Light in the Tunnel

 Most days I feel like a fraud. I masquerade as healed and functional, but the reality is I am still very much afraid and unsure of who I am or how to move forward. I play the mental films of my worst moments and deepest fears over in my head and find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am aware of my worst cognitive habits, but some days I'm just too tired to fight them. I slip into negativity and catastrophizing and it takes herculean effort to unravel the knots created by them. When stress becomes high, my defenses against myself are reduced and the weight of it all threatens to flatten me.

It's been a week. I feel like I've had that same thought every week for a while, but this week was a shit storm. The pandemic, which has been playing constantly in the background of our lives, got violently shoved to the front of our psyches, tripping all of our alarms along the way. A few potentials for exposure laid the foundation of worry for the week. Enter full virtual school (again) and the struggle of supporting kids who feel like the world is coming down around them, while you, yourself, are questioning your own sanity.

They say that having a child is like watching your own heart walk around outside of your body. It's the most accurate description of what being a mother is like from my perspective. What they feel, you feel...and if you're an empathetic parent, you feel it tenfold. After months of watching certain teachers instill a sense of fear and self-loathing in my son, this week I needed to step in and advocate for him. Virtual school is not without hardship on all kids, but I would argue it's the tweens, the middle schoolers, who are baring the brunt of pandemic-induced stress. 

Younger kids seem to have a lot of emphasis on support and flexibility. Elementary teachers have, at least from my perspective, done a pretty good job at managing their expectations of children in a virtual setting. High school kids, while I don't have one of my own, I would imagine are pretty adept at navigating the world of cloud-based learning. The middle school bunch, however, have all of the expectations to be self-sufficient from their teachers, but not the age, cognitive/emotional development, nor life experience to support the responsibilities placed on their shoulders. Eleven-year-old's simply do not have the wherewithal to maintain an email inbox, upload, download, troubleshoot, stream, and actually learn academic content seamlessly. Most adults I know are hard-pressed to be efficient multi-taskers. My son is trying, and damn hard, but two of his teachers are either blind to it or simply do not care. Neither blindness nor apathy have a role in teaching, and so I reached out to start a dialogue with the school to try to mitigate a growing problem.

Being assertive doesn't come naturally to me. I need to get really angry in order to sprout a backbone and communicate my displeasure. When my son finally, at much urging from us, reached out and asked a teacher for a digital copy of a handout that he can not find...imagine my surprise at her clipped one-line reply of "I gave that out two weeks ago." I saw red. RED. Here is a kid that is terrified to message a teacher and admit fault for fear of reproach, reaching out with a well-written, self-deprecating email, to receive an email back that offers no solution, no support. Only aggression. In the words of Kevin Hart, she "gone learn today." All of my pandemic rage came to a head and was channeled into an email to address the situation at hand. I was professional, but they, I the point. 

And the point is...we are all struggling through this viral miasma of hell. One impossible decision after another has caused logistical and emotional fatigue in all of us...especially our children. Imagine going through puberty during a pandemic. Middle school is not an enjoyable time for any of us, and these kids don't even have the luxury to hate adults, together (lol.) There are no dances, no lunch table laughs, no acts of rebellion outside with friends. There is only home, and isolation, and awkward video sessions. There is only virtual communication, or fear of it. Fear of rocking the boat, fear of nasty emails, fear of office hours with teachers that seem to hate you because they don't know you from Adam and make assumptions. We all owe it to each other to make an effort to be kind, to be empathetic, to try and understand. If I can fake it until I make it, these teachers can, too. 

And so I sit here and try to write out a catharsis of a pandemic-heavy week. I'm trying to purge my thoughts and slow the onslaught of anxiety-driven scenarios that wrack my mind. We've tried not to let COVID take over our lives, but the inevitability of it catching up to us at some point was always apparent. All we can do is keep trying and striving for normalcy in a world that's upside down. Maybe I'm not a fraud, after all. I've never claimed to be anything but imperfect and working towards peace of mind and body. That's all anyone can do, I suppose.

We're all just driving down the road of life trying to feel the sun on our faces and wind in our hair as much as we can. This pandemic is like a traffic jam - it's slowing our progress and making us cranky. Horns are blaring and patience is at all time low. My friend said to me yesterday that he can't see the light at the end of this tunnel and it made me really think. I responded that I think there is light in the tunnel, we just have to look for it. 


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