I wrote a Facebook post recently about rituals and my worry that while we’re doing online distance learning, our two high schoolers would feel the loss of the myriad ways their school creates community through morning announcements (including recognition of birthdays), saying the pledge, playing music over the loudspeaker between classes, Candy Fridays—plus I’m sure a bunch of other ways that individual teachers provide consistency while defining values and identity. The idea of losing these meaningful rituals at a time when my kids need more stability, not less, bummed me out.
Our daily rituals were more obvious when the kids were little, especially the favorite night-time routine of dinner, bath, and bedtime stories. My hope is that the intentionality of those rituals helped our kids become secure, well-functioning young adults. And I want to continue to help them feel secure. But after doing a lot of thinking on the topic, I started to feel like the best thing I could do for my teenagers was to trust that their teachers would find ways to create those rituals remotely and instead focus on creating my own routines and goals and holding myself accountable to them. Lead by example, as it were.
A friend shared a joke on Facebook: “Last year, it was do one thing every day that scares you. Now it’s do one thing every day.” Oh, I can relate. In the spring, with the uncertainty of not knowing if we’d be going back to “real life” any minute, I found it difficult to commit to any long-term projects, like Organizing All the Photos. Mostly, I found it hard to concentrate. I spent a lot of time trying to keep up with information, both medical- and policy-related, about the coronavirus. Plus, all of a sudden, Tim was working from home and the two who’d left the nest were back. I was glad to have everyone safely under one roof, but there were a lot of distractions. At the end of the day, I decided to go easy on myself and just focus on being as present as I could and keeping the place going as gracefully as possible.
But now that the school year’s begun, I’m going to demand a bit more from myself. I’ve got some goals in place, mostly related to writing, but also to learning some new things. I’ve made a schedule that mirrors the high schoolers’ three daily class periods of 100 minutes each. I hope that not only will I feel better with a real schedule but that my kids will benefit from seeing me more focused and accomplishing some real goals.
Of course, we’ll still have our rituals, like the Back to School Cake. And maybe I’ll start up Muffin Mondays again. Ha! There’s always the nightly dog walks and maybe we can bribe our lovely neighbor from Peru into having some conversations with the Spanish students (I know she likes books and wine).
How about you? Do you have any rituals, school or otherwise, that are helping you stay focused during these unprecedented times? (Which reminds me of another joke I saw recently: “Don’t know about y’all, but I could really go for some precedented times.” —Simon Holland)