Tomorrow in our school district, the cohorts officially combine and our children are sort of going back to some sort of normal in-person, 5-day a week learning.
Of course my high schooler and middle schooler will only attend for half the day and my son will attend for four full days and half a day on Wednesday. There are several forms and checkers I have to fill out before they can enter the building about their symptoms or exposure or travel. They will be masked and most likely seated at desk surrounded by clear walls. Lunch for the second grader will be 6 feet apart. The older kids cannot have lunch at school and will return home for lunch and afternoon work. Hallways will have directional arrows. Quarantine guidelines are in still place--you travel, you quarantine; you are sick, you quarantine; you are exposed, you quarantine.
While I can watch lacrosse, soccer, flag football and baseball games for my youngest two; I am not permitted to watch my oldest row down the Schuylkill River (even though the stadiums are open and business is booming.) We've been encouraged, this Spring Break, to find time to gather with family and friends, but not to leave the tristate area.
And while Mike and I are vaccinated, there is no real immediate life changing benefit to this--our children are not, so they cannot go anywhere beside PA, NY, CT and DE without having to test or quarantine.
But, otherwise, everything is back to normal!
It all makes me laugh. And it is all a contradiction. I think I am happy, selfishly, that my kids will be in school more (sibling fighting during the school-work day is not for the weak). However, this also just feels like one more change and we've had 14 months of change. I am ready to remain steady. My kids are ready to be steady.
I know our collective end goal is "normal," but my own life experience outside of pandemic tells me that we won't ever return to the who's and how's of what we were before. I am not sure that we should, frankly. The nice thing about recovery after a trauma is that you can rebuild your life however you want. It does not have to look exactly the same as it did before--and it can't.
If your house burns down and you rebuild, maybe the exterior walls look the same; but there will be newer, different things inside. These points of difference are the change and shift that an unexpected event left behind.
And when we try to resist these differences--by returning to the old--we just end up building a house out of old, broken things.
So, I am not looking for a return to normal. I am looking forward to something different for all of us. I am not sure what that is--and I often wonder, how did the world change after the last pandemic a hundred years ago?
But, I don't have to look that far to find some insight. When I look at the pandemics and pandemonium in my own life, I can see some of the new building that has happened--with Lily's premature birth, it was understanding just how capable I could be at motherhood--and embracing that side to myself. With Lily's brain tumor diagnosis, it was realizing how critical and capable a little family could be and how important it will always be remember that Lily's battle is repeated in the live's of other families, everyday and it is our moral imperative to never stop fighting for other families. With Chloe's premature birth, it was realizing that my career needed to be my girls for a while, because there is no greater accomplishment than raising them. With my father's death, it was realizing who really loved me and who really was my friend. With the surprise of Nicholas, it was a reminder that I needed to be ready for anything--and that our once little family, could be just as strong when it turned loud and big.
With the death of my brother, well, I haven't built something new, quite yet, but I know I will.
Nothing friends, will ever return to what it was, because that is illogical and impossible. We are not returning to anything--we are discovering something else, entirely.
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