Two months into the summer, a familiar assortment of hopes and worries hovers omnipresent at the forefront of our minds. This continuity is perversely reassuring. So disruptive was the pandemic and so great our longing for a return to normalcy that our minds have latched on to the constancy they offer, even if that constancy translates to heightened stress levels that can never quite be resolved. It is a testament to the mind’s adaptability that not even four months into our evacuation and with the world around us still very much in a state of great upheaval, we have reached a sense of routine.
Posts tagged ‘school’
Much has been written about how unsustainable the new status quo is for working parents, even those who like us are fortunate enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely, for the time being. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to provide quality childcare while maintaining pre-pandemic levels of office productivity. Somewhere along the way corners wind up getting cut, especially since the policies of reopening seem to emphasize economic activity over children’s education and development.
“What do you want to be called when I have babies?” Munchkin, age 6, inquired recently. It was not an entirely unreasonable question. Munchkin refers to D’s parents by the Russian babushka and dedushka. S’s dad was quick to establish himself as zaide. S’s mom, meanwhile, considered and discarded several potential monikers before settling on nana. Clearly, Munchkin reasoned, there is quite a lot of flexibility and variety of options on this point. The question, nevertheless, was a bit of shock, coming as it did out of the blue and especially once it was followed by his repeated pronouncement, “I can’t wait to have babies!”
This is the first year that we could tell that Munchkin was really looking forward to summer vacation. He had always liked school and was enjoying his year in kindergarten until the pandemic hit. What was evident before – and became crystal clear during the coronavirus lockdown – is that he enjoyed the social aspect of school considerably more than academics. After in-person classes were suspended, sustaining his interest in school became a daily struggle, even though he maintained his motivation to learn how to read.
This weekend marks the midway point of S’s first Foreign Service tour. A year has now elapsed since her arrival in the Philippines, though given all that has happened in the intervening months, last June seems a decade ago. Needless to say, marking the occasion in Arizona is not something we could have anticipated. So much of this year has been defined by rupture.
Since Manila’s abrupt lockdown two months ago, the pandemic has remained consistently at the forefront of our minds – not only because it has dominated world headlines and rendered trivial most other current events, but also because it has shaped directly our work and upended our lives. Six weeks and 7,500 miles removed from our life in Manila, we continue to keep a close eye on developments there while fretting about the rapid snapback to pre-pandemic lifestyles in the state we have made our home temporarily. The only way to keep the worrisome global news from overwhelming us is to balance it with positive news of a more personal nature.
For a few months after we had been reunited in Manila, S accused D of playing favorites. Our three-months separation and move halfway around the world had been hard on both kids, but they reacted to the stress in starkly different ways. Sweet-natured and cuddly Junebug grew ever more attached, spending hours on end snuggling with us and telling us how much she missed and loved us. Munchkin, on the other hand, grew aloof and began to act out his frustrations in increasingly problematic ways. We didn’t love him any less, but it was challenging to shower him with attention when he was so bristly and difficult.
Spring break over, Munchkin’s school has resumed virtual operations on the other side of the world. It’s all a bit surreal. Around midnight each day we receive the morning message and the day’s lesson plan. Like an inmate keeping track of her imprisonment by scrawling lines on the walls of her cell, Munchkin’s teacher includes a homeschool tracker on each slide deck. In the beginning, we also kept count, the tracker reflecting the mounting anxiety we felt with each passing day of Manila’s quarantine. We lost the habit shortly after returning to the States.
Compared to how slowly the quarantine days in Manila dragged by, our first week in Sedona has flown by in a flash. Partly because we’ve endeavored to spend as much time as possible outdoors to make up for our weeks of privation and partly because the only way we can keep up with our jobs is to work late after the kids go to bed, our days have been considerably fuller than they were in the Philippines.
A couple of weeks ago, when Manila’s quarantine was in its infancy and authorities were still fine-tuning measures to effectively corral the population, we came across a post from an Italian blogger. At the time, Italy had already been on lockdown for several weeks while most of the rest of the world was just beginning to come to grips with the need for social distancing and stay-at-home directives. With the benefit of three weeks of hindsight, the author advised readers not to look for silver linings. They will come, she wrote, but not right away; trying to find a way to spin one’s confinement in a positive direction right at the outset is bound to drive one insane.