This. Is. Not. Okay.
We’re two weeks into our personal experience of the grand national experiment that is Distance Learning, and spoiler: Nothing about it is even close to workable.
My kids and I are enormously privileged. We have WiFi (when it feels like working, which is about 60% of the time). Computers. One work-from-home parent and two who are deeply invested in their education. A school with resources and incredible teachers. Plenty of outdoor space.
And yet I cannot imagine how we are going to do this for months on end – especially not without incurring major trauma on our children. It’s like watching a train crash in slow motion, and not being able to do a damn thing about it.
More days than not so far, we’ve had enormous connectivity issues. My son spends hours every day sitting in front of a glitching computer screen. He cries because he’s so bored, and feels so trapped. I don’t blame him; I would feel the same. When I find out that he hasn’t been doing his work, I don’t even know how to respond: Is he tuning out, or is he literally just not hearing the teacher’s instructions? Is it his fault? Or the Internet’s? Or mine?
I should have known he hadn’t done his work. I should have been listening in.
But I have to work, too.
My personal anxiety level is off the charts. As I write this, my heart is literally racing. I already feel like I’ve run an entire marathon, and lunchtime hasn’t even happened yet. There is a pile of laundry nearly as tall as I am in the corner. I need to go grocery shopping. The house is a disaster. My own workday maxes out around an hour (and that hour is broken up into five-minute bursts, in between delivering pens and paper and logging children in and out and which Zoom are we supposed to be on now and what’s the password for Google Classroom and helping them work through their own exhaustion and frustration).
I feel like I’ve aged 20 years in six months. I’ve gained weight, and wrinkles, and sadness around my eyes.
Oh yeah, and remember that insomnia I “cured” a few years ago?
Turns out pandemics aren’t super conducive to restful sleep.
The other day I saw that video of the two kids who were sitting outside Taco Bell in order to use the Wifi – the kids whose mother almost had CPS called on her as a result – and I wept. My heart is broken for the kids. All of them.
I’m writing this not to complain – although yes, that too – but rather because I know I am not the only parent feeling this way right now: Like the situation we’ve been placed in is fucking impossible for virtually anyone without endless treasure troves of time and space and money, and yet nobody seems to be acknowledging that simple fact.
So. What to do? I wish I knew. I wish I had faith that it will get better, or that there’s hope somewhere out there on the horizon, but I don’t. I think we’re in this for the duration of the academic year. What I do know is that we need a government response that addresses the literal impossibility of the situation facing working parents in a real way. We need solutions – and we need them now. Because whatever this is, it is not the answer.