As such, it shouldn’t have shocked me that my kindergartener might have a hard time learning out of our kitchen—hearing her little brother playing gleefully with a parent in the next room and, occasionally, the sounds of a late breakfast being prepared on the stove a mere 10 feet away. My daughter dreams of a classroom the way I dream of an office space. That said, as soon as my husband and I focused on creating the right conditions for my kindergartener, distance learning did get a little easier. Now, on days that my daughter attends a remote classroom, our kitchen table transforms into a proper desk; she has all her supplies within reach; we no longer let our three-year-old watch T.V. during this period, lest our student travel from her learning space to the living room like a moth to the flame; and we make ourselves scarce. That last one was the hardest to implement, since some part of me felt it was wrong to be so uninvolved. As it turns out, that’s precisely what she needs.
I guess you could say I’m past the adjustment period and yet, every day is truly still a crapshoot. There are days the stars have aligned for my family: I emerge from my bedroom/office beaming, just as my kindergartener has finished her synchronized learning—both of us ready to interact and engage. Other days, I spend the entire remote learning period thwarting my youngest’s attempts to destroy an expensive piece of technology, whilst neurotically reminding my oldest to stay on mute as much as possible and eat her fried egg off-screen. Consistency is still a pipe dream at this point, but we do get a taste of success when we commit to keeping some structure in place.
For what it’s worth, I have also learned a couple of valuable things about myself from all this. First, I don’t need to ask forgiveness for being present, while not being engaged: My kids take comfort in my physical presence—and that’s especially important, considering that they’re learning about autonomy by watching me assert my own. (I also firmly believe that my daughter has what it takes to find a dry erase marker for herself.) As for those moments when forgiveness is on the table—when I fall short of the sensitivity I aspire to and do a less-than-perfect job at this juggling act—I can feel good about owning up to it. After all, love and authenticity are everything...and there are far worse fates than knowing your mother is a human being, right? I guess what I’m saying is that my biggest accomplishment to date is that I have learned to embrace being a good enough mother.
Does any of that fall into the category of indispensable parenting wisdom? Nope. It’s just a set of affirmations, courtesy of a totally not-chill parent—and truth be told, it still is a tremendous struggle to manage work and homeschooling in our oh-so-cozy pad. But as for the guilt, I’m learning to live without it.