I'm a sap.
Anyone who has known me for any decent amount of time will confirm this as indisputable fact. I tend to stir up emotions while wandering down the lane of nostalgia.
It was a pretty big emotional volcano both times my kids went to school for the first time, because for me, it meant the end of an era. I had the privilege and blessing of being at home to see both my kids grow up, and being the already established sap, meant it was a big deal for me when my kids went off to school and I'd no longer have the entire day with them.
Lucky for my emotional state, by the time Everett went off the school, Danika had been born and so I always had a kid at home to grow up alongside me and give me a treasure chest of memories.
Until September 2019, when Danika went off to SK and for the first time in years, I was at home with just the dogs.
Don't get me wrong, I was very appreciative of the absence of the coating of couches with salt and sugar or the cleaning of a body covered in lipstick or the scrubbing of a wall of markers because it now meant that I had much more time to write and pursue new projects for my career. The promise of several hours a day to have uninterrupted writing was sparkling rainbow magic that rained Skittles.
It didn't mean that my first week of writing without kids wasn't coated with a little tears and some deep sighs as I looked towards an empty family room. I was soaring through the sky when it was time to pick up the kids to make the house a bit noisier.
I had adjusted to both kids at school and then a little thing called Covid-19 arrived and shook things up. My kids were back home by the end of March to do online schooling and having them home was an added stress on top of the fact that knowing a lockdown was going to dry up a good portion of my business. I was nervous how I'd be able to be productive when I needed extra time to increase my exposure to find new type of clients while also being there to assist my kids with their online learning.
My career did take a hit with most clients slashing budgets due to the lockdown, so they had no money for freelance work and so, I needed to focus on expanding my site and pitch to new publishers, but that constantly had to be multi-tasked with assisting my kids with schooling and playing referee for the constant first blood battle royals that would erupt on a daily basis. My mental health was frayed going into 2020, and a pandemic smashing my normalcy and routine to bits wasn't the magical elixir to cure my emotional ailments. I needed to dig deeper into positive thinking exercises while devoting large portions of time focusing on my-learning-at-home children thus shaking up what was my day-to-day writing life. While it threw a new challenge my way, it had overflowing rewards too.
Having the kids home since last March has been a jaunt down nostalgia lane for the days when my younger kids were always around bouncing alongside me on various adventures in growing up. It was almost a year of time spent that I never thought I'd get again. I got to play games of Pokémon, witness the creations of artwork, hear the crafting of stories, be transported to magical lands and listen to uproarious jokes about chickens crossing roads.
I could focus on how hard it was to be a successful writer trying to grow a business and career, but I'd rather immerse myself in all the special moments I got to share with my children. It was being stuck at home that led to both my kids building up a wall of confidence to enable them to learn how to ride their bikes that was also an inspiration for me. I got first-hand experience that indeed you can pass on imagination, creativity and goofiness as my kids concocted inventive new games or world-sweeping fantasy stories that they would play out. Danika replaced the closed down movie theatres and live events by doing performances with singing, readings, dancing and acting to provide entertainment through the year. I was reminded of my own childhood when Everett would try to research ways to make a time machine or teleporter and created maps that he hoped would actually take him to Pokémon Island.
Back in September, I was nervous having my kids home for online learning because I knew the interruptions and challenges to my career would continue. I was able to reconcile the decision to keep them home because it seemed like the smartest decision and I had enough computers in the house where both kids could do their own online learning while I still wrote at my desktop. The vivid dream was all three of us would blissfully work away at our stations with productivity blasting through the roof with not a conflict in sight. It didn't even come close to working out that way at all, but even if I constantly had to take on the role of referee or was needed throughout the day to either help or motivate with schooling, I ended up with many priceless treasures.
I got to witness Danika go from struggling to recognize letters in March to beginning to read simple sentences and declare 'That is a popcorn word!' by February.
I was able to calm down a frustrated Everett who couldn't quite grasp word problems in math (something that multiplied his frustration because it is a subject he normally excels) then be able to lay-out the concepts in a way that he aced the eventual test.
I worked on my computer that was near Danika's workstation, so I got to hear how she encouraged and brightened the days of her teachers and classmates with her kind and encouraging words.
I was amazed seeing Everett grow as an artist as he continued to make colourful and creative pictures for his art class.
There were several blessed days where Danika would be given an assignment and she demonstrated a creativity and imagination where she went far above what was expected by creating things like a shark sock puppet or a puppet stage out of cardboard or various construction paper animals with very little need of assistance or guidance. She also demonstrated her outside-the-box-thinking by drawing a 'word fruit tree' as assigned but also drawing a trampoline beside it so the fruit wouldn't be bruised.
I witnessed Everett show some initiative and leadership skills on a regular basis by helping his teacher with tech issues and showing his classmates different features that could be used on the various programs and apps.
I got to firsthand experience my kids grow as students and human beings in a way that I wouldn't if they were at a physical school and I was at home experiencing uninterrupted writing. I also was able to see what a great fit these teachers were for my kids and how hard they were working to connect with my children through the challenges of online learning. It was their amazing compassion, innovation and skill that convinced us to stay with online learning as long as we did, despite all the challenge that came with having the kids isolated at home.
I was hit with a thud of sadness and a giant whiff of nostalgia as my kids went through their good-byes with their teachers on Friday. Being home every day where I heard the teachers interact with their students meant that I felt closer to them and more engaged than with any other teacher or class. The good-byes also meant that I wouldn't be as involved with my kids' education now that there would be several hours a day when I wouldn't be near them as they learned and grew. It wasn't until the final day collided with me that I realize what a gift it was that I was immersed in my children's day-to-day-school life. Sometimes I may have felt like I was suffocating in it, but it was a smothering of riches and gold.
I am so blessed and lucky that I got an extra year of my kids staying at home. I was gifted another year where I got to be hands-on with their development and growth, and got to experience all their creativity, energy, excitement, humour and wisdom.
This past year was really tough, I don't think this is ground-breaking news, and I'd love to meet the person who didn't find the past 12 months to be a bit more challenging than other times in their life. My writing career took a hit starting with a struggling economy being hard for someone who writes copy geared towards sales or other times writes about movies, which also took a huge blow this year, but it was also much harder to build a lot of creative and intellectual momentum with two amazing children that don't really care how much they may shake-up my thought-process or spoil my 'writer's zone.'
So, just like when my kids went to school for the first time, I am thrilled with the potential for hours of writing that can go uninterrupted. I can take on more client work, pitch to far more publishers and pursue far more projects. I'll also have much more time to devote to this site and start shaping it towards what I want out of it. All of this is exciting bowls of awesome.
But I am also a little sad. As they head back to school, my body is shifting into 'missing them' mode and realizing this may be the last time that I'll have both at home for this long and needing this level of attention from me. Everyone in this family needed them to go back to school, but I am very grateful for this past year that I had with them, and I'm going to wrestle internally with a few days of 'no kids blues.'
Of course, the best way to cure those particular blues is by distractions. I have oodles of writing and projects that will fill my mind and occupy my time. I will get over it pretty quickly. Now that the days I've been wanting have finally arrived, I realize how many special and unforgettable moments there were on the path to get here.