Crisis parenting isn’t easy, and carry on

Who will ever tally the toll of mass school closings that have put many families into crisis parenting mode? I’m not sure, but the media messages we get need to be more informative.

There are too many stories about how the sky is falling, and too few about what we can do about it.

Let me use a scenario and to two people.

The scenario: you’re in an elevator in a tall Chicago building with two other people. There is a big bump that jolts the elevator, the lights flicker, and you can tell something bad could be happening.

Person numero uno in the elevator with you starts screaming “we’re going to die!

This is the end!

Person numero dos is calm. She appears to be assessing the situation and considering possibilities for escape.

Person numero uno is the media. He uses words like “disaster” to describe challenges parents face with remote learning. It’s godawful he says. Too hard. Kids hate the new normal. The technology glitches out constantly or bores or confuses them. Teachers cry online. Parents suck at teaching. It’s nearly impossible to stay on top of kids and their studies while also working (for those privileged enough to work from home).

Along those lines, columnist Peg Tyre wrote in Forbes last spring “[r]eality is dawning that parents of school-aged children can’t work and educate their children at the same time.”

I take issue with that. Parents can and must educate their children, even while balancing other demands of life. Even during a global pandemic. There is no other option. Period.

Damnit, that’s what being a parent means. You signed up for it. Now do it.

I suggest you consult with Person numero dos. She won’t tell you what you want to hear (that you’re a martyr and woe is you), but she’ll say what you need to hear (toughen up buttercup).

No, life isn’t always convenient.

Yes, you’re in possibly the toughest situation ever.

Yet, worshipping the problem won’t make it less tough. These are your kids and you were always responsible for moving mountains to get them the education they deserve. Schooling has made it easy for you to idle on autopilot, but no more.

I’m not saying Person number uno is wrong to be alarmed. Reality is on his side. There will be negative consequences of closed schools and the curtailing of daily classroom instruction. It will almost certainly stunt the academic growth of children under-resourced families.

We weren’t prepared to turn our homes into makeshift schools without warning. We quickly feel inadequate about assisting our kids. They keep asking us about concepts we haven’t studied in years. We also worry about the looming social emotional and mental health consequences of the isolation of quarantine.

Some will say I’m glossing over the wildly different financial and social situations families live in. Obviously the single parent with a job in hospitality faces far greater challenges than telecommuting professionals currently forming learning pods for their kids. And yet, no matter where you live on the economic totem wallowing won’t help you or your children. Only character will.

I see story after story about the inequities that will be widened because wealthier parents are hiring tutors or teachers and setting up their own micro-schools. Recognizing that as true doesn’t absolve anyone from having to answer the most powerful question: “what am I going to do?

Who has the information that will help us do our best for our kids wherever they are? What is our inventory of resources, connections, and skillsets?

What power do we have that we aren’t using?

Panic and pity will always be inferior to extreme ownership and stress management in my mind. The best thing we can teach children right now is how to confront adversity with a clear head and fortitude.

To that end, it’s time for Person number dos to tell Person numero uno to sit down, zip it, and speak only when spoken to. This is crisis parenting and we should aim to win.

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