I hope that you are all doing well and that your families are healthy and safe at home.
Like many of us, I am no longer able to work as I once did — outside the home, face-to-face, and in group settings. I have been fortunate to have the option to continue some of my work in an online workspace. I admit the change has presented some interesting challenges, like the dizzying experience of working with a 10-year-old whose iPad is in constant motion in fidgety hands. iPad acrobatics and spinning chairs aside, I also get to see great works of art on walls and refrigerators, Lego and K’nex creations, drum kits and guitars, beloved pets, favorite breakfast cereals and, some very cool pajamas. It’s a virtual window into personal spaces that until now I’ve only been able to imagine based on conversations that only took place in my office. This experience has given me new perspectives and insights, completing the picture of who my young clients are, and I consider it a privilege to be so graciously and warmly invited into the homes of the children and families I work with as we are all experiencing what has become our ever-changing “new normal.”
I hear stories about the fears, frustrations, loss and, anxiety that COVID-19 has thrown at us, and, how for every child I work with whose parents are working safely and securely from home, there are others whose businesses or places of employment have shut down. Still, others are “essential” workers, some working with populations they’ve never worked with before while surrounded by an illness that can’t be treated or prevented. These parents come home at the end of each day, ritualistically stripping down, turning their clothing inside out, tossing them into a washing machine, and showering, all before they can greet their families, prepare a meal, check on homework and get everyone to bed.
I have noticed some surprisingly positive aspects of our “new normal” way of life. I assure you that I do not consider the impact of COVID-19 to be positive in any way, and I wish with all my heart that we might all wake up tomorrow to an end, to a cure, to prosperity, security and, peace of mind. I’m noticing that we are moving at a slower pace. There seem to be more calm moments as daily schedules have relaxed a bit with nowhere to rush off to. Kids are still playing video games, but some have rediscovered their Legos and K’nex and jigsaw puzzles. They’re also rediscovering their siblings as playmates and confidantes. Rather than a source of annoyance and ignorance, parents have become sources of safety, stability and, certainty in uncertain times. Kids are journaling, cooking, reading books of their choice and seeking out family members for quality “together” time. With learning now taking place at home, many parents can observe their children’s learning styles, preferences, frustrations, and how engaged they are when they can learn at their own pace. They’re making accommodations when possible and being flexible about workspaces, scheduling and breaks, and even alternative sources for high-interest learning.
I think that a lot can be learned from the events of the past few months. One is that building walls can’t protect us from things that truly threaten our lives. Another is that every life is valuable, and the value of a life shouldn’t be determined by strength, weakness, age, race, wealth or any other descriptor… and we should never again be placed in the position to have to choose who lives and who dies. And what about what social distancing? We might be realizing that we’ve been socially distant for some time now, responding to the interruption of text messages and alerts throughout our days, and maybe taking for granted the importance of what it truly means to be connected, especially now as we are using technology to actively reach out to friends and family we used to put off for another day when we weren’t so busy. I think that slowing down the pace of everyday life is invaluable. We are noticing, we are paying attention. Life is not something that should happen to us when we’re not paying attention, rather, we need to be mindfully and purposefully present participants in creating the life we wish to have.
I wish you all good health, safety and the experience of enjoying and appreciating your families and everyone and everything you hold dear.