I Can Barely Keep Up With Distance Learning, and the Only Thing I Can Do Is Laugh

In the past few weeks, I have begun to realize that there is a reason children attend school daily. The first reason is to receive a formal education, but another I have been learning is because it is extremely difficult as a parent to be the exclusive teacher of my own children. In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined that my children would not be able to attend school. Currently, my own blurred roles of mother, teacher, playmate, and disciplinarian are becoming too much to handle.

My mornings begin early as I prefer to be the first person awake in the house. This quiet routine begins with a pump session for the twins, a cup of coffee, and some light reading of the news. My coveted alone time is normally cut short by the footsteps of an early riser creeping down the stairs, though I don't mind the interruption — mornings are the best time of day because everyone is calm, slow moving, and freshly sweet from the night's rest.

As 9 a.m. approaches, the boys wash off the sticky ring from breakfast stamped around their mouths, wet-comb down their bed-mussed hair, throw on a clean shirt, and head to their seats for the Zoom calls. Most days, they sneak into class wearing pajama pants, and if they pinky swear not to stand up, I give in to this innocent rebellion. The boys have their own designated learning tables. Son #1 is set up in what is supposed to be our formal living room, but it never made its transition and is now the official playroom. Son #2 is set up in the kitchen, as that is where I spend most of my time and I am able to always be near him and simultaneously tend to the twins. Honestly, I need to be in arms length of any necessities to bribe son #2. I bribe him with every PAW Patrol toy, ice cream sandwich, and future adventure I can dream up, but as the days go by, most of my bribes have gone stale. I practically have to wrestle with him until something appears on a Zoom call that grabs his attention. I pray every day that the teachers open up with the "Baby Shark Wash Your Hands" video, because though it pounds my brain for the remainder of the day, that tricky tune always sucks him in.

Many mornings, I wake up with a sore throat and wonder if I have COVID-19, until I remember that I barely leave the house and I spend most of my day barking out orders, answering questions, and spelling out entire journal entries letter by letter. So it's no wonder my voice is strained. My voice can now mutate at the drop of a dime, as I can be speaking in sweet-toned baby talk one minute and the next be dragging my son back to his virtual desk while chanting the days-of-the-week song, which happens to be set to the Addams Family theme song — another catchy tune to get stuck in my head.

By 10 a.m., my attentiveness is lacking and there is always some hidden mess left for my discovery, like a mysterious liquid on the floor or a full toilet-paper roll completely unraveled. Or, my biggest nemesis, finding the bin of Legos overturned because someone needed them for math class. At this point, I've already made multiple threats to their livelihood, paired with way too many unconscious handfuls of Teddy Grahams, made worse by the guilt that I do not always find 20 minutes to myself to squeeze in my own exercise class. And my attempts to host some sort of P.E. class end in me breaking up a wrestling match or someone getting nailed with a ball or stick because staging a Star Wars battle is much more fun than the intended sport.

The chaos can at times become so intense that my working-from-home husband is lured out of his office by a child screaming "I'm done" one too many times. Although these moments are at the height of our whirlwind, we have to look at each other and laugh. In our home, "I'm done" means someone needs an extra hand in the potty . . . which is code for butt wiper. My husband has become the official butt wiper as his virtual office is positioned next to the busiest bathroom in the house. This generous gesture is much appreciated.

Participating with a preschooler on Zoom school has also had some standout moments. For example, my son believes licking the iPad is an appropriate way to greet his class. Why? I'm still not sure. Possibly because that is how 4-year-olds act when handed an interactive screen with a live audience. But it's these kind of cracks in my day that keep me going, because the only reaction is to laugh at the absurdity of my current situation. And I realize that this is not forever. Right now is a phase, one that will pass, though while it is here, I will be grateful for my family's health and try my best to power through the days with the hope of a hot shower and glass of wine at the finish line.

I think the lesson for me after assuming the role of both mother and teacher is that children need to be in a school environment outside of the home and independent of their parents. Similar to how careers and hobbies are outlets for adults, school is a social and mental outlet for children. After having spent time filling all of these voids, I am vowing to show more appreciation toward those who devote their time to spending long days with my children. For though I love being with them, it is the schools and teachers that allow us the ability to maintain a healthy relationship. And this includes having time apart. So thank you to all the teachers, the major role you play in helping me raise my children, and keeping my home a happy one; it's not gone unnoticed by me.