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What is it called
when you’ve been
hiding inside
for so long
that when it’s safe
to emerge
you are reluctant
to embrace
your freedom
not quite
trusting
the invitation

What’s the word
for when you
can only
sit on a bench
watching people
who are probably
your friends
but whom you can’t
quite recognize
talk to each other
and laugh
you assume
they are smiling
too

What does it mean
when you’ve
forgotten
how to make
polite conversation
at a gathering of
more than
three people
when most
of the people
seem extraneous
and make you feel
awkward and
ill-equipped
for the world

How do you
follow the rules
when they are
constantly
being rewritten
how do you know
which ones to
obey and
which ones to
ignore

Where do you
find the strength
required
to survive
in the wild
when you’ve
become accustomed
to shuffling
back and forth
in your
designated
enclosure
littered with
all the evidence
of living

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
April 2021

I feel like my brain is producing a constant stream of reminders of everything I’m doing wrong or failing to do at all. Even if I take a walk or meditate or try breathing techniques, it all comes rushing back at me in waves as soon as I stop. I am neglecting all these things I’m supposed to do for my health, and I’m overwhelmed by them. 

My kids want my undivided attention all the time. Zeke cries when I try to get him to do schoolwork he doesn’t want to do. Every day is a battle over what he’s willing to do. He is upstairs right now sobbing because I asked him to write something about a tv show we just watched about otters, which he loved, and which he was telling me all about. I just asked him to write down what he told me, but he refused.

I forget so many things. I don’t respond to emails. I completely space out on tasks I’m supposed to do. I write things down and don’t do them, or I forget to write them down. I can’t concentrate at all. 

I can’t keep up with my text conversations with friends because they always seem to be texting when I am in the middle of both teaching Zeke and trying to do a work task.

My sleep is total chaos. The medicine I’m taking for my sleep disorder doesn’t always work. I often end up wiped out by evening and fall asleep at 5 or 6 for an hour or two. Sometimes I am awake until 2 or 3 or 4 because I can’t get my mind to calm down. 

I am so tired of missing everything that we can’t do because of COVID. I am tired of being disappointed, and my kids being disappointed, because something we used to do, or we want to do isn’t possible. I am tired of not knowing when things will get better, or when my kids will be back in school every day. 

I am tired of everyone being on top of each other all the time and having to relocate a million times a day to work. I am tired of battles about screen time and video games and social media. 

I am tired of feeling like this. I know I am depressed, but I’m not so depressed that I can’t get out of bed or function. So maybe I’m not really depressed? Randy is being extra nice to me because he can see I’m struggling, which I appreciate. But I’m tired of struggling. Some days things go well, and I think I’m better, but then something doesn’t go well and I’m back to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. 

I feel like I can’t accomplish simple things anymore, like figuring out what to make for dinner. 

I feel like since I’m trying to do everything at once, I am not doing anything well. 

I’m tired of being worried about the potential health consequences of all of our actions.

I’m tired of grief. 

I don’t want people to try to solve my problems or pity me. I know everyone is struggling and suffering. I wish I were more resilient. I’m tired of feeling pathetic. 

One of the only things that brings me joy right now is making art. Now I have stacks of paper and canvases piling up around my house that I don’t know what to do with. 

I just keep feeling like everything is too hard. I know my life is relatively easy, compared with many people around the world. We have a house, and enough food, and we can buy the things we need. None of us are sick and we haven’t lost anyone close to us from COVID. So why can’t I make myself feel better, do better, be better? It’s just too hard. And then I feel pathetic. 

But…here’s some of my art.

I had another night of so many dreams it felt like I had never slept. And in one of the dreams even, I had been wandering around my church, although it looked utterly unfamiliar and was as large and labyrinthine as an IKEA. I couldn’t find any friends. I was looking for a chair to sleep in and suddenly it was 9am and people came along to tell me it was time to go on the work trip we were there for. A long line of little girls with freshly washed hair, all wearing soccer uniforms, was in the hall beside me and I wondered what work trip they were going on. Or if I was supposed to be participating in a soccer game instead.

This dream was yet another in a series of church dreams in which things are not right. Most of them in recent months have featured our former minister having reinserted himself into the congregation and operating a shadow ministry–oblivious to or unmoved by the fact that we have a new minister now. In every dream I am furious that he is there but powerless to do anything about it, as he doesn’t seem to recognize me or acknowledge my existence. It’s like I’m a ghost. There’s no worse feeling for me.


Of course there are moments–and sometimes even days–of lightness and joy. But more often than not when I wake up in the morning I am reminded of everything we are not allowed to do anymore, or whatever it is I want to do that my children will refuse to do, or the things I know I should do but don’t have the energy to attempt. I am often crushed by the avalanche of things I do not know and cannot figure out.

Zeke is deep into Minecraft and building worlds teeming with ordinary and fantastical creatures. He’s creating universes where he can do whatever he wants, and exert control. Worlds where he doesn’t have to fight with me about doing his writing assignments. So far he’s winning. I downloaded a new curriculum yesterday which I will employ on Monday to try to turn things around.

Zoe’s imaginary worlds are slightly more realistic, but filled with exchanges with friends and strangers and altered by filters. She lives in the universes of TikTok and Snapchat and Instagram. Both of my kids have gained access to places where they are in charge, where they are creative, where they construct their own identities. Places where I could kind of follow, but I would get lost pretty quickly.

So I play Words with Friends and do New York Times crosswords on my phone. I can finish most of the puzzles on my own. I have the feeling that I hear some people feel about math, that it’s satisfying because there’s one right answer and if you follow the steps, you will find it. Of course for me that only happens with words. With Words with Friends, there are a million possible answers, but it’s pretty easy to find a decent one. Since the pandemic started I have lost many more games than I have won. I don’t care. I don’t spend ages trying to find the words with the highest point value. Maybe a few minutes at most. The action of playing is enough for me right now–the discovery of a word. Long ago I realized that my scores in Words with Friends are closely correlated with my mental health and mood. I know a lot of people only play to win–not just in silly apps, but in life. I don’t believe in that.

And I read. And read. And read. Last night I read a middle grade book–Roll with It–by Jamie Sumner. When I finished the book I thought it was thoughtful and charming and an interesting perspective on what it’s like to use a wheelchair and have cerebral palsy when you move to a small Oklahoma town. I opened the Goodreads app on my phone to mark that I’d read it and give it some stars, when I noticed some one-star reviews. I don’t usually read other people’s reviews, but I was surprised by the critique that popped up and I read many of them. Apparently a lot of readers who are people with disabilities found Roll with It ableist and deeply problematic, citing numerous examples of how the author depicted both people with CP and in wheelchairs, and people on the autism spectrum (represented by another character) using inappropriate language and stereotypes. While I was reading the book I kept thinking that the voice of the narrator was honest and realistic, but clearly I don’t know. The author of the book is the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, and presumably based some of the story on those experiences. One of the criticisms of the book was how often the narrator noticed her mom’s tired eyes, which centers the mom’s experience more than the child’s. While I was reading the book, I appreciated those observations because I, too, am a tired mom. But I get it now that the story of the girl shouldn’t have to dwell on the effects of her disability on her mom. That is not her fault. So after reading the reviews I felt like a jerk for blithely enjoying the book and not thinking too hard about how it might seem to a person with a disability. I realized I was demonstrating able-bodied privilege all over the place. I understand that it’s not fair of me to escape into someone else’s trauma. I am holding my breath while I walk the line between wanting to learn about and from other people’s experiences and wallowing in my privilege. Even the forgiving net beneath me is a product of my privilege.

There is so much to learn. So much.

At one point today I was lying in Zeke’s bottom bunk, still in my pajamas, reading sections of his graphic novel about plagues so I could help him sketch out the script for the video I asked him to make to demonstrate what he’d learned. When this book was written in 2017 the author and publisher probably had no idea we would actually be LIVING THROUGH A PLAGUE just a few years in the future.

I realized at the time that lying in bed was probably not the best place to be to teach, but I couldn’t seem to get myself together to get up. It was also pouring down rain and seemed to be just another day living in COVID world and waiting to find out if the current president would be staging a coup to stay in power or would admit that he’d lost the election.

So I was in a pretty bad mood for most of the day.

Then I stormed out of the house.

To go to T-Mobile.

It wasn’t particularly exciting or dramatic but I needed to get some paperwork sorted out and it was an excuse to leave the house.

Even though it’s been an oddly 75-degree November so far, I keep thinking about what we’re going to do over the winter when the weather is terrible and we are cooped up in the house and we can’t go to any indoor play spaces or movies or, um, ANYWHERE INSIDE THAT’S FUN AND DIVERTING AND WHERE KIDS CAN BLOW OFF STEAM.

But we’re not there yet, and perhaps thanks to climate change it will be 75 degrees all winter long!


Things got better this evening. I signed up for Home Chef–a new meal kit delivery service and the first box arrived today. Tonight I made Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Tacos and they were delicious and both of my children ate two tacos! It is so hard to find meals that I can cook and everyone can eat and that my kids actually like. So far two thumbs up for Home Chef.

After dinner Zoe asked to go on a walk with me. The rain had more or less stopped and we walked two and a half miles and had a good conversation. Teenagers aren’t always forthcoming with their time or talk.

I felt so energized by our walk and so frustrated by the lethargy and anxiety that have characterized the past nine months that I decided to start Noom, a wellness app that uses behavioral therapy to help you eat healthier and take better care of your body. I subscribed to EvolveAll.tv so I’ll have some workouts to do at home. Man, I really miss playing soccer. But that’s not an option right now.

I will be the first to admit that I am not always good with follow through. But I am hopeful that Noom will stick and some people will do the EvolveAll workouts in solidarity with me and maybe I won’t fall into the abyss this winter. None of this will make teaching homeschool while working any easier. But maybe I’ll have something to hold onto so I’m less tempted to stay in bed while I ride out the plague.

I feel so much lighter now.

I just delivered a bag of fabric scraps and a bag of scarves, both of which were FG’s, to members of my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group who understand how special FG was and promised to put her things to good use. Both of these women are without cars, so they were particularly grateful that I offered to deliver the bags, even though people usually pick up your Buy Nothing items when you post them on Facebook. I have been carrying these bags around in the trunk of my car for months. They are the last of many more bags of fabric, craft supplies, and assorted other treasures that FG sent home with me from her house over the past year.

Although FG was not a particularly sophisticated social media user (beyond lurking on Facebook and being aware at all times of what I was up to), I know she would have liked Buy Nothing. She and my mom inherited their parents’ habit of saving anything that might ever prove useful, as well as their generosity in sharing what they had with others. FG and my mom–and FG’s daughter, my cousin Melissa–have exemplified the adage, “one person’s trash in another person’s treasure.” Although none of them quite approached the collection and transformation of trash in the same way, all of them have always been creative.

I am usually trying to get rid of things and declutter our house, especially since there’s a steady flow of incoming items. And it is so much fun to see that the Buy Nothing community is thrilled to find new and creative uses for my unwanted stuff. I don’t personally know most of the people in the group, but I’ve gotten to know some of them simply through the exchange of goods and the stories behind them. And I have learned that these people are unfailingly kind and generous. One of my favorites–who I have actually had the pleasure of meeting in person–is a kindness activist who consistently goes above and beyond to help others. She had a kindness yard sale this summer–people (including me of course) donated all kinds of crazy junk and she “sold” it to customers for whatever price they wanted to pay. She raised $8000+ and she’s using every penny to spread kindness to others in our community. She and lots of other folks in our neighborhood helped this family build a rainbow schoolhouse for their daughter. How cool is that?


Last night my church held an (online) Remembrance Vespers service. You might not realize that you need a good opportunity to sit and cry about the people you love who are gone, but sometimes you do. So many people have told me to “take time to grieve” the loss of FG. Honestly I don’t know how that works. I think about her all the time. I struggle with impulses to do or make things that remind me of her, but of course I’m reminded of her anyway whether I do them or not. I really want to make chicken salad, but I always called her when I made it for a reminder of the family recipe or maybe just for moral support. I think I am afraid I will cry in the chicken salad and then everyone who eats it will cry, like in Like Water for Chocolate.


My lightness also comes from getting a haircut and highlights this afternoon. Why anxiety makes me want to get rid of all my hair, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s related to the idea of “I want to tear my hair out.” Which I don’t want to do, because that would hurt. Whereas getting a haircut feels wonderful. There was a new shampooer at my salon who gifted me with a fabulous head massage. I haven’t had highlights in ages because it’s expensive to maintain and just seems cumbersome. But I decided the world is such a disaster right now that I needed a lift that brightening my curls could offer.

While I was getting my shampoo, I did not think about politics for one second. I only thought about how that woman’s hands felt on my head and how lovely the shampoo smelled. While I was getting my highlights I started a novel that my minister recommended.

I did talk about the election with Adil, my stylist, because we always talk about what’s going on. We commiserated and tried to reassure each other that we’ll get through this and that our country has had enough madness and we’re going to turn things around. Right?


I can sense how everyone around me is holding their breath. Even though I wanted to turn over and go back to sleep when my alarm went off this morning, I turned on zoom and logged into my yoga class. And of course I was glad I did. Why as humans do we need to be reminded so often to take a deep breath? And another? And another? Or is that just me? Anyway I am thankful for the reminder. My friends and I remind each other that it’s perfectly fine to have a really low bar right now for what we can accomplish or deal with. We are all operating at considerably less than 100%. But that’s ok. We will ramp back up again someday. For now we can be satisfied with simply surviving and remembering to take another deep breath.

I am trying to come to terms with the possibility that my stomach will feel this way all the way until Election Day and probably after that since we likely won’t know the results for sure on election night and maybe all the way through to Inauguration Day in January.

I am trying to come to terms with the idea that the days when I don’t want to get out of bed because the world is too dangerous and scary and mean may keep coming. Just because I have bursts of energy and get stuff done and I continue to feed and clothe my children and engage with the world a way that “normal” people seem to do doesn’t mean the dark clouds have dissipated.

I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will never be a better person than I am now. Not that I won’t continue to grow and change and discern for the rest of my life, but just that I am who I am. I have to be content with good enough.


I have been text banking for Biden, sending messages to strangers encouraging them to volunteer or vote and providing information. Of those who respond to me, most have been polite. Many have been enthusiastic Democratic voters. One Biden supporter said they would love to volunteer except they were busy right now taking care of their neighbor’s potbellied big who required a particular high-protein (or was it low-protein?) diet.

Some in the #TrumpTrain camp have been angry and rude, sometimes vulgar. Someone said I was a communist and another person said they were sorry I was a tool of the machine and hoped one day I would learn to think for myself. Even when they tell me in no uncertain (and sometimes profane) terms that they would never vote for Biden, I always end the conversation with thank you and stay safe or thank you and take care or something to that effect. A handful of folks who said they were staunchly republican wrote back and said “you too.” Two said something like, “I’m not going to vote for Biden but thank you for reaching out.” One person said that the response was the first kind one they had received from a Democratic texter.

The 1500 messages I sent today were to Texans, so I suppose the fact that more responded positively than not is a good thing, as Texas is pretty firmly in the red state column. A lot of folks said they had already voted for Biden–a couple had hand delivered their ballots–or were committed to voting early. One man said he was taking off work one day next week to make sure he had plenty of time to stand in line.

Things could certainly be a lot better, but they could also be worse. I’ve been told that worrying about that which is out of your control is pointless. That’s never stopped me. In the meantime, I will keep finding reasons to get out of bed. I know there are some good ones.

Tell me about despair, 
yours, and 
I will tell you 
mine

Meanwhile, we will 
laugh and cry and scream
and threaten to 
run away from home
and lose ourselves in 
games and stories 
and less wholesome vices
and make ourselves get out of bed 
again 
every morning
though sometimes 
we will wear pajamas 
all day

Meanwhile, we will 
check on each other
more than usual 
because we know 
what it feels like
to be teetering 
on the edge of sanity
(and to fall 
over the precipice, 
sometimes)

Does this get any easier?
I don’t believe so
Only more familiar

Meanwhile, we offer 
absolution to 
ourselves
as often as possible
because we tend to forget things 
(and people, 
sometimes)
because our brains 
and our hearts 
are overfull 
and our bodies 
are exhausted

We are making 
more messes
and letting them linger
but we are
doing the best
we can

even when it’s not 
enough

We are sitting with 
our feelings
or under our feelings
(when they become oppressive and heavy)
or eating
our feelings
or telling those damn feelings to
get the hell our of our house
when we have had
ENOUGH

We are listening
to each other
that’s got to be 
enough

© Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso (with gratitude to Mary Oliver)
October, 2020

On Saturday they wouldn’t let me give blood because my pulse was too high. I had no idea why my pulse was so high, as I have never experienced that particular problem before when trying to give blood. Later it occurred to me that the venti chai Frappuccino I’d consumed earlier might have been the culprit. But at that moment I had no idea and I was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t donate. I have been taking supplements to increase my hemoglobin levels for several weeks, as suggested by the phlebotomist at the American Red Cross last time I donated, because I was only allowed to give whole blood instead of the double red blood cells I was hoping to donate. This is way too much detail, but all of this is to say that after they told me I couldn’t donate, I went out into the parking lot and got in my car and sobbed.

Of course I wasn’t just crying because I left with the same amount of blood I had come with. That was just the moment that the floodgates opened. Oddly, I have hardly been able to cry in recent months, even when I wanted to. I think some part of me feels like if I start crying now, I may never stop because there is so much to cry about. But on this particular day I was weeping for the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because of her humanity, her intelligence, her determination, her fierceness, and everything she did for women and other humans over the course of her legal career. And I was weeping because I know she must have been trying so hard to live through the election (hopefully) of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris so that her seat on the court would not be filled by a Trump nominee who doesn’t believe in reality, or humanity, or science. And I was weeping because the thought of the confirmation of such a justice during this already extraordinarily dangerous time for our democracy is terrifying.

All of this emotion may have contributed to my elevated pulse as well. Who knows? 2020 has proven reliable only in its ability to break my heart again and again.


Sunday I rallied. Perhaps the car cry was cathartic. Zeke and I made challah french toast in the morning, which was delicious. Then we went to the park by our house with the brand new basketball I bought this week, and a pink rubber ball like the ones I played with as a kid, and a tennis ball. Amazingly, the basketball court was empty except for a shirtless guy doing push-ups and jumping rope. So Zeke and I practiced some dribbling and passing. So far so good. Then I took some shots. I made a bunch of them. I tried to show Zeke how to hold the ball up and push it up in the air toward the basket. Although Zeke is tall for his age, he’s still quite a bit shorter than the net, and his shots mostly went straight ahead of him rather than up or anywhere near the net. After a few minutes, he got discouraged and shuffled over to the side of the court to pout. I tried everything I could think of to cajole him back onto the court to try some more, but nothing worked.

So we went to the next court–although I don’t know if it’s actually a court–it’s that area by the tennis courts where you can practice throwing or hitting a ball against the wall and catching it when it flies back to you. Maybe there’s a technical name for it, but I call it the ball wall. By this time Randy had joined Zeke and me, and he suggested we take turns throwing a ball against the wall and the other person has to catch the rebound. Randy and I alternated playing this with Zeke while the other person retrieved errant balls. It took Zeke a few tries to get the hang of this, but once he did he was excited. He started counting to see how many balls in a row he could catch. He figured out how to position himself in front of instead of off to the side of the incoming balls, and his throws got more powerful. Later that evening he said that playing at the ball wall had been “unbelievably fun.” I wasn’t quite as giddy as that, but I was definitely pleased we found something new he liked to do that involved moving and being outside. And we will absolutely try again with the basketball. Randy suggested going to an elementary school that might have lower baskets. We will investigate.


As soon as we got home from the park, Zeke’s long-awaited new desk from IKEA was delivered. Since we planned to start our home school curriculum the following day, I wanted to build the desk immediately. Zeke and I tore into the boxes and got all the pieces out. We studied the instructions together and assembled a drawer and part of the cabinet. Zeke hammered and screwed and refreshed his knowledge of the different kinds of screwdrivers. I estimate that he worked alongside me for a good hour before he became completely restless and wandered away. I soldiered on. Bob Marley kept me company. After another hour or so, Randy had finished his mandolin lesson and came up to assist. At that point we discovered we were short two screws, so Randy was dispatched to the hardware store to find replacements–which he did! For only 27 cents each! While he was gone, I built the hutch that goes on top of the desk. All by myself! When Randy returned, he helped me finish the desk, taking on the challenge of installing the hinges on the cabinet door. Then we attached the hutch to the desk and slid it into place. The whole process took about four hours. Zeke is going to use this desk for the rest of his life.

After I showered and we got dinner, I worked on the finishing touches for Zeke’s room, putting books and notebooks and pencils in their proper places on the desk, and putting the books that had been piled everywhere into the bookshelf that had been serving as his desk for the past few weeks. I created a little nook for him between the bookshelves. I cleared off all the junk from the dresser. I put some stuff under the bed. And I only ended up with one plastic bin of stuff that I have no idea what to do with. It’s in the hallway right now because I didn’t want to spoil the effect. We still need to put some art and photos up on the walls, but the room looks good. Zeke is excited to have a real big-kid desk. That he helped build!

Last night after eating too many churros, we decided to withdraw Zeke from second grade at our local public elementary school and homeschool him for the rest of the school year. Maybe it was the cinnamon talking, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I have entertained this idea since March, when it was clear that the distance learning provided by the school system on short notice was not enough to hold Zeke’s (or my) attention or provide any intellectual stimulation or challenge. So I made up school, confident that although I am not a licensed teacher and I don’t have the patience to stand in front of a classroom of 25 kids, I knew enough stuff to finish out first grade. Some days it worked, some days it didn’t. But I didn’t worry (too much) about it because I knew everyone in our community was in the same nebulous boat. Zeke read a lot of books and did a lot of math and that was good enough for me.

I do, however, have my own business and actual work to do, which I had decided would make it impossible for me to actually homeschool Zeke for a whole school year. I figured the school system had all summer to figure out how to make virtual learning work and that we would trust them to provide Zeke a good second-grade education. I even talked with the principal a couple times over the summer, who assured me Zeke would be in good hands even though there was so much up in the air.

So we picked up Zeke’s iPad and we participated in the virtual open house and we struggled to log in on the first day with everyone else in Arlington, and it got better on the second day. And every day after that it was slightly easier technologically, but every day Zeke asked why he had to go to school and said he would rather do homeschooling and had to be cajoled into getting dressed and logging on. Every day Zeke would come downstairs during sanctioned breaks and tell me his teacher told the class to tell their parents to remind them to go back at a certain time. He didn’t always remember exactly what time that was. And he’s still learning to actually tell time on a regular clock. Yesterday his teacher emailed me while I was in the middle of a meeting to tell me Zeke was not in class, and that he had been leaving class daily. I texted Randy to talk with Zeke about this. Zeke swore up and down that he was not leaving intentionally but was being kicked off by the app. Either or both of those things could have been true. I know he was bored by everything they were doing. He knows more about iPads and apps than I do and probably than the teacher does. I completely understand that other kids in the class need to learn all this, and it’s necessary for the teacher to spend time going over the use of the apps for the rest of the school year to proceed as planned, but I wondered how long it was going to be until something happened that engaged Zeke.

When I was in college I had a summer internship at a community newspaper in a nearby suburb. Journalism is my family’s trade and I had assumed since I was a kid that I would become a reporter, editing every school newspaper along the way. It turned out that I hated being a real reporter. What they asked me to do seemed far removed from the kind of writing I had envisioned doing. And some of what they asked me to do just felt wrong. When I discussed this with one of my editors, he said I had to pay my dues. My reaction was that I didn’t want to pay any dues, I wanted to write. So after college I launched a career writing for and about nonprofit organizations, which has proven much more satisfying. The reason I bring all this up is that I feel like Zeke slogging through virtual learning was the equivalent of him paying his dues. But to what end?

Then last night I attended virtual back to school night. The principal and assistant principal at Zeke’s school are lovely people. I had witnessed his teacher doing her damnedest to make all this work even though none of it was what she had signed up for. These people are responsible for educating hundreds of kids and working with an immensely diverse group of families. I get it. But watching the standard presentation about school and the standard presentation about second grade left me cold. There was nothing that got me excited for Zeke or optimistic about what lay ahead for him. If we were in non-Covid times and had been at back to school night in person, I think I would have overlooked the standardness of everything, banking on the fact that Zeke would make friends and develop a relationship with his teacher and experience new opportunities at school that I couldn’t provide for him at home. But in virtual school they have no chance to make friends, or even chat with their classmates. It is not part of the schedule. And it’s really hard to differentiate for a variety of skill levels when you’re all watching one screen. I know they are supposed to use Mondays to pull small groups for extra help, but that wouldn’t include Zeke. The tipping point may have been when the teacher told us that the kids needed to stop spinning in their chairs and doodling and playing with fidget toys. They are seven years old and they have to do school from home and not go anywhere or do anything fun. I think you can at least allow them a little spinning or fidgeting or doodling. It is entirely possible, and even helpful to many kids (and adults) to do something with their hands or bodies while they are listening to someone talk. I’m pretty positive the teacher isn’t going to be able to stop these kids from moving during class, and I imagine everyone is going to get frustrated if she tries.

Earlier in the summer I had reached out to various communities I’m part of to convene parents to talk about what on earth they were planning to do with their kids if school was all virtual this fall. This was before we knew school would be all virtual this fall. Some parents were trying to form learning pods or social pods, some were already committing to homeschool, and many were entirely unsure of what path to take. So this week I’ve been reading all my notes from these discussions and the emails folks have exchanged about homeschool resources. I started researching curricula and found one–based on literature and secular–that I really liked. I made a list of pros and cons and discussed them with Randy. Then Randy and I explained to Zeke what pros and cons are (Zeke’s initial guess was that pros are people who are really good at something, which is also true). Zeke added his own ideas to the lists, and enthusiastically agreed that he didn’t want to sit in front of the iPad for five hours a day. Together we watched a video about the curriculum and Zeke promised that he would do the work and I promised to be patient. Today I filed the notice of intent to homeschool paperwork with the school district and emailed the principal, assistant principal, and teacher to let them know our plans. We’re ordering the curriculum and plan to start Monday.

Today Zeke begged not to go to virtual school, and since we had already made this decision it seemed silly to force him, so I made an ad hoc lesson plan. We did some logic and word puzzles from his puzzle magazine. He read his book of female Marvel superheroes, and wrote a story about Rogue. He usually complains vociferously about writing by hand, so I let him write in Google Docs on my iPad. He wrote a whole paragraph. He knew how to press a key and say a word that he wanted to spell and the iPad supplied it. I don’t even know how you do that. When we needed to leave the house, I asked him to stop writing. He said, “once you start writing, it’s hard to stop.” He has never, ever, ever said anything like this and almost always whined and moaned when asked to write anything. And he did a few pages of multiplication tables in a workbook I bought back in the spring but never got around to using. I am not under the illusion that it will always go this smoothly, but I felt like it was a good omen. I think homeschooling will provide opportunities for Zeke that I haven’t even imagined yet.

I’m going to have to be more organized and disciplined to get my work done and homeschool Zeke at the same time. But I’ll figure it out, because I think it’s the best thing for him. I hope and pray that this pandemic will end sooner rather than later and he will be back in the classroom next year, and running around at recess, and telling jokes to his friends in the cafeteria. In the meantime, wish us luck.

It’s the kind of morning where you drop your second-grader off at a three-hour outdoor, socially distanced theater camp where a staff member comes up to your car wearing a mask and a face shield and asks–literally–how everyone in our family is feeling and takes your kid’s temperature twice.

You think about how ironic it is that all these years when you’ve dropped off kids at camps you wished you could just let them jump out of the car and walk themselves in, but usually you have to park the car and go in with them and sign them in and show ID and whisper the secret password. Now because of Covid, the counselors come to the car and don’t want you to get out.

After you and your kid kiss goodbye through your masks, and you’re pulling out of the church parking lot, your eighth-grader says she’s glad she doesn’t go to day camps anymore where you get there and you don’t know anyone but it seems like everyone else knows each other. You hope that you weren’t just imagining another kid saying hello to yours so he might have a built-in friend there.

Then your stomach drops as you flash back to the many, many mornings that each of your kids screamed and cried when you dropped them off at preschool or at a day camp that just moments or hours or days before they were really excited about and not indicating that they were going to have a full-on meltdown at the door of the classroom. Even though those days are long past, that brick in your stomach feeling doesn’t go away. Just like when you attend a wedding and you think of your own, or when you go to a funeral and get sad for everyone else you’ve ever lost, that sensation feels fresh and intense even though it’s been dredged up from a memory.

On the way home you go through the drive-thru at Dunkin’ (they dropped the Donuts name but still sell the donuts) so your teenager can buy a coffee drink that is cryptically named “The Charli” after a famous TikTokker. When we pull up to the menu you point out that “The Charli” is not listed anywhere. She says you have to ask for it. You are skeptical, but you say to the invisible person on the other side of the intercom, “Do you have a drink called The Charli?” And she says yes, though you detect a hint of derision in her tone. So you order the drink and drive up to the window and collect it and your teenager takes photos and maybe even videos of herself trying the drink. She says she doesn’t know what’s in it, but since the TikTokker likes it, she is sure she will as well. Fortunately, she does! Otherwise you would be really irritated at having spent $4.02 on an off-menu coffee drink named for a minor celebrity, instead of just mildly bewildered at yourself and your child for both your life choices.

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