Every year, sometime in mid-August, after six or eight weeks of summer vacation, I brush my crazy hair out of my eyes and mutter to my husband, “These kids need to go back to school.”
By the time September comes, I breathe a sigh of relief and happily scoot my (practically feral by that point) children off to school. Our grocery bill goes down, and the constant sibling bickering ceases. We all enjoy each other a bit more as we all realize that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
But everything changed when COVID-19 hit.
The school closure began at two days, then extended to a few weeks. My husband and I joked about how we would lose our minds if the district opted to finish the year without ever going back to the school building. Just imagine a full six months without a break!
And then it happened. In April, it was decided that the remainder of the school year would be remote.
And once it was over, it happened again in the fall as our school district opted to not go back until November. And then again as they extended remote learning until January. As of this moment, it looks like it may be extended yet again.
But, do you know what didn’t happen?
I didn’t lose my mind.
I have been home with my five children, day in and day out, for over nine months now, and I have yet to reach the “mid-August” point. The kids aren’t on each other’s last nerves. They don’t fight all day, every day. I am not pulling my hair out and wishing the days away. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In our understanding that we must stay home together to be safe, there has come a strange sort of peace. Everyone gets along a little bit better than before. We have created new family jokes and rituals. We have become closer.
This isn’t to say I enjoy every minute.
There have been plenty of remote school days that have dissolved into tears and frustration. But intertwined into those days are the moments where I am able to hear things I wouldn’t normally hear — the tentative first notes of learning the flute during 4th-grade band, the praise from a teacher for a well-constructed sentence, the pride in a volunteered algebra answer.
These are the moments I will treasure in the years to come — where teenagers sneak away from their own desks to wave hi to the kindergarten teacher over Zoom, or to give a high five when they hear a younger sibling achieve a goal we have all listened to them work on for days. The times when I sneak to their doors, making heart hands and stage whispering “I LOVE YOU” during class, or simply being able to be there to give a hug when an assignment is difficult.
Because of COVID-19, we have bonded in a way that we wouldn’t have in our busy pre-quarantine lives. Together, we have made up silly new ways to hug each other, implemented “mandatory” kitchen dance party time, had countless movie nights, experimented with crazy hair colors, and made an effort to make our dog “Instafamous.” (I would venture to say we have achieved our goal, as @PennyTheCoonhound currently has over 5,000 loyal fans.)
Quarantine hasn’t been easy, but I am grateful we have had this time together. We won’t ever forget the months we spent cooped up at home.
And I haven’t reached “mid-August” yet.