Grace to get through this school year

This year–no matter what configuration your child’s school is in–is not going to be what we’ve come to think of as “successful.” There is no way for it to be. Online will be so radically different, but so will in-person schooling. Even districts that pretend that the virus is a hoax and don’t require distancing or masks and keep all activities will still experience high levels of stress in teachers and students, absentee rates from illness, and deaths of school and community members.
There is no way to make things normal and give kids and teachers and parents what we need. There is no good decision, only less-horrible decisions.
Everyone is losing what we thought we had and what we were very good at needing.
What if we took this next year to give grace? To ourselves, for not being able to smash three different full-time commitments into 8-10 hours a day. To our kids, for being confused and scared and not knowing how to finesse a new system that isn’t even a system. To teachers, who are just as confused and stressed as we are and who sometimes make good decisions and sometimes make decisions that could be better.
And what if we let ourselves receive grace? From our kids, who love us and don’t want us to be miserable and stressed trying to supervise them through online school. From teachers, who don’t really expect full compliance but are being forced by their districts to ask for it. From other parents, who know how impossible this is and think you’re doing a great job just showing up every day.
What if we could say: This year is lost academically and extracurricularly, eaten by a virus like Pac-Man eats dots. Since we are being forced to sit out from these things, what if we used this year to:
1. Really deeply explore our own attitudes and fears and biases about parenting and about ourselves as parents. The system beforetimes was set up so that we could succeed as parents by leading our children through a course that rewarded achievement and compliance. Without those external rewards and that assignment and goal system, who are you as a parent and what do you need to achieve and teach your kids?
2. Really deeply explore who our children are and what makes them function and thrive. We’ve been rewarded for getting our kids to achieve and comply, but that doesn’t mean we know what really makes our kids tick. You get to spend an entire year just watching and trying things with your kid, and since there isn’t really a possibility of traditional success, it’s totally safe to fail, for both of you.
3. Reevaluate relationships. All relationships. This is the perfect time to erect some strong, healthy boundaries, and also to focus and prioritize relationships that nurture you. Divorce might save your family by choosing truth and love over an external structure. You might need to go through the motions for one last year with someone so that when you cut off the relationship you know you did everything you could. Do not be afraid to make hard decisions or put real, intentional labor into relationships.
4. Play. With your kids and by yourself. You can’t win this year, and neither can your kids. Let yourself have some fun instead.
5. Create things to look forward to. What feels like a holiday, a reward, an event? If you are part of a culture with rituals and rewards built in, celebrate and observe those. Make up things to work toward and enjoy. Allow risk as part of the events.
Giving yourself grace to take a mulligan on achievement and forward motion this year is the best thing you can do to lower your stress level. The asks of this school year do not deserve your heart, your love, your panic, your energy. Tread water with your kids so they can advance to the next grade next fall. But don’t expect a normal learning year in the middle of societal and cultural chaos.
Grace. Just give and accept grace, wherever it comes from. Your kids will learn discipline and perseverance some other year, but this year is the best chance to model for them giving and receiving grace. You are good just because you’re here. Your kids are good just because they are here. Be good together just being here.

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