She’ll be three in mid-June. We hope there’s a playground open on Planet Earth by then. We are lucky and grateful and tired and silly and when there’s an afternoon nap…we are wonderfully, mercifully quiet.
When so much is going wrong with the world and so much of life is suspended in the air, paused, uncertainty seems the only certainty. One. Day. At. A. Time.
I keep saying the words and they keep seeming important to me. We cannot control much these days. Accepting that is step one.
In 2015 and 2016, I taught high school humanities at a small charter school that was upside-down. I had to learn how to tread water in a new way. Behaviors that you would not expect in a learning environment, well, they were everywhere. The vast majority, maybe 85%, of the students were from poor families, many of whom spoke limited English. Some students had lost family members to violence. Some had babies. Some were pregnant. Attendance for about half of my students was spotty at best. I could not control any of those things. What I could control was my attitude, my reactions and my expectations. It was a brutal 18 months, but I learned a lot about myself and gained enormous respect for the students who were dedicated to making something of themselves despite the school environment and the domino effects of poverty, non-native-English-speaking, and few college role models to guide them. I also gained respect for the staff that continued on despite the waves of chaos.
I think of the medical profession around the world. I think of the lack of supplies and the way hospitals are stretched too thin. I think of how under-prepared we all were and still are, like a student walking into my 11th grade humanities class with a 3rd grade reading level.
When an infant enters your home, focusing on what you can and can’t control becomes a survival habit. We used to count in weeks, then months. It’s strange not to count in months anymore. Thirty-four months to be exact. But after she turned 2, we stopped focusing on that number.
So much changes every week and she’s just now learning how to articulate what she wants and how to get us to listen without breaking into whine, moan, frustration, or hysterical crying. We urge her, “Say Mama, Daddy, I need help.” We say, “I am listening.” She is growing into a beautiful and funny little girl, no longer a baby, running so fast she seems to want to leave toddler-hood behind already.
We have no preschool to send her to. We hope the place we’ve applied for in August accepts her three mornings per week. We pulled her from the one she started in August, thinking we’d finish the year and then look elsewhere, but then the school year halted in mid-March.
We play with a friend who lives up the street. I’ve made a friend who’s a great dad and she gets a playmate. The two of us get through the cobwebs of early mornings with coffee and yogurt packets. By 9:30 we get ready to play for a few hours. We have broken the shelter-in-place only with them, and they only with us. This way, we tread water and gain socialization, learning how to share and how to ask questions and how to giggle together through the days of quarantine.
We learn how to ride a tricycle around the block. We learn how to find the hidden Sesame Street figures, all eleven of them, up in the tree. Ernie went missing for a short time, but he turned up. We had them in the sand today. Then they all went for a bath.
We improvise while the world waits.
The number of deaths is staggering, over 55,000. We’re all fatigued by COVID-19, but the news is nothing compared to the disease itself. People often say they can’t complain. They say it out of respect for the bigger problems that people face. Jobs. Food. Rent. Safety. The truth is we can complain, but without humility, our complaints become selfish. As the world suffers, what becomes important comes into focus. But it feels like we are all paralyzed, stuck inside, wondering when things will improve.
As talk of re-opening the country grows state-by-state, we can’t be foolishly optimistic or naive, but we also can’t be terrified or numb. These last few years of toxic leadership have many feeling afraid of believing in the possibilities of democracy and of a better future.
Indications are that this economy isn’t about to recover anytime soon, but we must maintain a belief in a better future, with a more useful, more competent, more unifying federal government. The upcoming November election sits on the horizon. Will we vote by mail? Standing in line, 6-feet apart?
November will arrive and we will have found new footing by then. One day at a time.