That’s it. School for the year is finally over. All the screaming, yelling, and crying is over. And that wasn’t even the kids. That was me every time I found a hidden folder with an assignment that I didn’t know about.
To say that this year has been difficult for all parents is a bit of an understatement. It’s like saying that Niagara Falls is a trickle of water. But this week, we can all sit back and be proud that we made it through online school. We made it through missing assignments and the loss of sick days. Snow days were gone but replaced with WiFi down days. Socialization was reduced to videos on a screen, and teacher emails took the place of work emails.
The kids learned a lot, mainly how to quickly mute before I dropped another swear word on their zoom classes. But hopefully, we’ve all learned something as well.
For example, I learned that the only place I could get any quiet away from the constant pressure was by hiding in my wife’s walk-in closet. I put a chair in there and sat behind her old wedding dress. I also learned that the wedding dress does not fit me.
I learned that every teacher is different and has different expectations. I really do admire them. I also learned that the school board did not take into account almost any of the teacher’s recommendations and that our solutions were “Good luck, chumps!” I learned how to write an angry letter to the editor.
In February, I learned that not having water is not a good excuse not to be present for class. I also found out that my eight-year-old should not wear a smoking jacket to class. No matter how cool he looked, this was not an appropriate look. And I learned that every day is PJ day when you do online school. I did not know there was a hard PJ/Jacket line, but apparently, there is.
I learned that I’m stronger than I thought, but at the same time, it’s ok to break. That the constant pressure to be available to kids, deadlines, teachers, and my wife is a lot to put on a person’s shoulders. And sometimes it’s totally reasonable to head outside at midnight and just scream and then use that experience as something my daughter can write about for a grade. I’ve learned that I’m great at multi-tasking.
This year, I learned that Taylor Swift has a lot of songs and that Harry Styles is the best, and if I say anything otherwise, my daughter will be mortified. I am not allowed to talk to her friends. As a family, we all learned to ask “are you on camera” before coming out of the shower.
So, the year wasn’t a bust. The truth is that we all did the best we could given the circumstances. And as the year went on, it did get easier to cry in my closet.
Without jokes, we all have something to be proud of. That we were able to make it through a year where we had to re-learn quadratic equations to teach our teenagers. That we went through the entirety of world history with only having to search for ½ of it. And that even though jelly-covered fingers are not the best when it comes to using a mouse on a laptop, these things can be repaired.
And we learned that we can forgive ourselves for those moments that we weren’t our best. When we wanted to pick a fight because our frustration level was so high, we didn’t know what to do and lashed out. That it’s ok to be to take a deep breath and just say “Screw it, we’ll get to it tomorrow.”
We also learned that Google Slides can suck it.
I’m lucky enough that two of my kids have received the first dose of the vaccine. And although I’m disappointed they didn’t get any superpowers, I am proud for how they handled a year that was ten times tougher on them than it was on me. How my teenager helped when she could and dove into the subjects she hated. How my middle son was always quick to jump in with a history fact to help his older sister. And how my youngest stopped hanging up on his teacher when he got bored.
I learned that they are more resilient than I gave them credit for and that if I trust them, they will more often than not come through. But I also learned that my youngest likes to embarrass his sister on her zoom calls.
I am eager for everyone to get back to normal. I am excited that my wife goes back to work in June, and that my children will be in person next year. I’m thrilled that I will have the house to myself again and can stop putting my goals on hold.
I’m ready to move forward. But as I do, I’m sure I will miss them all. And I learned that on occasion, it’s ok to forget about school and responsibilities and just hang out with them all for no reason other than they are awesome.
YOUR ESSENTIAL MANUAL FOR BEING AN AWESOME FULL-TIME FATHER