Everyone here is struggling a little bit, I think. Everyone everywhere is struggling, I suspect.
The big household challenge right now is the kids’ homework. Kevin and I have always taken a pretty laissez-faire approach to homework. In elementary school, we did our best to avoid it entirely, asking that our kids be excused from it whenever possible, because all the research shows that it’s not actually useful at that age, and can actually be counterproductive if it sets the kid up to hate learning.
We had a few teachers who wouldn’t let it go, and in those cases, we just told our kids to do as much as they wanted, and that we didn’t care if their grades dropped as a result. Elementary school grades just aren’t that important.
It’s tougher to avoid now, when they’re older and grades are starting to matter. In 6th grade, Anand really doesn’t have very much homework — weekly reading of any book he’d like (that we sign off on), plus maybe 30 minutes / day of other assignments. The problem with Anand is that he makes SUCH HEAVY WATER of that little bit of work.
And I get it — esp. after 18 months of remote, just being in school and paying sufficient attention to work for six hours / day is a big shift, and takes a lot out of him. He comes home and makes a beeline for his device, and then goes upstairs and hides for an hour or two, recuperating. But we’re hauling him back downstairs at 5 to work on homework with him, and honestly, Kevin and I both hate it. Anand is super-resistant, we have to switch off to keep from losing patience with him, 30 minutes sometimes takes 90 minutes (or more) because of all the pushback.
It’s improving a little, I think. The more we do this, the more Anand is starting to understand that he really will get it through faster if he just does it, rather than spending so much energy on arguing with us, sulking, etc. It’s becoming part of the routine. But it is a hard part of parenting. Not as exhausting as being woken up constantly in the middle of the night when they were little, not as intense as the acute fear when one of them is injured or briefly missing at a mall or some such, but emotionally wearing, requiring reserves that are already feeling pretty depleted by the pandemic.
We’ve all been operating using surge capacity for too long. Vaccines gave a little respite, as did summer break, but deep down, we are desperate for this to be over, so that we finally have the opportunity to truly rest.
Kavi’s situation is different — she’s not as emotionally frustrated by schoolwork as Anand, and will sometimes cheerfully just do it on her own. But she’s clearly having executive functioning issues keeping track of it, and every day, we’re needing to go over the assignments with her, to make sure she’s actually aware of them all.
Again, it’s not necessarily so much work — as a high school freshman, right now she has maybe 1-2 hrs / homework each day. Totally do-able, and still giving her time to rest and hang out with friends. But when she loses track of it, it piles up, and then there are bright red MISSING assignments in the electronic tracker, and then she gets stressed out, and her perfectionist streak kicks in, and the next thing you know, she’s having stress headaches and stomachaches, and then Kavi’s crying over her backpack as she tries to pack it in the morning; it feels cruel to make her go to school, but if she doesn’t, she’ll just fall further behind. (Sometimes she stays home, sometimes she goes in.)
The answer there is to help her track things, and we are, but it all feels harder than it should be. I have trouble parsing their school systems (which are different from each other) and tracking the assignments. They have trouble too, in different ways. And we’re not so much a family where the parents exert a lot of discipline over the kids, so that’s new for us too, and we’re trying to do that while simultaneously preserving our mutually respectful relationships. It’s hard.
Everything feels like it’s taking more mental energy than I actually possess, and in my own life, I’m just missing things, despite all my trackers and reminders and assistants — I completely slept through an early morning U+ board meeting a few weeks ago, and I completely forgot an evening writing workshop was happening.
I’ve started checking and double-checking and triple-checking the calendar, because I HATE missing things and being late on things (yes, I know where Kavi gets that perfectionist streak from, shh….), and nonetheless, I still miss important e-mails and the like.
And there’s no real reason for it — I’m not actually overscheduled at the moment. I’ve BEEN overscheduled, without time to breathe, and I know what that’s like — the amount of work in my days is totally reasonable right now. (Well, most days. There are occasional exceptions when I HAVE to work a long day. But there are also total rest days to compensate, which is a new and good thing in my life.)
I was reading something recently about how the constant shifting and reassessing of COVID protocols is seriously taxing various parts of our brains. Risk assessment, executive function, etc. I believe it. I wish I could take my whole family and dump us on a farm for a month or six, just to recuperate. That’s not feasible or reasonable for us right now.
I guess we’ll just keep trudging on, try to take rest and pleasure when we can, lower expectations as much as possible. I have so many things I want to do, but which are optional — I can still do some of them, but I’m trying to slow the timelines down whenever possible. At least until we’re really through this pandemic, and back to something approaching normal again, which I’m currently estimating for sometime in the spring, fingers crossed.
Take care of the essentials — food and shelter and clothing and health, both physical and mental.
Everything else can wait.