Course Correction: Navigating the New Normal

I’m going to be honest with you. During the early days of social distancing, in the aftermath of no-more-school-for-the-rest-of-the-year, while I digested this new normal, all of the color-coded schedule, science experiment, creative art project, colorful driveway posts on social media made me anxious and even a bit (gasp) annoyed. 

As reality has set in, though, I have been reminded that my feelings are just that, mine — props to everyone for doing what they need to do in order to survive and celebrating it on social media. You keep doing you. Unfortunately, my initial angst toward it all caused me to drag my feet on implementing any sort of routine or level of expectation for our children–although my social media posts at the time indicated a slightly rosier view of our early quarantine experience. 

Despite having a three year old who thrives on routine and a five year old on the autism spectrum who relies on it, we originally opted to go with the flow. And, as you’d expect, we experienced more valleys than peaks, more frustration than fun. While it hasn’t all been bad by any stretch of the word, we’ve not been our best parenting selves (and by “we,” I mainly mean “me”). Now, I’m not looking for “you’re doing your best” support here. Just like how I think it’s important to share our feelings, especially when we’re feeling weak, sad, or vulnerable, I’m owning these shortcomings because I chose not to give my kids what they needed as a result of my own hang-ups and anxiety.

Well, that all changed once our son had his first tele-health therapy session with his awesome speech pathologist at the beginning of the month. That one hour of structured time, framed with expectation woke me from my stupor. Early intervention to the rescue! I spent about 30 minutes that night creating morning and afternoon schedules using Choiceworks; his therapist reminded me of the inexpensive app. I like this app in particular because in addition to their wide array of graphics, I was able to use pics from my phone as well as my voice to personalize certain tasks based on what we’ve already been doing, like “activity books,” “online learning,” “bike ride,” and “watch a show” — our kids have really enjoyed seeing familiar pictures and hearing my voice. 

Once I made the schedules on my phone, I shared them to our iPad (that I had to literally dust off because we’ve not used it since July when we embarked on a screen-free road trip, which is another post entirely). I went to bed feeling accomplished and a little excited. I may have even woken up my sleepy husband to share my excitement with him — he was on board, albeit a little less enthused for obvious reasons. 

Our first day with schedules went pretty smoothly. The kids really liked being able to move each task/activity over to “All done!” I was actually kicking myself for not buying into the whole structure thing earlier. For the afternoon, I’d put “rest” and “reading” as tasks, explaining throughout the morning that we would have quiet time in our rooms after lunch — our previous chaos hadn’t lent itself to structured quiet time. Our three year old, who hasn’t formally napped for a few months, started saying loudly with a smile that she was “taking a nap!” after lunch was finished — say what?! — and as I wrote this post, she slept soundly. A quarantine miracle!

So, my point with all of this, and maybe I’m alone in my late adoption of a schedule, is that we have power over our reaction to this whole situation and what we see others doing on social media. I let my own, well, crap cloud my better judgment. There’s no right way to navigate this new normal, but choosing to hope for the best (or to become irritated by everything everyone else is doing around me) may not have been the wisest choice.

The weeks since we’ve implemented our new system have inevitably had their hiccups, but I’m now a believer.

 

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Claire made her way to Kansas City after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she met her husband Scott (a KC native and Mizzou grad). Both are high school educators; she teaches English while he often schools her in history. They live in Olathe with their two small children -- Evan 5 & Abbie 3. Claire regularly spends time advocating for early childhood education/intervention and is always looking for ways to become more civically engaged. She loves cheering on the Huskers and the Royals, date nights, reading five books at once, writing, contemplating the deeper issues of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and listening to her kids giggle together. Catch some of those giggles on Instagram @clairebear_kc.