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by Genevieve Mellott

I want to share an experience with you. Parts may sound familiar. Last spring, my oldest daughter, who was then in sixth grade and typically has been a good student, almost failed several classes fourth quarter. Why? There was a lack of real-time support from her teachers and complete ignorance on my part in regard to how to help her. Oddly, my middle daughter did just fine. (Maybe because I actually understand second-grade material.)

This year, it is quite the opposite. Teachers now have an idea of how to do this whole online school thing. The oldest kid is trying to stay on top of assignments as best she can and is enjoying the material they cover. Unfortunately, the now-third-grader is struggling like a puppy flailing on hardwood floors. I have gone through techniques and assignments with her. I have gone over her teacher’s emails with her. I have tried to teach her math (hahaha) and history. I have given her some bad advice about finding information on the Internet if she can’t locate it in the reading. (As it turns out, that is frowned upon. Too bad I’m not the one being graded.) But we ironed that out, and she still can’t seem to get with the program.

And let us not forget the non-schoolers. The little one, my four-year-old, often gets the shaft because she doesn’t require much. On the days she deems she DOES require “much,” she makes it painfully known. Can you blame her? Meanwhile, my husband has been working from home. Essentially, what that means for him is he avoids road rage and is available to co-parent during bathroom breaks. Sometimes that’s great, but it has taken some getting used to by all parties. And I’m sure the cacophony of children and pets running around the house is not easy on his concentration.

Within this interesting landscape lies a conundrum. Seeing as I’m not a natural multi-tasker, I find myself code-switching between mom, teacher, therapist, businesswoman, designer, writer, improviser, crafter, comedian, cook, household manager, and loving wife. (“Loving wife” is listed last by accident but is probably the reason half of marriages end in divorce. Just sayin’.) I can’t be everything to everyone. Well, at least I can’t 100% of the time.

But you know what? I did not buy a ticket for the struggle bus. If you’re thinking, “Gen, I don’t even know what that means,” it’s this: most of us have real problems. They exist. The “struggle bus” does not refer to the problems but to our trying to control things we cannot and failing miserably. And, hell’s bells, I am getting off of it. I am not making my kids get on it. If that means their grades are not magically delicious this year, well, these little people are loved and (so far) healthy. Plus, they have gotten REALLY good at first-person-shooter video games, so that’s something. My preschooler won’t be behind simply because she’s not currently in preschool. My husband won’t lose his job because he’s on Zoom. (If anything, he’s actually more efficient than he already awesomely was.) And do you know what else? I’m ok with this stuff. In the big picture, my kids love people and have big hearts. My husband is an amazing person who has, thus far, put up with my nonsense. Ten years from now, no one is going to fault me (or you) for how poorly this school year went or the fact that I definitely gained COVID-15. And even if they do, who cares? How many parents of now-grown kids say, “I really wish I had paid less attention to my kids and worked more.” And how many lovers say, “Too bad we had to spend so much time together.”

God, the universe, and the spirit of Bob Ross himself are trying to tell us something: “Get a friggin’ handle on your priorities!” Yes, we need jobs. Yes, we need education. But more than all of this, we need people, whether we like it (or them) or not. And why not start with the people who live in our own homes? It’s a novel concept brought on by a novel coronavirus. Hmm.

If you are finding yourself boarding the struggle bus, get off now. It’s not too late. That man or woman you pledged your life to? Maybe get to know them. Those little DNA proliferators (AKA: children) running around? Get to know them, too. Don’t like them? Boy, you’re in trouble. Just kidding! It really is true what they say about the things we dislike in ourselves bothering us in others. So, do some self-work and become who you want to be. Then, see if you like yourself and your family more. I assure you that one day we’ll look back and think, “I’m so glad I spent time with them.”