Unexpected Adventures in Mom School

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All Images: Sarah Pinault

This is not the quarantine you were looking for.

Week four is about to begin, a shadow rises in the West as schools begin cancelling the rest of the school year. I’ve picked stickers off the floor, scraped chalkboard paint from places there should be no chalkboard paint, and more than once I have climbed the stairs on my hands and knees to my husband’s pseudo-office, and jokingly begged him to take over “Mama School” as we have all taken to calling it. And yet…

My four year old is learning numbers from her brothers, with more interest than she has shown before. My eight year old with ADHD has not had a single episode of anxiety, paranoia, or the “what should I do’s” in three weeks. My ten year old misses his friends, but he adores yoga, and has plowed through more books than I have.

My four year old now draws definable people after doodling with Mo Willems for three weeks. My eight year old has been devouring Crash Course, the science episodes, with Hank Green, and now knows more about DNA than I do. Also RNA—he would not forgive me if I did not mention RNA. My ten year old has spent more time practicing his saxophone than I have ever seen him, and is proud of what he sounds like now, finally feeling comfortable reading his music.

Drawing by Charlie, age 8.

I still feel like a complete dolt most of the time. I still worry that this is setting them up for a really hard fall, especially the one starting Middle School in September. But I have to admit that we all have a little spring in our step. Certainly we’ve had to stop ourselves from heading to Target or the playground more than once. My daughter is a little confused as to why we cannot go to Build-a-Bear. My son missed his birthday trip to Legoland in Boston. There’s a lot to be unhappy with right now, and a lot to be worried about. But I find that these adorable new co-workers of mine make the days more than bearable.

Sure, I would like them to spend this week with their peers, and an actual licensed teacher, but as substitute arrangements go, this one is hanging in there far better than I expected. Every day I am more and more conscious of how fortunate we are: that we all like each other; that my husband and I can work from home; that the school sent iPads home for the school; that I arrived at Sam’s Club this weekend just as they unloaded the toilet paper and kitchen towels. I also got the last 15 pound bag of flour. It seemed like a good day to get a lottery ticket, but I didn’t really want to use the touchscreen on the machine in our grocery store.

Despite my pride last week in coming up with the final schedule for Mama School, it changed twice more. Then once again over the weekend, when I remembered something that went wrong on Friday. But the scheduling works for us, and the kids have a stake in what stays and what goes. I’m ignoring all the well meaning advice to quit the schedule and let the kids be more free range, because my kids are of the kind that thrive on regularity being the backbone of their day, of knowing what comes next. They argue more on schedule-free Sunday than they do at any other time right now. They are far more Hobbit than anything else, especially since the advent of second breakfast and elevenses that coincided with the Quarantine.

Week four comes in like a lamb, and it may leave like a lamb or it may leave like a lion. But as long as that lamb or lion are wearing masks, we’ll be okay. We’ll all be okay.

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