My 16-year-old granddaughter, our “technical consultant,” called me last week in tears that her school, which has been hybrid, was going completely online. There would be no more “real school” as it is delivered now, with plastic barriers in the lunch room, one-way halls for passing, tables that once afforded group work replaced by desks spaced far apart, and masks, masks, and masks! She said, “Even if we have to wear masks and don’t have as much chance as normal to socialize, it’s still better than sitting at home alone in front of a computer!” She almost never shouts or gets riled, but she was mad and making it known.
“Be patient” I advised. “Your teachers and the principals want to keep everyone safe. I’m sure they have good reasons for doing this.” She wasn’t hearing me, although a few days later when some students started an online petition to keep hybrid school, she said she wasn’t going to sign, arguing that maybe it was for the better since Minnesota is having a real Corona Virus surge. Patience has prevailed for now, although she loves to dream about everything she will do this spring, when “we get a vaccine.” Her patience for now, is grounded in hope, that dreaming ahead we humans love to do.
We’re having a great opportunity with the Corona Virus to practice patience, and now with the election of Joe Biden, it’s twofold. First we were in limbo about who won and now we now find ourselves waiting for the handover of power. As for the virus, in Minnesota the governor has ordered a significant lockdown for the next four weeks. What can we do but wait—be patient?
That said, being patient is not always easy, especially when confined to the same house with the same people doing the same things day after day. I have four grandchildren, and all of them are experiencing disruptions to their lives that they neither anticipated nor have been taught how to handle. I can remind them that humans have survived many terrible things, world wars, other pandemics, droughts, depressions, etc., and I can express encouragement. Nevertheless, I wish I knew how to do more to help them.
As a teacher, I learned that one of the most powerful ways to teach is to model, or, by example. Practice what you preach, walk the talk! This was brought home to me when I was teaching fifth grade while in graduate school. I would make note cards to study for a test, and whenever I had a break in my teaching day, like lunch, I’d use the notecards to study. I’d sometimes have students test me with the note cards. One day before a math test, I noticed that many of my students had made note cards about what would be on the test. When I commented on this, they told me they were studying like they saw me study. Wow! I had not even tried to teach them this strategy, but they had learned it by watching me.
In a reverse of the generational expectations about who teaches whom, my technical consultant granddaughter is the one teaching me how to DO patience. Her approach is about kindness, thinking about others instead of oneself. At the beginning of the pandemic when schools and everything else abruptly closed, she started calling her two grandmothers every couple of days so we wouldn’t be lonely. She has continued this throughout, and I truly look forward to it, as does her other grandmother I’m sure, who, in her late 80’s, lives alone in South Dakota. Talk about modeling! And talk about “to teach is to learn!” She teaches me by example as she teaches herself. I am awed.
Last week my other granddaughter texted me that she missed my sloppy joes. It’s a custom in our family to get together to celebrate birthdays, and I make sloppy joes. I told the technical consultant granddaughter about this text, who immediately said, “You should make some and take them over to her.” I did, and as I set them on the doorstep, I welled up with pure joy—I was doing something to help, making the waiting just a tad easier.
When our governor nixed even outdoor gatherings for Thanksgiving, I was angry. In my family, we know how to gather around a bonfire while socially distancing, which was what we had planned. I remembered why Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It’s a holiday not about gifts or elaborate decorating or religious significance. It’s about celebrating our many blessings, the reliability of a sun that rises every morning on a spinning planet, rich with everything we need; strangers, friends, and family who mostly want to live right lives; and moments of joy and love.
While I fretted about how to preserve my favorite holiday, my grandchildren, via a series of texts, planned a virtual pie baking afternoon for Wednesday (We’ve always baked pies together the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving). They are not letting a shutdown order stop them. Who better to forge a new way to celebrate than the young!
Next, our families sent out Zoom invitations to get together for the holiday. So, this year, on Thanksgiving day, after my husband and I have stuffed our chicken and put it in the oven, we’ll gather with our families around a laptop, the province of the young, for moments of joy and love, waiting hopefully and patiently for next year, when we can all be together once again.