Erin Lunde

Stories About Telling Stories

Distance Learning As Intensive Mothering

What two weeks of intensive mothering (distance learning) with my second grader, my kindergartner and my two-year-old has taught me:

  • Waking at 5:00 AM to spend some time in a room occupied by no other human is a luxury that I planned very carefully for myself and was doing very well with for a few weeks leading up to the announcement that I was going to have to go back to facilitating distance learning. Somehow, the day after we learned of our new schooling arrangement, my alone time in the morning was replaced with waking at 5:00 AM to spend hours with two to four other humans in our bed. I attribute this sudden change to my kids’ plunging head- and butt-first into any and every crevice of air that was mine alone as an effort to accelerate the acclimation process. Did I have a panic attack that first morning? What do you think? Didn’t you?
  • Single serving Skittles packages left over from the garbage bag-sized Halloween candy stash that we forgot to give away are fantastic bribes for the kindergartner, until I remember that my second grader, who is also a student in this one-room schoolhouse, cannot tolerate the scent of fruit-flavored candy. “Is somebody eating Twizzlers!” he shouts from the upstairs bathroom. No, no one is eating Twizzlers. Twizzlers are a summertime treat that my husband and I have to gorge from inside the pantry while the kids are outside. But we don’t think of summer now, as it’s so cold in Minneapolis in the middle of January that my device shows a temperature of “-0” because at some point why bother being specific or even numerically accurate. Summer is right now an orangutan at a zoo, flipping around in a tree under netting and behind glass barriers. You can see it in your memory, but there is no way you can touch it, and even if you try, it will flip you off or throw its shit at you.
  • My two-year-old, who has a profound speech delay, can now say “Watch” pretty clearly. And “poop.” But the first one I blame on distance learning.
  • The noise-canceling feature in my earbuds is life-saving.
  • Jack from “The Shining” comes to mind not only because he loses his goddamn mind but because there were a few times where I would’ve broken down a door, in my case just to have my own space for a minute. I may have been cool with being shut inside a freezer too, except it’s a freezer.
  • In order to protect my knees, I have to keep a little bend in them in case the two-year-old decides to run into me while doing his hourly wind sprints.
  • My coping mechanisms include inhaling Pop Tarts and the Reece’s Peanut Butter Hearts that my mom sent the kids for Valentine’s Day, all while squatting in the kitchen so no one can see me do it.
  • I hope to God that everyone was on mute each and every time I tried to get my precious babies on their Google Meets at the top of whatever hour because inevitably nothing was working and there was swearing. Inevitably.
  • Somehow my kindergartner was way ahead of the assignments and would do work to catch up from previous bouts of distance learning (such as the four times they were in quarantine before this), and my second grader is three assignments behind in P.E. because he keeps misplacing the jump rope that he has to use to demonstrate his very-much-still-developing jump roping skills.
  • We are still at it. There is talk of teacher strikes and petitions for more masks and all sorts of uncertainty in the next few days. My husband is working wacky hours as he is in a new role with his work since the top of the year, but he still works very much from home and is exceptionally helpful when he is available. But holy hell, it’s been a long few days. Few years, really. We have trouble getting outside on a regular basis as the high temperatures are sometimes below zero and the process of clothing everyone for 20 minutes when they’ll be outdoors for 10 is overwhelming.

    We try. We fail. We keep going. This isn’t easy for anyone. Except the two-year-old. He has it pretty good, other than he’s bored. I’ll write something about the spectrum of guilt I feel in all of this, but not now.

    I hope you and yours are safe and well.

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