by Nancy Lamb
ANCS School Psychologist
One day, 11 months ago, my child packed his backpack with everything he could fit into it because school was closing a week ahead of Spring Break. The sudden break was surprising, joyful! That Friday, we got Morellis, celebrated the sudden break and went home. It was the last time he saw 90% of his classmates.
We all know what happened next. Global pandemic, civil unrest, everybody in some version of quarantine and a tense presidential election. Most children knew of the chaos going on, some wanted to be involved, others preferred to sit inside. Our homes became our office, our classroom, our mask free happy place. Our kids went from joyous, to skeptical with online schooling, thankful for summer, anticipation for fall, and hope for 2021.
I know children are resilient. I have the pleasure of meeting kids when they’re experiencing a challenging time. I have the honor of watching them bounce back and continue to grow, to evolve, to become stronger versions of their younger selves. Right now our children are living in an actual global pandemic during a massive paradigm shift in America’s history. I have to wonder – are the kids okay? Are MY kids okay?
I’m their adoring mother but I’m also an educator and psychologist. I see what’s happening. Their grades are slipping, growth has stalled, they’re not reading at night anymore. They’re cranky, zoomed out zombies who don’t get enough sunlight. There are battles over school/home work, but all it does is send them back into their bedrooms to finish it; away from us. I get notes from their diligent teachers letting me know they’re late, distracted, or haven’t turned something in. Now, 11 months in, they’re tired and fatigued. They are hermits in their rooms.
My kids are not thriving in the traditional ways. If we were in “the times before”, they’d be in bed by 9 pm , and awake by 7:00 am. I’d make an actual healthy breakfast, they’d have a homemade lunch in their backpack, and we would chat in the car on the way to school. They’d be in school with loud hallways, active classrooms and chaotic recess fields. They’d be involved in after school activities.
My eager high achiever is an introvert. He thinks he’s fine but he needs social interaction. He’s adapted by texting on discord, playing every video game there is, and making D&D characters. He has alarms set up for class time, does his homework and is generally engaged in class. My easily bored achiever is an extrovert. He loves seeing people. He’s adapted by riding his bike regularly, learning tiktok, honing roblox builder’s club. He has alarms set up for facetime calls with friends and schedules his own playdates. School work is second to last in order of importance.
In my times of worry, I look to see how this will look in the rearview mirror. I know that when people look back on hard times, they tend to remember the best parts. I know that when the human brain recalls things from their childhood, they remember the “gist”, not actual details. While I’m worried if they’re eating well or getting enough sleep, I know that they’ll grow nonetheless. As I get wrapped up in details like freckle assignments or drops in MAP scores, I know they’ll still end up good readers and math students. And while I lament that they will have missed pieces of instruction during these months, I have to acknowledge that they’ve acquired skills they would not have if they had been in traditional schooling.
They’ve developed executive functioning skills and a relationship with their phones and computers far beyond mine. They use them for zoom calls, all class work, uploading work to a cloud, and related arts. In their free time, they use them for video editing, design, movie making, and even actual phone calls. My kids set up their own alarms, organize online game times and participate in very rambunctious video chatting. Socially, they’re actually interacting with ANCS students outside of their grade. Their communication does not exist in the classroom – they’ve built it somewhere online, in whichever form they’ve made. Before the pandemic, I had a little bit of time before they became independent little human beings. But the pandemic did hit, everything changed, and they adapted.
As fully formed adults, parents are fixed in their ways and adapted to a world we expected to have. But the world is not yet finished adjusting to this pandemic and many parts of our future are still unknown. The coming changes are likely to be things we did not consider and did not notice as they were happening. These changes will be harder for the parents than it will be for our children. Because no matter what, kids grow. They are bubbly, fascinating, creative, and resilient little creatures. They want to grow, expand and experience whatever life has for them – no matter if there’s a global pandemic or not. Children were designed to grow and to evolve for whatever the world has for them.
I look forward to the coming decades to find out what this generation builds. Our old eyes cannot perceive how this time will change who they become as adults. I suspect they’ll be more flexible and adaptable and be willing to try new things just to get the job done. They saw their teachers and parents do so in the last year and they saw that things were okay. They’ll be connected to each other in a way we cannot begin to understand. They’ll find ways to create, connect and build without the traditional constraints of the past generations. That’s what children do – they adapt, evolve and become stronger versions of their younger selves.