While we’re all at home, we each retreat to our own rooms during working or school hours. (Quick aside: Boy am I thankful that we bought a four-bedroom house, giving me and Ian each our own private offices.) Of course we close the door when we need to be left alone. But it’s hard to tell what the closed door means. Is the person in a meeting that can’t be interrupted? Does he just need to focus, but a quick question would be okay? Benji in particular has a hard time not coming in talking, and I’ve had at least a few times of slightly embarrassing un-muted incidents where colleagues have been treated to family conversations.
Once again, the coronavirus pandemic hits home — literally. On Wednesday, Benji started second grade at his new school… from his little closet-office in his bedroom.
One interesting thing about this is that I get to be a fly on the wall if I want. I can hear what the teacher tells the class during synchronous learning time, and then follow up with him during asynchronous learning time. Asynchronous is a heck of a word for second graders to absorb, but the kids will learn what it means through direct experience.
I mentioned a bit ago that Dad and I were taking Benji backpacking. Long story short, it didn’t happen. The first week we planned to go, the forecast deteriorated rapidly and when the day came, it poured rain, with even more rain in the mountains where we’d planned to go. We postponed a week, to August 27 and 28. We obtained backpacks and got even more ready to go.
Then, several days before we were to leave, I started having the kind of gastrointestinal distress that you really don’t want to have on a hiking trip. Let’s just say I never wanted to venture far from a restroom, and I didn’t fancy using the bushes for that business. I hoped it would pass quickly (so to speak), but no such luck.
This summer, stretching both infinitely long and impossibly short, comes to a close this coming Wednesday, September 2, as Benji starts second grade. Most of the summer we spent uncertain about schooling — in person? hybrid? all online? — but assuming all online. A month or so ago the school district confirmed our assumptions, ending that speculation but opening up a world of further speculation about how all-online would work.
About 10 days ago, answers started coming in. At first, we eagerly consumed every message, discussed it, thought about the repercussions and how we’d deal with whatever information in contained. But what started as a trickle soon turned to a flood, a veritable deluge of messages, often several in a day coming from all different entities: the district, the school principal, the teacher, the school nurse… At one point, I counted over a dozen school-related emails in 10 days.
My Dad and I are planning on taking Benji on his first-ever backpacking trip overnight Thursday to Friday. The plan is to go to a place called Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker. We’ve been packing and preparing for a few days, gathering up all the backpacking gear and supplies we’ll need, and I keep oscillating between “wow, that’s a lot” and “we really don’t need that much.”
The big thing is backpacks. I’m the only one of us who owns a backpacking pack these days; Dad purged his long ago, figuring he’d never be backpacking again. REI no longer rents this type of gear, so that’s a challenge for Dad. And then there’s Benji: We definitely don’t have any kid-sized sleeping bags or backpacks. He won’t carry much, but he’ll have to carry at least his clothes, food, water, and sleeping bag… and probably at least one stuffed animal. I’m definitely not carrying stuffed animals for him! Fortunately, my parents have some neighbors who backpack with their kids, and they’ve very generously agreed to let Benji borrow a kid-sized pack and sleeping bag.
In a characteristically epic message, yesterday evening our school district’s Superintendent has confirmed what we all suspected: Schools will open in the fall with only online learning. Students will not attend in-person classes for the foreseeable future.
A couple weeks ago, Dad asked, “What would you change if you knew you’d have to keep doing this for another year?” I’ve pondered this question ever since, because it makes a good point: We all kind of stumbled into this routine. There was no plan. We can all tolerate a lot of mild inconvenience for a while, but when “a while” turns from six months to nine months to a year, those mild inconveniences may become serious irritants that we need to deal with before they get worse.
I just read “This Isn’t Sustainable for Working Parents” in The Atlantic and it very much reflected some of what I’ve been thinking about lately. This quote (I know it’s long-ish, hang with me) resonated deeply with me:
During the pandemic, working parents with young children “are fundamentally not going to be able to be as productive as someone who’s been on their computer for eight hours at home with grown kids or without kids,” she [Melissa Mazmanian] told me. “Who’s going to get promoted two years from now? Or who’s going to lose their job two months from now?”