I’m tired of the see saw, I spend way too much time on it. When it’s up I’m feeling proud, usually based on a small achievement, a gesture or an unexpected moment. We’ve most likely had a good day, people have learned something and everything has gone to plan. It’s fun, a nice warm feeling in my belly and sense of contentment. When it’s down however, it’s that sinking feeling often stemming from my child’s vulnerability, a widening gap between him and his peers, a small task he is struggling to achieve or just the overwhelming responsibility of homeschooling my little boy who needs so much more educational support then I can give him alone. It’s likely a day that did not go to plan, the kids have watched too much TV and the mom guilt is smothering me.
The see saw flips regularly, often numerous times per day and I find I need to be kinder to myself when it does. By it’s very nature, it cannot stay in the air all the time and it can flip at the most unexpected of times. I want to move to the swing! Yes it still goes up and down but it doesn’t hit the ground so hard and it can be a feeling of contentment even when its on the downward!
These long days of lockdown and the return to homeschooling have me back on the see saw. We have days where Noah is motivated and he will read a new book (or sentence in a book!), do a new sum or even do some art he could never master before. The feeling of pride in his small achievement is one of pure joy and we celebrate every piece of it together. The next day, he might not be as motivated and has forgotten that same sum or suddenly cannot spell the word we rejoiced over the day before. Of course I find myself so frustrated that despite my best efforts my sense of calm turns me into mad cross mama and I lose it! I feel gutted that the see saw has flipped on me again and despite all efforts to stay positive and calm, I cannot stop it.
However, when I see this same experience happening to my kids, it’s tough. I have found the children approach these lockdowns initially with determination, resilience and positivity. They come up with the plus points and get excited about the little pieces of positivity they have found! However, before long, the realisation of this new routine and that feeling of unexplainable tiredness kicks in again and suddenly their own see saw flips. In the last lockdown, my daughter talked about a weight in her chest. A weight that she couldn’t explain but couldn’t shake. She would try to fall asleep while this unexpected weight felt uncomfortable and scary. As a lucky 12 year old with a comfortable and happy childhood, this feeling of anxiety was completely unfamiliar to her. When the news came out last week that schools would not open as planned and we were returning to another lockdown, she told me she can handle being away from school, she will miss her friends but she can handle that too, her only fear is that this unexplained and uncomfortable weight would return to her chest.
It gives me a different perspective on how I will approach lockdown this time. Of course kids need to tackle anxieties and learn how to deal with more difficult parts of life but I am also determined to do everything in my power to avoid the return of this weight in my child’s chest. Likewise, for Noah who cannot express himself as well as Anna can, I think being in tune with how they are feeling is more important this time then trying to relate to my own feelings. We have done it before so I have learned I cannot break them. They will survive home school and they will return and adjust to school just like they did the last time. They won’t lose their friends or fall behind, they will find their feet and emerge resilient when it’s all over.
We don’t have to achieve something new every day. I read a lovely piece recently, focusing on how the most important thing about school is that it teaches us to “learn”. It is not really about specific maths problems, history or other subjects on their own, it is about learning how to learn. Yes, some of this learning will happen at the home school desk, following the lesson programme and being subjected to Mom’s teaching skills but I am also going to accept that they can still learn when motivation is down and it doesn’t have to be super creative and complicated yoga for kids or arts and crafts. Sending them out on their own to walk the dog, navigate the road, stay together and ensure they scoop the poop is learning! Organsing their rooms, helping to cook, reading a new book, watching a David Attenborough documentary or even watching Angela’s Christmas over and over (one of Noah’s favourites!) is learning. Noah is making his first Communion this year so I took him into the church to visit the crib, he was very excited to see the crib and exclaimed to the empty church that he will not steal the baby Jesus like Angela does : )
We play a lot of boardgames in our house and there are plenty that Noah cant master so I will run “boardgames bootcamp” and help him master some of the games properly without letting him take short cuts. I will not stress over too much TV or screen time on dark rainy January days and I will be kind and calm to both myself and to the kids. I will stop reading negative social media posts judging parents who cannot homeschool effectively or judging teachers for their approach to homeschool supports. I will watch old movies with Anna and teach her about the classics, the original Hollywood legends and enjoy deciphering old English conversation. I will inevitably fall asleep some nights feeling that we have not done enough and I will worry about whether today was a good parenting day, there are somethings that are simply hard wired and too late to change now!
I’m sure however that I am not the only one finding this playground less and less enjoyable as time goes on. Maybe we should all try to spend more time on the swings but if we do find ourselves on the dreaded see saw, lets be kinder to ourselves especially when it flips us down.