There’s still time to get it right, right?
I mean, we’re closing in on a year since our world was completely upended – no big deal that just about eleven months in, we’re still having hiccups here and there, right? We’ve still got time to pull it together and really start nailing this whole pandemic experience, right? There is a small, small part of me that feels like this next four weeks are the emotional equivalent of a typical December…nearing the year’s end, mind wandering back to those incomplete New Year’s resolutions and then full out sprinting toward finishing at least one or two off. For some reason, this month, I’m a similar mental wander. Did I accomplish all those things that I thought I’d accomplish during the pandemic? Did we come out better as a family? Have I entered the realm of pipe dream when I start thinking that a year later we have got to be getting to the end of this thing? A thought that is laced with both a sense of hope and a sense of fear. Clearly I’ve been inside too long…when the thought of coming out gives me a low grade case of the willies. Did I ever even buy a jigsaw puzzle? I think my plan was to set up a table in the library so that family members could come and go when they felt a need to do something un-screen-related. Hmph.
Back when – actually, that is an overconfident start to this paragraph…I can no longer pinpoint when I mean by back when. At some point (yeah, that’s better) in the past year, we opted to go ahead and plan our annual February migration south. We’ve been doing this for years – pulling the kids out of school for a pre-spring-break-week to regroup while letting a ship carry us around one side of the Caribbean or the other. Last year, we veered and spent that week at Disneyworld, leaving just two weeks before the parks were closed. Oh, how we laughed…weren’t we lucky to have made it in under the wire? Surely a week spent among crowds strengthened our immunity to the point of safety? In truth, we did spend that entire week passing around hand sanitizer thinking that’s was all that was really needed to fend off the vague and incoming virus.
As we started looking toward February 2021, we were at a bit of a loss. Cruise Ships were still parked at the time deposits needed to be made – so that seemed a bit risky. Plus, that was during the time when I was frequenting my parents’ couch – listening to my father (a cruise agent) field call after call about another tour being rescheduled. We toyed with the idea of Colorado or Utah or whichever of those states to our west boasted the best about snow covered mountains and ski lodges. We were only a few minor details from adding that idea to our cart: a) the whole purpose of this break was to leave the Ville during it’s snow season and find the sun – heading to more snow with only Virginia qualified snow mittens sounded a bit risky; and 2) none of the over forty crowd had much faith in our over forty limbs and their viability on skis. Sure, Zack would be fine. But did Rich and I want the potential of spending one day skiing and all the other days suffering in the agony that follows the realization of I might be too old for this. The pandemic plus was that we had plenty of time to throw out ideas, shoot them down and then try again.
We also had plenty of time to look out of my home officer window at the RV we had attempted to sell during a time when EVERYBODY WAS BUYING RVs. We heard all about the shortages on mobile vacation devices and the resulting bottleneck at campgrounds across America. Everybody was buying RVs – except not the one sitting in our driveway. Perfect – with no guarantee on what would be opened in February anyway, campgrounds suddenly seemed like the obvious choice, jammed or not. As a side note for those who don’t camp – even jammed campgrounds offer plenty of room to roam. Yes, this is an ideal way to travel if one of the goals is social distancing. So, with Rich and I both working from home for the foreseeable future – check – and – check again – Zack sitting in online school at the time of actual decision making, we started mapping out a road trip. Typically our February break took us away for a nine days (five weekdays, two weekends) – but factoring in all the cyber things happening, we scoffed at that and decided on a more indefinite trip. We could really go anywhere for as long as we wanted, right? The plan began to evolve into multi-week jaunt – made up of short drives in our ‘on’ hours and exploring in our ‘off’ hours. Rich and I would swap seats as meetings demanded and Zack would be tucked in behind us learning math or history or whatever was on the online docket for second semester. Brilliant. We called the parks, gave up our credit card information and drew out a fish hook from Virginia through Orlando down to Key West, back up via Cape Canaveral, Charleston, maybe the beach, and eventually home. Icing on the cake? Learning that Disneyworld was operating at a lower capacity. We all took a moment to add finally, finally, finally getting to ride the Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge to our vacation vision board.
Best laid plans. Ever heard of them?
In a presto-chango, Zack did not thrive in online school (see: Q1: Virtually (In)Complete) and his ‘home’ school was happy to jump through about 35 hoops to find him a face-to-face seat upon returning from the Thanksgiving break. The change in that child was immediate and spot on – he did not belong in an online school. Or at least not in the one he landed in. Whether it was the sheer boredom of a first semester full of his electives or the start to high school happening from a desk he’d outgrown years ago or just his missing of human interaction – as soon as he set his masked face back in the building, he perked up instantly.
Finally, we thought, we finally got something right in the year of guessing, second guessing, third guessing and giving up guessing.
Last week, the school started the second semester – something unique to this school year. Rather than the typical 180 day run covering all eight classes simultaneously – the district opted for two semesters, four classes each, in a similar-to-college intense road. Somehow, Zack ended up with his three hardest classes in his second semester. My new item to second guess is why I didn’t insist on shifting at least one of those hard classes back into the first half of the year. But, here we are. Still, doable, right? Except that in the name of proactivity, I emailed his new team of teachers on day one of semester two to let them know about this little trip we’d be taking two weeks later.
Which is how, for the second semester in a row, we got to spend the evening of the first day on a phone call with the Assistant Principal. Turns out, the school was not impressed with our request to allow Zack to Zoom into his classes from the most southern point in the US. We didn’t even think twice of the ask (was it an ask? Maybe I didn’t so much as ask as I laid out the perfect plan). Turns out, we learned, Zoom is for those children who are home sick or in quarantine – not for those children whose parents think nothing of pulling them from school for a pre-spring-break-spring-break. What can I say? We don’t love crowds but we do love making memories with our kids. I did have the fortitude to let Rich handle that phone call after seeing the incoming number and instantly breaking out into anxiety sweats. And he handled like a man who makes a living in sales – using his word trickery to follow his overly empathetic listening moments with magic mind codes to convince the caller into allowing the individual teachers to have the final say. Side note: We are super empathetic to what the schools are juggling this year. Truly.
Honestly, it’s easier on us if the vacation Zoom door is not opened for Zack. Honestly, we’d rather have a three giant packets made of upcoming work for Zack to dig through while we drive – ignoring the bumpy writing and utilizing Khan Academy for instruction. It’s what we’ve done every other year (though the added week and tougher schedule has thrown us this time). Also, that bit where Zack’s also having the anxiety sweats about getting too far behind early in the semester gives us pause. Okay, he’s probably not actually sweating, I think that’s reserved for the near-50 year old female crowd. But he has expressed some concern. Which he will likely lose in the coming days as he typically does during the first weeks of any school year.
I suppose I’m just wearing thin of feeling sick each time our plans get a ding in them. This is how we’ve spent the last eleven months, after all. I make plans knowing that they are fluid – and I am not a very fluid person. I’m ready to get back to being able to make a plan – bam! – watch it play out exactly as desired – bam! – and come back with the stories and pictures to prove it – bam! In a month, we’ll either be heroes who got another trip with a teen while he was still semi-enthused about traveling with us would still travel or we’ll be zeroes with a teen who, in fact, did fall behind because we went for it despite the misgivings. I suppose we can be heroes either way – the lasting memories about how we had an awesome time and Zack came back to school and continued to thrive OR the equally fun memories about how we had an awesome time and Zack came back and had to repeat the second half of ninth grade. Oh, how we’ll laugh…
Honestly, next year will be easier right?