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Marny Stebbins.

Well parents, here we are.

Weathering a global pandemic from our (recently bleached) kitchen countertops, armed with recipes for DIY hand sanitizer, YouTube math tutorials and boxes of ramen noodles. And glitter. Oh man, I hope the glitter runs out soon.

Earlier in the month you may have gone to work as a scientist, stylist, lawyer, sales representative, barista, dentist, plumber, chef or banker. Doesn’t matter. Now you are a teacher. And if you didn’t realize it before, you will now: teachers are at the heart of how our children experience the world every day.

Teachers are our children’s portal to a world outside our homes. On a daily basis, they tackle global awareness as well as emotional intelligence, consistently reinforcing how to be a good citizen, how to be responsible for your work, your shoes, your electronics, your hands, your feelings and your words. They have triaged everything from lost mittens to active shooters. A moment of gratitude here.

COVID -19 has handed this heavy baton back to us, the parents. Now we, in the midst of uncharted territory, are the portal for our children once again. I expect choppy waters.

First of all, I still “carry the 1.” My 4th grader’s “New Math” composed of boxes, sticks and dots resembles Morris Code more than an equation to me. I’m pretty sure all those dots and dashes translate into: “Ask your Father” or “There’s a YouTube video for this.” Before even cracking a book, I can tell you, I will not be the Math resource in my home for a 4th grader. And Trigonometry might as well be a manual to a space launch system. NASA, we have a problem.

Of course, there are few books to “crack” as e-learning works in an electronic environment. And while I am grateful for this option, the flexibility of e-learning presents its own challenges. For example, imagine an equation that looks like this: one sibling chooses to work on their school assignments (on a laptop) while another simultaneously downloads a movie (on an iPad) and yet another is completing a digital “Beach Body Workout” all while Mom discovers a discarded pan of BBQ rib remnants in a bedroom closet and subsequently bans Wi-Fi for the aforementioned lazy carnivore. Who is left with an opportunity to complete their e-learning? Who is disciplined- the student or the carnivore? When will the speed of the Wi-Fi successfully accommodate four children e-learning from laptops as well as two parents working remote from the kitchen table? Don’t forget to carry the 1…

Add in rationed toilet paper squares and Choppy waters, indeed.

I don’t know what to expect in the next coming weeks, but I am not counting on measurable academic growth. I am not counting on mastery. I am not counting on smooth.

But, teacher or not, a parent knows their child best of all and maybe that is more important during these frightening times. As their Mom, I can read their faces before they say the words and I know their body language like my own. I know a request for baking is a request for connection. I know a request for a Shamrock shake is a request for normality. I know tears over a missing blanket has more to do with a need for security rather than warmth and I know a hug from my seventeen-year-old is as much for him as it is for me.

The kitchen table may be crowded and sticky and loud and distracted, but Home is best comfort we can provide right now. They can safely experience anxiety and fear at home. They can laugh at awkward jokes, eat cereal for lunch, wear pajamas for class, cry with a pet, escape with a movie, talk with a Grandparents and retreat to their rooms, and feelings, with freedom at home.

I can teach this lesson and you can too. We can teach resiliency. We can teach patience. We can teach Home and love and family. Take pride in your ability to teach these big lessons in the upcoming weeks. They may just be the most important.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a staunch believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy.

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