A little over six weeks have passed into our foray as chefs, cooks, and bottle washers. Life in the time of COVID-19 has forced us to multitask, and we are exhausted. Without the ability to drop the kid off at school, spend some time away from our dear spouse, and hang out with our friends, things can get overwhelming. Even the best organizers only have so much time in the day.
So what happens? We find ourselves being less than stellar with our children, with our spouses, with our imaginary partners. Well, the world, even in the time of COVID-19 does not stop spinning. To help myself, I’ve borrowed and adapted a mantra used by many self-help groups.
Progress, not Perfection emphasizes not letting perfection get in the way of the healthy changes you are trying to make. I’m calling my adaptation, “Parenting, not Perfection.” Certainly, that phrase has been used before; so, I’m not taking credit for inventing it. I am, however, using it as a shortcut to give you a quick pat on the back for at least trying to be a good parent and a good teacher.
While you’re doing your best to juggle, here are some things to keep in mind. They have worked for me but your mileage may vary:
1. Set Reasonable Expectations: You cannot get as much done as a teacher would in a classroom. You cannot do it. Unless you are a teacher, you do not have the training to teach a preschooler. You probably don’t have the patience of a good preschool teacher. And this is your child—the dynamic is different. Concentrate on one or two activities and call it a day. If you expect your child to be doing “table work” for three hours, somebody needs analysis. And, it’s not the kid.
2. Set Your Own Schedule: You are at home. There is no school “day.” There is no requirement that “lessons” be accomplished during school hours. Let your child sleep in, let them stay up later than normal. Let your family find its own rhythm. Take breaks.
3. Do Not Buy Out the Craft Store: You need safety scissors, paper, and vodka. The Vodka is in case you can’t find rubbing alcohol. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Seriously, there is no need to raid the craft store. Is your child learning to form letters? Take every-day objects from around the house and use them to form letters. Walk your neighborhood and collect items to make different shapes. You don’t need to be fancy. You just need to inspire. Get your child involved in cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry. Those activities teach counting, sorting, measuring, organizing—skills that are essential to their development. Are the activities going to take you more time to complete? YES. But, you are spending time with your child. Time that you would not otherwise be spending.
4. Focus on Learning Through Play: You can learn and play? Yes. It’s fun for both you and the child. Take for instance, a simple lesson on the solar system and sorting colors. The Kid was incredibly busy playing with his toy shield. He was running around defending our house from monsters. He wanted no part of “schoolwork.” While he was playing, I used clay to make seven balls in different colors. I sat quietly. In a matter of seconds, I heard: “What are you doing?” “Those are asteroids,” I replied. “Asteroids smash into planets.” “Smash? Planets? He was hooked! Pretty soon, we were making planets, moons, etc. He was using his shield to defend against the attacking asteroids. “Asteroids, attack by color,” I said. So, he had to sort them. The whole thing took about 35 minutes. And, it was fun.
5. It Is OK to Stop and Start Again Tomorrow: If you get tired, if your child gets tired, if tempers get short, breathe. Sanity and relationships are more important than the square root of pi. Pie is more important than the square root of pi. Stop. Start again fresh. You have not failed. You just need a break.
6. Use Online Resources: You are not alone. Most schools have provided parents with at least some resources to get them through homeschooling. If you haven’t received any, ask why. If you have and you need some backup help, ask your child’s teacher. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, I suggest the site Teachers Pay Teachers. At the site you will find loads, I mean loads, of ready-to-go things that you can do with your child right now. And a great deal of them are free.
7. Let the Kid Be a Kid: Your child will want to play. If your child wants to do nothing but play all day one day, become a pirate for half an hour. Become the loudest, silliest pirate you can possibly be. Chase her throughout the entire house. Make a memory. Forget about teaching a lesson.
Yes, we have been called upon to be chefs, cooks, and bottle washers. And, this is relatively new to all of us. Or is it? Is it really? As parents, we multi-task all the time. We are always parents, we are always somebody’s employee or spouse or boss or mentor, etc. The difference now is the incredible amount of stress that is imposed by a situation that is outside of our control. The difference now is that we control very little of what’s going on. The difference now is that we don’t really see an end.
I offer you this: Parenting is neither sport nor competition. Stop beating yourself up. We don’t get awards; we barely get our own individuality. After all, we are often introduced as “so and so’s Mom or Dad.” And, that’s good. It reminds us of who we are, and why we do what we do. Because parenting is not about us. We so often get wound up around the word “Parent,” as in “I am the parent” that we forget it’s not just a noun, it’s also a verb. And, if you happen to forget, just substitute the word “caregiver.” It will help steer you in the right direction.