“Wow, mom, kids were really mature looking back then,” she said.
I had to laugh when I remembered how my older two kids both came home from their first day of high school two and four years ago with the same surprise: There were guys with beards, dangling their own car keys in class!
After the first week of virtual learning in August my daughter closed her laptop and declared, “High school is going pretty well so far.” It broke my heart a little.
Little does she know, I thought.
Now she’s really going to see what high school is like, even if only half the students are there at the same time. This will become her new normal, just like my 2020 high school graduate’s first year of college is becoming his.
My son is in his second month of college out of state. I’ve noticed how our calls are less about academics and highlight almost entirely what I see he’s learning about life.
On our drive out to Utah in August he was sentimental and I saw him as the little boy we took to kindergarten not so many years ago. We had a full day to talk during that drive, which led to little details like how he planned to get to his classes and what he would do to make sure he got up in time for them. “I wonder if my roommate has an alarm clock,” he seriously mused, to my amusement.
The learning kept coming. Within a few days he sent an exclamatory, “I didn’t know the whole town shuts down on Sundays!” One of his first math problems was assigned by him — how to best stretch his dorm food dollars. After complaining he had been walking “22,000 steps” a day, he figured out where to get an inexpensive bike. Seeing other college parents share online that their freshmen are struggling with isolation, I asked him about this. He said he could understand. All social events that were usually set for freshmen were canceled, even football was canceled, which is a top reason why he chose the school. Much of his first two months have been spent figuring out how to stay connected in a new place, during a pandemic, but he’s finding new meaning in “groups of 10 or less” and more.
Some things with school and being a teenager remain the same even if they look different in 2020. Embarrassing moments can still happen over Zoom. Fashion choices may extend to which mask to wear. I read something at the start of the pandemic that explained how parents might view their kids’ 2020 milestones and new experiences in a not-so-dismal light. The writer compared it to a baby on Christmas morning. As parents we have it set in our minds how certain experiences will look, just like we expect a baby to rip open a Christmas present to get to the toy inside. But those memories come from our experiences. Instead of getting to the toy inside, the baby might be content to just play with the ribbon on the gift.
Our kids are charting their own new courses. They might not look like we remember them, especially in this temporary pandemic world, but the experiences and hopefully the lifelong learning are theirs.