2020 is gone. The last couple of years have been incredibly challenging – and then there was Covid. Hopefully 2021 will be a year of resets, mercy, joy, forgiveness, humility and above all love in the grace of God. May Mary’s gentle heart lead us in gentle ways.
We finished up our ballots and sent them off. I pray that our country will find peace and that people will remember that those who disagree with them are still our brothers and sisters in Christ and deserving of respect – even when they are dead wrong on many issues.
You haven’t been remote working and you haven’t been homeschooling since Covid-19 broke out. What you have been doing is trying to work from home in a crisis and trying to help your kids finish the school year (or start an new one) at home with no time to prepare. What we have been doing the past few months is as close to Remote work and homeschooling as getting washed up on a desert island after the boat had sunk is to going on an island vacation. There was no plan, no structure, no real support and no idea when you would be rescued or how that would happen.
You haven’t failed
Let’s start with the simple truth, no matter how bad last spring was for your kids you haven’t failed. But this situation has been so hard on so many kids. They are missing their friends, activities, milestones – life. And they are stuck at home trying to follow lesson plans and do zoom meetings in a vacuum. And it is so hard.
One of the boogie-men that homeschoolers are often confronted with is “What about socialization?” frequently asked in random grocery store check-out lanes from probably well-meaning strangers, accompanied by a smile that confirms they have played the ultimate “gotcha” card. But now this is actually a real question. Even veteran homeschoolers have had a hard time. We are used to play dates, field trips, enrichment classes and dances. Summer camp and team sports have been cancelled. Socialization is suddenly a real concern.
This might not be over yet. The first school to reopen this year had to worry about infect students after the very first day. This doesn’t bode well for us being able to go back to any semblance of normal anytime soon. Families who have shifted their plans to homeschool in the fall are actually in a better place at this point than families that are waiting for the schools to figure out what is happening. (this goes for businesses too)
5 things you can do to make this fall better
Shift your mindset to homeschool mindset – Remember that you, as the parent, are the one responsible for educating your children. The school is there as a resource to help you. No matter what the school does or doesn’t do you are the one who has the God given responsibility to turn out a competent adult. You know your children better than the school – don’t be afraid to push back.
Plan to get out of the house every week – go on walks or hikes, build a tree-house, take up bird watching, do a neighborhood clean-up .. but get out of the house.
Don’t let the school burn your kid out – Schools are notorious for time boxed learning that is actually massively inefficient. In a classroom so much time is spent transitioning 20 or more children from one lesson or activity to another. There are discussions, reading out loud, handing out papers, logging into apps or finding the correct website all set at the pace of the slowest.
In some cases teachers have been replacing 8 hours a day of “school time” with 8 hours of busy work. The kids would never have been expected to do all this work if they were in a classroom. One of the most common surprises to new homeschoolers is how little time it actually takes to get through a good amount of school work. Make sure that your children aren’t getting overloaded by classroom teachers who have no experience in remote learning.
Make sure that your kids have friend time – even with social distancing you can find ways to get together with friends. Even the most introverted need social connection sometimes. Arrange a picnic, a bike ride, a couple of friends over.
Keep a schedule Have a time to get up, set times for school work, time for play. Create rituals – baked cookies on Wednesday, make Friday Divine Mercy day, and Sunday afternoon family game time. Don’t let one day just bleed into the next until time becomes one mind numbing mass.
With prayer and love our families will navigate moving forward.
You might think the COVID-19 concerns are panic and overblown – or you might think that we aren’t doing enough fast enough. The reality is probably somewhere in between, but I want to take a minute here to plead with our church leaders to think through what coronavirus can mean for your parish.
Some quick facts:
Your parishioners are probably older. Sure we all want to think we belong to the one fabulously vibrant youthful parish, but the truth is that you have a lot of the 65+ crowd in your pews every Sunday.
You bring people in the community who normally aren’t together into the same space every mass.
Your children are germ machines.
People touch things and each other at Mass, they sneeze, they cough – they spread diseases.
Just think of this scenario: Little Bobby goes to school and contracts coronavirus from a classmate on Friday. He is asymptomatic, but he is carrying the virus. He sneezes into his hands on the way to mass because he is 6 and six-year-olds do that sort of thing. Mom and dad are busy talking about the fact that the big game they have tickets to this weekend was canceled – no one thinks to wash their hands before entering the chapel. The family enters the church and Bobby places a finger into the holy water and makes the sign of the cross, he touches three pews on the way to his seat, he runs his hands over the back of the pew in front of him. He shakes Susan’s hand at the sign of peace. Susan lives in the retirement community across the street. In three days she will be showing signs of illness, in 14 days most of the people living in her community will have COVID-19 and several of them will die.
This is not unlikely.
If your Bishop has not taken the brave and prudent step to suspend mass what can you reasonably do?
At the very least
Remove the holy water fonts
Do not have the Sign of Peace
Put in hand sanitizer stations
Ask parents to keep a watchful eye on their small children and ask them not to touch anything
Ask parishioners to stay home if they or a family member are ill
Clean surfaces in the parish between masses.
remove your missals and hymnals
Ask parishioners to spread out and not sit close together (6 ft between families is a good guide)
Add more masses and ask parishioners to attend off time masses.
suspend offering the Eucharist under both species (no communal cup)
cancel all church events (including religious education)
If you are in a parish and your priest in not taking measures like this what can you do?
Attend a less popular mass and sit well away from other parishioners
Wash your hands before and after mass and when you return home
Do not attend mass if you or a family member are ill
Don’t touch anything you don’t have to (this includes touching or kissing images and statues)
Stay close to home (if you attend mass while traveling or travel to attend mass you can spread germs either to the new location or bring them from the other location to your community)
Pray that this passes quickly and that the situation is not as bad as experts are currently predicting
If this is Friday dinner you are missing the point of fasting.
Yes, I have actually seen someone recommend Lobster bisque for Friday in Lent. That just isn’t fasting. I mean I suppose it is technically allowed, but still seems to go against the spirit of what you are supposed to be doing.
Every once in a while I see someone else do something (usually in the realm of parenting) that I have done myself about a 1000 times and I am suddenly struck with how absolutely absurd I have been.
When my children were little and hurt a friend or did something naughty I would insist that they say, “I’m sorry”. This was ridiculously wrong of me. My children, I apologize for putting you and me and the other children through this exercise in soothing my own vanity. What was I teaching you? Were you honestly sorry or were you just going through the motions – were you lying to comply with what I thought was best? A compelled apology is not an honest admission of guilt, it is not a hope for reconciliation it is simply an act. It is a pantomime of good behavior.
An honest inventory of conscience would suggest that at least half of my motivation was to show whatever adult might be watching that I took your behavior very seriously and was working to fix it. Another part of my brain was thinking that if you just went through the motions you would in time internalize it and would treat other people with gentle humility and empathy. I am now convinced that this was probably not the best track. This has led me to a few days of prayer and contemplation which, as is God’s good way, has shown me several very instructive examples of what is wrong with compelling an apology.
With the years I have left (which are running out rather quickly) for this type of parenting I am determined to do better. Instead of insisting that you apologize because I am feeling embarrassed by your behavior and because you have objectively done something wrong, I will attempt to model the behavior I want you to have. Even if that means apologizing to a friend or teacher on your behalf or bearing judgement from other parents because I am not making you do the right thing right then. I intend to take the time to talk to you, on your level, to help you understand what is the right thing to do – but not force you into something you are not ready for or genuinely feeling. I will not assume that somewhere inside you are really super sorry and just need me to force it out of you. I will always expect you to behave properly, punish when needed, admonish and instruct. It is my job to raise you to be kind, Christian and worthy people. But I won’t force you to say something that is not true.
After some crazy today I had to step back and really think. What is the worth of a forced apology? Nothing. I can say words that I don’t mean and you can hear words that you know I don’t mean and we can all pretend that this is some ‘understanding’, but it is actually a short-cut that creates barriers to any real reconciliation. I can’t imagine as an adult how I would feel if a co-worker was forced to apologize to me by our manager or even some shop worker was instructed to say they were sorry to me by their employer. The apology certainly wouldn’t mean anything, but I have seen grown people insist that this sort of thing take place.
Have we taught our children this weird “I am owed an apology” mentality? I am beginning to think we have. This isn’t taught intentionally of course, but when the sandbox scuffle must end with the perpetrator being force by mom or dad to offer their wee little “I’m sorry” what is the offended child seeing and internalizing. It seems that a good number have learned that an apology is a punishment and they are owed the satisfaction of receiving it as recompense. If Sally hits Mary with a toy Mary gets to see her tearful friend being drug up in front of her to utter the mea culpa that is now Mary’s right as the injured party. Is this what drives the teenage Mary to tell her friend “Say you’re sorry or I am not inviting you to my party” or the adult Mary to insist “I am owed an apology or I am never shopping here again”? What an oddly entitled, misguided exercise.
When I was a girl of about 9 my grandmother told me that an apology never costs you anything, and can gain you understanding and respect. So I have always tried to remember that letting someone know you are aware that you might have caused them distress is in fact letting them know that you care enough about them to try to make things right. This small act of Christian compassion and charity is usually a really pleasant thing. I don’t know that I have ever been rebuffed when I admit that I have done wrongly in hurting someone in some way. It either ends in the person I have offended being grateful for my words or my burden being lifted by them assuring me I haven’t really caused them any distress. It is a lovely, grace filled moment either way.
Now, admittedly there are also plenty of times where I am oblivious to some distress I may have caused. So I welcome having my bad behavior pointed it out to me. It affords me a chance to set things right if I possibly can. If you say “wow that really hurt me when you said ___” I hope that I will always be gracious enough to see and admit my wrong. But if you come at me and say, “You were mean you own me an apology”, pretty much we will be at an impasse. It is going to be much harder for me to get past the insane entitlement of “I am owed” to work my way around to what did I do to cause you distress.
If an apology is being set up as a debasement of the the guilty party there is something very broken in the situation. Even if something wrong needs to be set right and the offender should offer an apology if the offended party is waiting to gloat the apology can not be that holy, spiritual moment. It is at best forced and very likely resented especially if others are involved to watch or enforce. An apology is the sign of peace, the understanding that when we injure each other we injure the Body of Christ. It is a literal healing and to mix that with power struggles or shame is like adding poison to what should be a healing balm.
This understanding of the apology as reconciliation isn’t something that a young child has the ability to understand. For them the ritual of ‘say you’re sorry’ is a token. I say this and mommy isn’t as mad, I say this because I was bad. I am not saying that we shouldn’t encourage our children to apologize when they have done wrongly, in fact it is very important that we do so. But it also doesn’t mean teaching them to say things they don’t feel or believe, especially as they get older. By modeling the behavior we wish to see. Perhaps mommy saying “I am so sorry Sally hit you, Mary, she is going to have a time out now.” demonstrates the proper behavior with out forcing Sally to lie or giving Mary the idea that the apology that she is owed is a form of restitution that she is entitled to insist on.
What a strange and informative week it has been. I am thankful to God for having the chance to reflect on this topic. Hopefully I have learned what I need to.