As an extrovert and someone who thrives being around people, the social distancing restrictions around COVID-19 are pretty challenging for me. I am sitting in my office looking out at an empty campus, and I’m truly missing what would normally be happening here at Colorado Academy.
In the Spring, our beautiful campus comes to life; the quality of light changes, the trees bud, the grass turns green, and the ducklings and goslings hatch. Best of all, warmer weather gives way to students congregating outdoors. Normally, through my open window, I can hear their voices and laughter.
The ability to pop into Zoom classes and see our students engaging does bring joy and reminds me that while life on campus has come to a standstill, learning has not. I am so appreciative for our teachers and their amazing work sustaining our community.
Too, I am grateful for what I have found as a silver lining to this pandemic: the ability to have blocks of unscheduled time with my family. I have two of my children home from college, and of course, my CA Senior, who emotionally is right where all 97 of his classmates are. To be sure, I feel their disappointment everyday. This is normally a time when the course and college pressures wane, spirits lighten, and excitement about the end of the year sets in. But, it has been incredibly special to have daily conversations with my kids and to witness their coping and resilience as young adults. I have learned more about each of them and about the values they have adopted as their own. At the same time, our parenting still matters, and I’m reminded that this endeavor of raising the next generation is a lifelong journey. For me, that brings happiness and hope.
For families with young children, I know many are feeling the strain of the 24/7 on duty, multi-tasking, working, and parenting all at once. When our three children were little, it was challenging—even without social distancing guidelines.
We lived in a tiny apartment in a dormitory on a boarding school campus. When all three of our kids were under five, my wife Thomassen was working as a nurse on the evening shift at the hospital. Those witching hours from 3 to 7 p.m. were brutal. We were in Austin, Texas, and the summers were so hot that you couldn’t be outside. My strategy for these hours was to go the local REI shop, which my kids enthusiastically called “the jacket store.” I would roll in and let them loose. The kids would get into the tents, try out the floor-model sleeping bags, and play hide-and-seek in the clothing racks. Although it gave them some activity, it was not necessarily appreciated by the REI staff! Good thing our kids were so cute.
But, for those school families with children at home, I hope you find ways to take advantage of this time. There is a lot to be anxious about. But, this is a rare moment in history to get to know our children and ourselves better.
At our house, there is a daily effort to identify the birds at the feeder. We have two ducks that pay us daily visits. We watch our dog Lucy go crazy chasing squirrels and rabbits. Thomassen and the kids paint. Maggi, our nursing student, sometimes uses one of us as a patient as she trains. Eliza had been training for a half-marathon, and I supported her on my bike as she completed this goal. George does his metalworking and practices skateboard tricks, and he and I have also been playing a lot of music together.
I’ve heard from some of our friends, alumni, and former parents and staff who are not with their families, and this time feels terribly isolating. I think we should all be sensitive and do our best to check in with friends and neighbors. I know that my parents light up when we do family Zoom calls, particularly when my young niece and nephew get on the screen.
There is so much that we will learn through this pandemic—about viruses and social tracking, about managing pandemics, and the manufacture of vaccines. But we will also learn a lot about humans, and learn again that what makes us tick is our time together. I daresay when the coronavirus cloud has lifted, some of us might even miss the absolute necessity to be sequestered with one another with nothing else to do.