The “new normal” is what we’re calling this chaotic time in our lives, and while it is new, it is anything but normal. For a mama who is completely averse to change, this has been a struggle. No amount of cheerleading or hope-mongering has prepared me for what our lives are becoming. But living in this “new normal” has already taught me a few things.
1. Nothing is set in stone.
As soon as I begin to find comfort in a proposed schedule or a course of action, it changes. Even when things seem certain, they aren’t. I have never been comfortable with uncertainty; so great was my discomfort that I once invested in a book titled “Comfortable with Uncertainty.” (I think it may be time to tug that book off the bookshelf and start reading on a daily basis.) When you’re living through a global pandemic, it feels pointless to get comfortable with anything other than uncertainty and change.
I need to prepare myself for how I respond to these changes, not only for my own well-being but to model appropriate responses to my little ones. They take their cues from me, and if I get upset every time the COVID winds blow our plans askew, they will too, and this will translate to how they react to other difficulties once we are beyond this great unknown.
2. There are no winners, and there are no losers.
For every parent who wants remote learning, there is a parent who wants a full in-person learning model (and a third who wants a hybrid model, but not the one proposed by the school). For every person who happily sports a mask whenever they leave the house, there is a person who is miserable and does so against every fiber of their being (I am grateful they still wear their masks in public).
People vary as much as the colors in a 120-pack of Crayola crayons. They may seem similar (they’re all crayons, after all), but each one has a distinct hue or tint that causes them to be different from the others. Some are dramatically different, while others are more similar. It is like that with our preferences. While some of us may want similar things, there are always small particulars that may differ. As a result, we have to compromise. Compromises keep us safe, but not necessarily happy or unhappy. At this point, the only important victory is the health of my loved ones, and as long as we continue to have our health, I will consider that a mark in the “win” category.
3. Kids are so much more adaptable than adults.
While my 4-year-old gets that COVID has disrupted her entire life, she does not focus on it the way I can. She does not dwell on how her social skills are now stunted from her lack of play with other children her age. She does not argue with strangers about why masks are or are not important (she just argues with me about where the unicorn mask is, because that’s her favorite). She does know that she loves seeing her teachers again, and even though it’s a modified schedule following COVID guidelines, she is psyched to be back in school. She understands that things are different, but she’s not angry, sad, or defeated by this. I’m amazed and inspired by her resiliency.
4. Change is hard.
I. Do. Not. Like. Change. I like rituals, schedules, and plans. I enjoy knowing what to expect and when to expect it. I do not like when things are different from what I am used to. This entire “new normal” has been plaguing me since its onset. I liked the old normal. The normal normal.
I want to be in my classroom, teaching my high school students, passing out papers and novels, and yelling at them to put their phones away and listen to me instead of playing with that silly TikGramTokBook. I revel in my antiquity when I’m surrounded by teenagers. But now, I’ve had to step up my game, become Zoom savvy, and learn how to use all the Google whosamawhatsits in order to engage the students as best I can from my new home-school-work-space. And I’ve spent all summer preparing for this, because change is new and hard and worth it in order to be the best teacher-mom-person I can be in a world that is crazy and uncertain and uncomfortable.
5. We will get through this.
The other day, when I was out for a run and feeling like my legs were done, Peloton coach Robin Arzon came through my AirPods and reminded me that I had already gotten through 100% of my worst days, and I would get through this run as well. And then I did. She was right.
We will get through this. My hope is that we will learn from it and grow in ways we can’t even anticipate right now. I hope that in 30 years, when I’m finishing my teaching career, this will just be a blip on my radar, a tale I tell to the younger teachers of the time when we overcame a pandemic and social distancing and taught our butts off in ways we had never imagined. Because we will get through this, and the stories we will tell will be so much better than walking uphill, both ways, in the middle of a snowstorm, to get to school.
We will find our way through the changes and the uncertainty, we will learn from our kids and from each other, and we will figure out a way to make this time livable. Because we are moms, and that’s what we do. For now, I’ll just keep moving along this new path and absorbing the lessons I learn while continuing to remind myself that we will get through this, one day (or sometimes one minute) at a time.