (and the biggest joy) has been parenting in a pandemic.
On Friday, March 13, I picked Jeffrey up from school and explained that he wouldn’t be going back for a little while. Neither one of us really knew what that meant. Which is the first challenge…not knowing what’s going on. As parents, our children look to us for answers and stability. I couldn’t tell him when or if he’d go back to school. I didn’t have a game plan or know totally what our lives were going to look like. The best I could do was answer in the short-term.
I will fully admit that I am not cut out to be a teacher of young children (or even just one young child.) I’ve taught some law school classes and it’s possible those folks would also say I’m not cut out to be a teacher of grad students. But nevertheless, we dove into Kindergarten worksheets and lessons.
Jeffrey’s teachers were phenomenal at providing worksheets, lessons, projects, and fun ways for the kids to stay connected via Zoom and FlipGrid.
Still, I felt like we were just treading water most days when I wanted Jeffrey to be making progress both academically and socially.
Then there were the things that should be celebrated. Jeffrey’s basketball season was cut short and his end-of-the-season party was canceled. So, I bought a trophy off Amazon and we made our own celebration.
Kindergarten graduation looked different than expected too, but we found a way (again, Amazon comes through in a clutch.)
And his sixth birthday party was much smaller than usual…
As a parent who throws the big parties and never hesitates to take him to fun places, it’s been a struggle for me to figure out my role. To figure out how to make the world bright and shiny and happy for him, particularly when I didn’t really feel that way. To accept that by the time the world righted itself, he may have outgrown the desire for some things and I may have had my last go-around with certain activities without even realizing it.
We had honest conversations about the virus and what we need to do to stay safe. We had conversations about how the summer would look different than usual. He saw me cry some days. He saw me be frustrated. And I held space for him to do and be the same. In this stripped-down version of life, all we can do sometimes is be that place for each other.
But there were moments when he’d tell me that everything was great; that he loved his celebrations; that he wore his cap and gown to the grocery store; that he embraced random theme weeks; that he would just do things “when the sickness stopped.”
And I hope those memories stick, when he tells his grandkids how he lived through the Pandemic of 2020.
There has never been a handbook for parenting (no matter what anyone may tell you.) But this current situation would have thrown it out the window even if there was. So, we navigate day-to-day, we find joy in the little moments, we leave space for extra emotion, and we realize that the most important part of any plan or lack thereof is that we’re together. The rest will fall into place from there.