The days of me primarily writing through a parenting lens here have been over for years, which seems like a natural enough evolution of things. I mean, I’m not saying that my personal opinion is that babies and young children have little claim to privacy while bigger children do … buuuuuuuut I’m not not saying that.

However, parenting through a pandemic seems worthy of documentation, if only for my own memory-jogging purposes, so let’s tackle the topic that I think about all the time these days: how are the kids doing?

The short answer is … they’re okay? I’m pretty sure they’re doing mostly okay. I think.

Both of them are in virtual school and have been since everything shut down last spring. Riley, now a freshman in high school (!!!), has all of his Zoom sessions in the morning; while Dylan, a 7th grader, has all of his in the afternoon. They both do the majority of their schoolwork from their bedrooms, where they have actual desks which they largely ignore in favor of whatever offers the least ergonomic experience. Sitting hunched over a tablet like Snoopy in vulture mode, for instance.

Riley seems to have generally figured out how to work the system in his favor: he multitasks everything in ways his teachers probably wish he wouldn’t (it is not uncommon for me to see him “in” a Zoom class, while watching YouTube via another device and working on a separate assignment while also plugged into AirPods and listening to music, which is quite exotic to me considering I can’t even parse a conversation any more if there are other people talking nearby). He’s kept up with his usual good grades in a breezy kind of way: he’s self-motivated, but … you know, not hugely so.

It’s been harder for Dylan, academically. Remote learning is not right for him, full stop, and he’s had some struggles with staying on top of assignments and making sense of the often-byzantine instructions for how to complete and submit things. But he’s learned some tricks for prioritizing work and carving out times to take breaks, and his grades have been much better this trimester.

As for the other aspects of school that they have been missing out on, I’m not certain how it all shakes out in their minds. We all tend to focus on the downsides of virtual learning but I know there are at least some things they like. No homework, no need to get dressed or even get out of bed, no tests that are not by definition open book. Out of the seemingly endless list of cons, there are a few upsides.

I wonder all the time how much they miss being around other kids. Both boys have been pretty similar in that they have always had lots of friends at school and in sports but weren’t hugely interested in socializing outside of those environments. With everything shut down, they haven’t hung out with friends for months and months now, aside from online interactions.

Basketball, once their great shared love, has fallen out of favor — I don’t know if it’s because they can’t play on a team right now or what. The hoop in our driveway stands lonely and ignored for now, although I’m hopeful for an eventual renewal of interest.

Dylan has turned his attention to practicing his bowhunting skills, and rain or shine he can be found in the backyard target shooting. He’s also extremely into a game called theHunter: Call of the Wild, an immersive open-world kind of setup that he loves to explore. (I mean, I get that it’s a hunting game, but it seems to offer a lot more than just the opportunity to fake-shoot at a CGI deer.)

Riley has been playing a ton of CS:GO, but also spending a lot of time learning Blender and 3D modeling/animation. It’s been amazing to see his progress, going from clumsy cartoonish designs to far more realistic textures and movements. He also started an Etsy store a while back, reselling wooden knives he buys from a guy in Russia (!), and while he absolutely refuses to take a single word of advice from me marketing-wise (INCLUDE A THANK YOU CARD WITH YOUR SHOP URL ON IT OMG CHILD) he’s been doing pretty well with that.

They stay busy, you know? But as the weeks go on and on and on I wonder what it’ll be like to re-integrate. I wonder about the effects of extended isolation, I wonder what this year would have been like for them if everything had been normal. What all did they miss, and how much does any of that matter?

I do think they are okay, or at least as okay as it’s possible to be when your day-to-day world has shrunk to a small family home and you spend pretty much every single hour of your life with your parents and an assortment of pea-brained pets. I wish I could be certain of this, but when in parenting do you ever really get that guarantee?

Comments

15 Responses to “How the kids are doing”

  1. Gigi on January 31st, 2021 2:42 pm

    Not that I have children at home but based on observation of friends children and online, I think the kids will be fine. I think they are resilient, able to adapt quickly and are, most likely, coping better than the adults.

    Any yes, it’s ridiculous how fast the time goes – mine will be twenty-seven in October – despite the fact that he was only three a week ago.

  2. Donna on January 31st, 2021 3:18 pm

    I honestly think that the kids that have good parents are doing ok, and the kids with bad parents are learning how to parent themselves. Depending on who their friends are they’re probably doing ok. They do adapt quicker than we do and now the election is over I think there’s a lot more…..calmness? Clarity? I dunno.
    I do know that I live alone and there’s been weeks where I saw no one all week. I’m doing ok, but I like alone time anyway. But I feel like I’m losing whatever social skills I had. I’d fucking LOVE to go to a movie though.

  3. g~ on January 31st, 2021 3:28 pm

    My kids (similarly aged at 15 and 17) are in-person for school (Go, The South) but are limited to basically no other in-person social interaction. This has been…surprisingly okay. They are not very social anyway and are kind of relieved to not have to navigate the angsty social strife of being teenagers. I worry about them, obviously, but I would be regardless of the pandemic. It went well even when they did virtual learning (in bouts as we have been in and out of quarantine). The only thing they missed was having their teachers’ presence while they did their work.

  4. g~ on January 31st, 2021 3:29 pm

    My kids (similarly aged at 15 and 17) are in-person for school (Go, The South) but are limited to basically no other in-person social interaction. This has been…surprisingly okay. They are not very social anyway and are kind of relieved to not have to navigate the angsty social strife of being teenagers. I worry about them, obviously, but I would regardless of the pandemic. It went well even when they did virtual learning (in bouts as we have been in and out of quarantine). The only thing they missed was having their teachers’ presence while they did their work.

  5. Sande on January 31st, 2021 4:46 pm

    My daughter has been virtual since last spring. She could have gone back in October but we made the decision to keep her home to keep my husband safe. He has significant underlying health issues. It’s been a struggle honestly. I think it finally clicked after Christmas break. I also requested additional help from her teachers, which had worked out well so far. We let her play her online game after 2:30 daily and when her other friends are home from school they all hop on Zoom and chat and play the online game together. She also plays with the neighbor kiddos outside with masks on. We are trying to give her as much interaction as possible that’s safe. Being around mom and dad 100% of the time is really not her thing, which I totally get. I’m not gonna lie, she’s had her moments but so have her dad and I. It’s not great for anyone and I can’t wait until we can interact safely with other human beings again!! I miss watching her play sports the most. I miss coaching her and the other kids. I worry about her but I know she will adjust well once things are back to a recognized normal. She is an only child but thank Gawd she’s mostly an extrovert. I think that’s why I don’t worry too much.

  6. JennB33 on February 1st, 2021 5:40 am

    My kids (girl, 16, boy, 12-1/2) are homebodies by nature but now that the girl has her drivers permit and a job she can not wait to blow this popscicle stand and GTFO of dodge. I can’t blame her, but there is no where to go. She has some friends in her bubble but their parents aren’t as…. flexible?… as I am. They go to school 2 days a week, and that is not nearly enough. They miss their peers. When they are not at school, she stays in her room on her phone and he is gaming. I work or sleep. It’s not great, and our forced family moments are getting a little…. old…. we are all keen for warmer weather (we’ve had an arctic blast keeping Vermont around 5* for the last week or so) and for the vaccines to get administered so that we can start to go back to a newer kind of life. What that looks like remains to be seen.

  7. Nicole Capage-Brown on February 1st, 2021 10:34 am

    It drives me bonkers that our U.S. education system is so fragmented and different from district to district and state to state. My daughter is the same age as one of your boys and even her public school Zoom experience is pretty different than you describe – they have a full zoom school day with live instruction, 7 hours of class / 5 days a week, cameras are on at all times and tests are NOT open book. (They must digitally sign an “academic honor code” before every exam.) She also has homework, although not very much. Meanwhile in much of the South, as mentioned in comments, kids have been in-person for most of the school year. One might assume all these different amounts and types of instruction would produce different results with regards to what kids learn. However, I predict that doesn’t actually matter much – most students will come out of all this about the same academically regardless of what school districts did or didn’t do. To me, this begs the question. Is the unsaid truth that most schooling is about shaping socialization and society norms anyway, and not really about academics skills?

  8. Pixel on February 1st, 2021 3:08 pm

    Hello, I’ve been reading for years and years but had to jump on today to say WOW BLENDER!!!!! I’m trying to learn this skill now, as an adult and I’m amazed your teen is learning himself!!! Tell him if he interested in these skills/tools to also learn Unity. My teen is also doing okay but getting pretty sick of the pandemic in general. We’re in London and her school is remote but live classes 8am-3pm, homework and very intense teachers….I would not do as well as she is! Thank you for writing, thank you for sharing your life and keep safe and hope all this is better soon.

  9. Amy H. on February 1st, 2021 4:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Linda! I also have two boys (15/10th and 12/7th) and I’ve had many of the same questions and concerns. What an odd time to be going through your teen/tween years. I listened to an episode of This American Life on my run this morning (literally, the only time all day that I am by myself and therefore my favorite time). Anyway, here’s the link: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/730/the-empty-chair. There’s a segment about a middle schooler and the same question you raise: what are our kids missing out on, that they would’ve done/learned/seen/been if things were “normal.” Worth a listen. Stay well.

  10. Erin in CA on February 1st, 2021 7:19 pm

    I have two in high school (9th and 11th grade), both extroverts, and also in virtual school since last March. They are not really okay. They get energy from spending time with other people, which is not happening. They have had no extracurricular activities at all. My junior should be preparing for college applications, but it’s SO difficult for either of us to work up extra energy to think about college. It’s hard to think past next week these days. We know lots of older teens and young adults, and there is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the course of their lives. And I am exhausted (along with so many other parents) at trying to keep them mentally healthy.

  11. N.O. on February 1st, 2021 10:12 pm

    My elementary and middle school aged ones have been in person with the exception of one month of virtual school. (Thank God we live in the South, finding child care and doing school work at night time is a nightmare when both parents are essential day shift workers I’m just here to tell you) When our district made the decision to allow in person school options they found they had to re-teach the lessons as test scores weren’t where they should have been… especially at the elementary level. Which is particularly scary because that is the fundamental building blocks of education. If you are lucky enough to have older children during the pandemic count your blessings. I personally prayed for every family out there with younger aged children. Teaching a second grader math and Greek God mythology about did me in.

  12. Shawna on February 2nd, 2021 2:58 pm

    My daughter is the social one of my kids and she is also in grade 9, but her school has been hybrid this year except for the month of January when everyone went remote. She just started back to school this week. She goes to school with half the number of kids that would be normal (so around 15 kids in person at any time) every other day, and only has two long blocks of class before heading home, both on the same subject but alternating weeks with a second subject at a time – high school moved to a quadmester system this year.

    So she sees about 14 other kids 2-3 days a week, but there is no socializing in class or in the hallways or anything. Everyone must be masked at all times. People can sneak quick snacks but there is no lunchtime at school as they just all go home for a late lunch at 1:15. This is not really enough social interaction for her, but she’s been doing her best to keep up with her friends and boyfriend via technology.

    My son is virtual full time (he would have had almost 30 kids in his class and been there every day since there’s no hybrid option for grade 7) and he prefers it, though I really think he would benefit from more getting out of the house and moving around more. He socializes through various online videogames regularly. I’d like to say that we’ve fulfilled our ambitions to become a more outdoorsy family this year, and it was one of my conditions to keeping my son home since it was my husband that demanded it, but he hasn’t followed through and I hate the cold so I haven’t been pushing it.

    Academically I’m really not worried – my kids aren’t dumb and everyone is pretty much in the same boat so it’s not like I think they’ll fall behind their peers. My daughter’s marks have actually gone up to the mid-90s since she loves project-based learning and that’s what she’s getting. My son appears to be ticking along at his stuff and his teachers don’t seem concerned except for letting us know about the odd deadline he’s missed, though we won’t get any actual official grades until the first report card end of next week. I’m expecting that Bs are probably likely for him, which would be typical. I’ll reassess the need for intervention from me if he falls short of that, but even then I’m not likely to freak out. My husband’s attitude is that this year he just expects the kids to attend and pass their years. Anything else is gravy.

  13. Christine on February 2nd, 2021 6:06 pm

    This is what gets me: for us, one year is pretty much the same as another, but for kids every year is special and brings something new. My daughter will never get to properly finish elementary school: she’s moved from 5th to 6th since the pandemic began and school has been online the whole time. She can’t get that back and she’s justifiably mad about it (still, seven months later…). I do think they’ll be fine, but this is not the world they were promised or expected to get.

  14. Juli on February 4th, 2021 1:29 pm

    First, this is so well written. My Oldest is 20, a sophomore in college. He literally ahs been home elearning for almost a year. Last weekend we dropped him off in the big city to return to the dorm. Quite frankly, he needs his space. And the idea that even if they end up full remote, that he’s immersed in school, will ultimately help him in his academics. My 19 year old… a completely different story.

    His senior year was stolen from him, his graduation, while awesome, was drive up. The college he fell in love with pre-covid, was like a prison post covid. he lasted two days before trying to kill himself and returning home. The last 5 months have been a struggle of jobs, loss, ill meaning “friends” and pot, lots of pot, which while legal here, has become a HUGE struggle. He’s lost his way, his friends, his drive. My once health driven, active, social boy is a shell of who he was. he’s shoved all the loss and trauma of COVID down inside him, and numbed it all with a puff of smoke. COVID has left us with a trauma I fear, we may never recover from. And it’s a shame more parents aren’t talking about it.

  15. Linda on February 6th, 2021 9:52 am

    Juli, that’s just heartbreaking, and I am so very sorry.

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