Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope. This was Princess Leia’s plea to the legendary Jedi master to assist the rebellion as she was being taken by the Imperials. In this instance, Leia knew she couldn’t do this on her own and relied on her family’s network of supports. As I observe the local and national discourse on in-person school vs. virtual learning, this quote keeps coming up in my mind (I must have classic movies on the brain since this is my second post referencing film). Now, I realize that this may make all the hard-core fans of the Star Wars canon cringe (sorry, Ryan), but hear me out.
Leia is in a tough spot. A really tough spot. Much like so many of us in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to school for their children. School districts across the nation are making decisions about what the upcoming school year will look like for their students. There seems to be no right answer to how we balance our children’s educational, social, emotional, and health needs among the myriad of other challenges this virus has brought up. It’s a complicated issue and further complicated by some parent’s need to work. As a result, I have seen and heard many criticisms among parents regardless of their decision (assuming they have been given a choice because many have not). Some parents in favor of virtual learning have either outright or subtly criticized parents who want to send their children to the face-to-face learning environment. They accuse these parents of not caring about the health and safety of their children. On the other side of the coin, some working parents accuse the families who wish to stay home as basically being afraid for no reason. With that being said, the point of this post is not to express my opinion nor the social issues that contribute to the complexity of these decisions (I could write a book on this). My point is that this is a time that we need each other. We need to listen to each other and help each other in any way that we can.
I am reading a book titled, Burnout, written by Emily Nagoski, PhD and her twin sister, Amelia Nagoski, DMA. In it, they discuss a variety of ways to combat the buildup of stress and burnout. At the heart of the solutions they propose, they make it clear that “the cure for burnout is not self-care. It’s all of us caring for each other”. It makes complete sense because we can’t “do it all”. Despite this, society tells us that we need to be independent, handle things on our own, and decline any offers of help lest we seem weak or needy. How many of you reading this have felt this pressure? How many of you have felt it magnified due to the necessity of social distancing?
I have worked with families for over 20 years in a variety of capacities. I have worked with families of all different kinds of backgrounds, challenges, and needs. I am absolutely certain that, with the exception of a very small percent, the vast majority of parents love their children and only want what is best for them and their family. Perhaps what is best for them is for their parent(s) to continue to protect them as they are medically vulnerable. Perhaps the children are healthy, but the parent is considered at a high risk of life-threatening complications from COVID-19. Perhaps the family has a single parent that has to work and can’t afford all day child-care (Don’t even get started on the impossible situations that early childhood teachers have been put in during this pandemic). Perhaps the child is starting to suffer from depression or anxiety due to the extended isolation from their friends and other important adults in their life. Instead of judging each other on our preferences and choices (again, if we are fortunate to have them), I am making a call to action that we help each other. No, really, I mean it. Think about your friends and acquaintances that may be in a tough situation. What can you offer to help them through this crisis? If you aren’t sure, ask them how you can help. It could be something like helping to tutor their child during virtual learning, making the family a meal once or twice a month, or even lending an ear so they can vent about their frustrations. Whatever you can offer, please consider this instead of judging the decisions of others, which are likely very well thought out. We need to help each other. We are our only hope.