• Jody Kussin

In These Times #35

Here is a great meme I saw this week (thanks Dr. Lisa Shadburn for posting):

Parents don’t stress about schoolwork in September. I will get your children back on track. I am a teacher and that is my superpower. What I can’t fix is socio-emotional trauma that prevents the brain from learning. So right now, I just need you to share your calm, share your strength and share your laughter with your children. No kids are ahead. No kids are behind. Your children are exactly where they need to be. With love, all teachers on the planet Earth.

It is so stressful to be a parent under ‘regular’ circumstances. There are so many tasks that go into parenting: nurturing, providing resources, being available and accessible, providing safety and advocacy, taking care of your own needs, meeting basic needs of each individual child, meeting sense of self developmental needs, discipline and providing a foundation for cultural/spiritual development, and education. No one parent can fulfill all these to perfection, we can only be ‘good enough’ parents.

Of late, however, we have become super focused on our role in the task of educating our children. For good reason, obviously, when your den/kitchen/living room/ bedroom alcove becomes a classroom and your tablet/computer/telephone becomes a ‘white board.’ And we do what we as parents do best – WORRY. We worry our children are ‘falling behind.’ We worry that each of them has ADHD (they do not) and that each of them has zero capacity for learning (they do not.) We are sure they are bored or overly challenged and that they are failing everything, which, in parent speak, means WE are failing in our jobs as parents.

As noted by this anonymous public service announcement seen on Facebook, it’s not true. Your children will be fine academically. They will learn what they need to by the time they need to. It’s true they may not master the finer points of geometry this month, but their geography skills, as they follow the maps of this pandemic, are going to be stellar. They may not master cursive skills, but their touch-typing skills and texting skills are impressive. They may not ace science, but they are making tremendous progress regarding application of technology and may just be motivated to learn coding and/or engineering sooner than later. Additionally, they have learned a whole new vocabulary, even though it was not on the 2nd grade list (pandemic, social distancing, false negative, briefing, alerts, quarantine, virus, antibodies, closures, shelter in place, flatten the curve, co-morbidity, etc.) While there IS a such a thing as a ‘permanent record’ in school, there is NOT such a thing as our permanent records really being ‘permanent’ and following you around the rest of your life. Have you recently been asked your Middle School GPA? Your class ranking in 4th grade? Your SAT or ACT score? How many AP courses you took? We all managed to get to wherever we are today, even though it’s just possible we MAY have failed a final, bombed an SAT, messed up credits toward graduation. There are thousands of colleges in the U.S. for those college bound, and other than those ‘for profit’ institutions who take money and do not provide learning opportunities, the rest all have something to offer someone. It’s okay. It’s truly okay.

Our main job as parents right now, is to provide love, nurturance, support, structure, humor, whimsy and security. Our children are learning things all the time, every day, from you. They may also be mastering various academics, or not. But they will be okay. We will all be okay. It may look different today than last month, and different next month than this month. But we will all be okay.

Hug your kids – because we can’t hug our friends or neighbors anymore. Celebrate one another. Mark little milestones (Can someone ride the two-wheeler now?) Watch your children grow and your garden (Did the tomatoes start growing? Are your roses in bloom?)

Teach kindness because that will always be useful. Teach appreciation and gratitude because they will be useful as well. Spelling tests will come and go (and we will use spell check and tracking and review.) Math tests will come and go (and we will use phones instead of calculators which replaced slide rules.)

History is not going anywhere, by definition, so if they cannot memorize dates this year, they will do it another year.

Your children are exactly where they need to be. And so are you.

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