During the month before school started this September, my parent friends and I collaboratively composed one of the most Beckett-esque group chats of all time. One mom would text: “We can’t send our kids to school in the fall, can we?” And another would respond: “Right. We cannot. But also, we can’t NOT send them to school, can we?” And a third would confirm: “Right. But also — ”
School has started, and there is still no good answer. The catch-22 of pandemic parenting has by now been well documented. It’s simply impossible to work remotely and parent full time and run an ad hoc homeschool, all while processing daily doses of grief and trauma. And however many months in, we’re all, as Will Leitch writes on Medium, losing our goddamned minds.
American Parents Are Coming Apart at the Seams
Check in on every parent you know. Because they are just barely hanging on.
Leitch writes about how sad and dumb and hopeless it feels to try to make good decisions for our children right now:
“I’m not sure what the right thing to do is. It doesn’t seem 100% safe to send children back to school. But it sure doesn’t seem 100% safe not to either. I don’t have the answers. Who does? It is difficult for anyone to keep it together right now. But know this: Every parent you know is coming apart at the seams. And there is no end to this in sight.”
No, there is no good answer about school. But our children’s education isn’t just about the facts and figures they learn in their lessons. (Something we’re all acutely aware of now that we see how online schooling fails to offer the practice in social skills and interpersonal relationships that in-person school does.)
Our kids are getting one very particular sort of education, however. They’re learning — subconsciously, as it seeps into their bones by osmosis— that being an adult doesn’t mean having all the answers. They’re learning that adult life is about moving through times of great uncertainty, and learning on our feet.
The way they see us, their parents, dealing with this uncertainty — whether that’s by leaning on our friendships, or organizing to help our neighbors, or losing it completely and crying and then apologizing and admitting we need a family hug and a fresh start in the morning — might just be the most important lesson we can offer.