We are on day two of our new superpower, hearing! Jacob has his new hearing aids and a new stuffed bear named “hearing bear” that also has hearing aids. They have become best buds. Jacob is very proud of his new flair! He picked out bright red ones with a fire flame decal. Oh baby! They are not subtle;)
So how did it go?
When they put them in, Jacob was quick to withdraw and say its too loud. No Jacob, life hasn’t gotten louder, you are just hearing life. Welcome back. We are happy to have you.
We are still adjusting and Jacob will need some time before his voice volume recalculates (as he was screaming to hear himself talk before). We are looking forward to a house that is a bit quieter. Amen.
And its true.
life is coming in louder.
It is like someone is screaming in my ear too.
And after this year I’ve learned to listen. When the Universe talks, you listen. Life can change on a dime and there are no coincidences so it is our job to figure out what it all means. Well…world I’m listening.
And right now is THE TIME in education. I spent the 2 last years screaming to people and investors about the cracking signs in higher education. That there would be a reckoning day. That it was just basic math. Supply demand. Look at the tuition curves. Look at wages curve. Name a market that has 90% margins and less than 50% success! I can…higher education!
But always I was told I was “too soon.” Or even once “too passionate.” And even those who understood the math, understood the realities and would nod with enthusiasm that things need to change, would still turn around and continue down the same old path. Regardless of the cost, the outcomes, trudging down the “path,” but no blame there, they had no choice (until NOW).
And that path we know well… We have millions of data points. Millions of young adults graduating who walk into the workforce burdened by student debt, lacking workplace skills (can’t get a job), and reporting high levels of anxiety and depression.
But do you hear it? Or is it just in my head. The universe is speaking. It says enough. Every thesis that MTG was founded on is happening at an accelerated pace and we are READY. We are uniquely positioned. We have been READY for over a year.
It was ME that wasn’t ready. I had a child with cancer.
And now I don’t. I have a child is remission and my “normal” is an average person’s nightmare. I can give my child a shot and take a conference call. Cancer moms can do anything.
AND now look at the world. 10 million students are looking to gap this fall. Everything is falling into place at the right time. If someone told me those nights when I was sleeping in the hospital, that I would have this opportunity to help change the trajectory of education and help kids, I would have just cried at your ignorance. “No. I’m cancer mom.” I have no role but this.
But guess what? I’m Abby too. I’m an educator with a lot to give.
When I reread my post, I saw how this post can be misinterpreted.
But before I clarify let me be clear with what this blog is. This is a way for me to communicate with Nightwing and a place for me to remember. I read the blog daily.
The last post yesterday was written fast and literally on the go (in a car). Truly these conversations about your child schooling should happen one on one with each of you. Each of your personal situations is different. I’m just so stretched. Last week was a hospital week (immunotherapy- that is pure torture and I do alone. So Jacob was drugged for most of the week) AND Mind the Gap is LAUNCHING (HOORAY!). Oh, and I have two kids to homeschool too. So I apologize for the short cut.
But this week is not a hospital week so please do give me a call. I love all of you and want to be there for you…so CALL ME/ TEXT ME. I promise to call you back, even if I don’t personally know you. If you are reading this- I’m here for you! If you don’t have my number, find it. I’m sure you can call someone and get it.
My advice for the fall can be taken out of context. I am ONLY speaking in a COVID context ONLY. My advice is based on no therapeutics nor vaccine. Things can change. I pray things can change. However, as someone who spends her entire life looking at trials and possible cures for hard to cure diseases, I tend to have a more pessimistic view of that being a reality by start of school.
Without a major change in therapeutics and testing, schools should not open. However, I still think schools WILL open. We will do everything we can to restart the economy and childcare is imperative to that. Public schools will attempt to open and in return private will follow. But…they will again close. Rationally how can they not? With the knowledge we have about the virus and if nothing has changed, how can schools not become HOTSPOTS?
There are loads of models out there to attempt to reopen safely. Week on and week off models that put 50% of students in the school building at a time. But in NYC to properly social distance in our already smaller classrooms than the suburbs, I think it would require 25% capacity at a time. And how do you explain to a five-year-old that they can’t touch their friend? How does recess work? How do collaborative projects and play work?!
But let me be clear, when this thing is over, you put that kid back in school. Like immediately. I doubt I need to sell you on this. I’m sure you already feel the same, but I just want to be clear that I am SCHOOL ADVOCATE, obviously. I do NOT think parents can “teach” their children like a teacher. Nope. Impossible. Just the relationship alone between a parent and child sets you up for failure. In addition, a school is a place where children create their identities outside of the home. It is a place to experiment. It has HUGE benefits to development. It is a place to try things that you would never at home because someone inspiring shows you what you can be (thank you teachers!). By no means was my last post saying that you can do what schools do. How could you?! You don’t have the training nor the resources to recreate school.
My last post was meant to say- Don’t worry about that! No one expects you to. And that it will be OKAY. Kids are resilient and a year off is not the end of the world. And if you need that tuition for food, do THAT. Or if your child HATES online learning, forget it! Or if you are up in arms that you are paying that tuition for online learning, don’t do it!
For children to return to school safely I believe the following needs to happen:
No social distancing requirements. I just don’t see how any child younger than 8 can be expected to social distance. And to have teachers shouting across the room “Don’t touch him!” I think has very negative consequences for everyone. And the things that make school “a school” won’t exist. No morning circle. No community.
The faculty and staff are ALSO being considered. That they are at no higher risk by school opening. We often forget about these saints and take them for granted when we press schools to open.
You can safely COMMUTE to school which in NYC means using mass transit.
YOU are comfortable sending your child. This needs to be a personal call. The last thing a school needs is a parent who is challenging. They already have so much on their plates. If you send your child to school, you accept the terms the school is offering and leave it there. They can’t promise you that your child won’t get COVID, but I promise they will do everything in their power to mitigate that risk.
I also beg us parent to not judge each other. Some will not send their kids back to school even if they open. Some parents don’t feel comfortable returning to NYC for a long while. Some parents have no choices. This truly needs to be a personal family decision. No shaming each other!!
So thanks for letting me clarify. There is nothing not magical about early childhood years in school. But for me, safety is first and if you ask me a direct question I will always answer it truthfully.
And remember I’m cancer mom. I know that children are most likely going to be okay, but I never thought I would be the .001% that has a child with a rare cancer. I’m a statistical anomaly, but there is always one.
So let me just respond to all of the emails here. It will be easier since they are all along the same theme.
What should I do this fall with school if I KNOW distant learning is not working for my child? is the general theme.
It should be noted that each of your situations is different, but here are my general opinions.
For children 2-4:
Distant learning at this age is near to impossible because let’s be clear the most important part of the Early Learning years is hands on exploratory learning AND socialization!! The only reason we send kids to school this young is for socialization and CHILDCARE. Whenever anyone asks me “What is the best nursery/pre-K school in the city?” I always have the same response. THE CLOSEST ONE. At those ages, convenience reigns supreme. Especially today when your commute may be the most dangerous part of your child’s day using mass transit.
Pre-K and nursery are not necessary necessary. Of course they are SO INCREDIBLE during normal times. Your child finds their first sense of self outside of the home. They learn to respect others. But right now…take a deep breath. If distant learning is not working, Your kid will not become a “school drop out” I promise.
Remember that Pre-K didn’t even exist before 1965 and never really took off until the 80’s. It is true that there are very strong correlations between Pre-K programs and later literacy skills (as you see with the Pre-K for all movement), but as long as you are reading to your child and talking to them and provide “social like” experiences with adult guidance, you too can be an early learning center.
So if finances have changed or your little one refuses to do distant learning, do not feel like a failure if you pull your child for a year. You are BLESSED! Young kids are SO resilient. The younger the more resilient They will be FINE.
AND there are LOADS of free resources at your disposal. If you have a Pre-K child, enroll them in public school so you get all the free resources! Distant learning from the DOE is not that much different than the private sector (currently!).
Do online music classes. Do online craft classes. All of this exist and a lot of it for free.
NOTE: This will not be easy. I know I’m making it sound that way. It will be what you are doing now. I know…ugh.
That’s why I HIGHLY recommend you form micro-communities as the most important learning is socialization. Find 3 families your child’s age and poof! You got yourself a school. You can take turns hosting it too so you have downtime yourself.
And just so I can answer this once and for all.
Yes, I agree with you that 50-60K is not okay for distant learning. But you need to understand that schools were not equipped for this change and have HUGE overheads to deal with. I’m not quite sure how and if they will change their tuition. Please know that your school is TRYING and hears you…oh boy do they hear you, but they too are victims.
Yes, I do think there will be distant learning this fall and you should plan for that.
This is a tough one for me to answer because every family is so different as I picture all of you in my head. If you are talking about a Kindergartener, you can look above for a lot of you and all of the learning outcomes expected are clear. You can use the common core to make sure you hit them. Here is a link to a common core map that can fit on your fridge even. This link can also take you to all the activities to support those learning outcomes by teachers!
But for the rest (G1-G5), you should probably keep your current school and distant learning plan just because it is your child’s community. That is where their friends are. That’s where your friends are too. You will need a community!
Over the summer schools will have a time to reset too. I’m sure you have already seen such growth in your school from the start of distant learning to now. Schools have been learning on the GO. The summer will be a great time for teachers to start thinking AHEAD.
Now for those of you who have financial difficulties that have been paying for private school are under a lot of stress. And maybe those funds are needed for other purposes now. Pulling for a year and enrolling your child in public school is NOT the end of the world. The public sector has been VERY impressive. When your school had “spring break” at the beginning of the pandemic, the public system was in session. They went from in-person to online within a span of a weekend. While many private schools couldn’t get there stuff together at all. And when you take away the fancy food program, facilities, security, etc, and are left with distant learning…you don’t see many differences. It is actually quite beautiful the democratization happening right now in education. Public and private both using google classroom. Both having the same tools.
Will I get back in to my school if I pull for a year?! Basic economics says YES to me, but honestly, I don’t know each school’s position so don’t quote me on that one. Common sense tells us that every school will have spots in every grade open for the next few years. The predicted exodus out of cities will drive that especially in the finance sector where people are working distantly and wondering why they ever paid NYC rent. I don’t know about you, but the number one question I get is “are you returning to the city?!” An unfathomable question a year ago is now the hot topic. I believe getting into private schools will be easier.
Distant learning does work better with these grades. I would STICK. Peers are EVERYTHING at this age. They need to be tied to them.
CLASS of 2020+
You are my days and nights. I am most concerned about you. BUT I’ve been working overtime here and soon Mind the Gap will be accepting applications for the fall semester. This is the BEST work I’ve ever done and have never felt more passionate about its need. It will do SUCH good.
I will write about it soon. Just too busy over here making it happen.
And then the final question that I get daily? WILL YOU OPEN A DISTANT LEARNING PROGRAM THIS FALL (for ELC and elementary students).
Sadly, my heart is elsewhere. I truly KNOW your kids will be fine. This will be a blip in their education narrative. There are millions of young adults who have no options come fall. Distant learning in college is NOT an option in my opinion. College (as it is currently designed) is about human to human interaction, parties, learning to drink, living in a dorm, etc. Paying 50K for distant learning in college is NOT acceptable especially when before all of this the price of your degree is less than its market value.
It’s time to NOT rush to grow up. It is time to BREATH.
The fallout of this pandemic is hard to grasp. All the industries from education, to manufacturing are struggling. And put economics aside, life is struggling. The amount of domestic abuse, the amount of anxiety and depression, the amount of children with no fall options, etc.
So I hate to add on, but I am worried.
I’m worried about us working moms.
I don’t know about you…but I am seeing things . I see a future where women take a back seat in the workplace. It’s already happening. Or at least it is happening here, in my home.
While there is no doubt that this is THE moment in education. I am limited in my abilities. I can’t do what I would normally do. Creating programming for all these children without options is a heavy lift. One that I’m passionate about and able to do, but AHHHHH! I am so limited. My workday has now become only three REAL hours after homeschooling my kids. And even in those three wee hours, I have yet to have a call where my children are not screaming my name or banging on the door. I have had to reschedule calls. I’ve even missed some.
And while I don’t know for a fact, I do rationally know that I’m not alone here.
I bet the women are taking the brunt of the home responsibilities, even if they also work like their partners. Even if their work impacts loads of others. Even if they are needed. They are not available to do the work.
Statistically speaking, the moms, most likely make less than their partner. I know that is VERY true for this mom. It only makes sense for the breadwinner (especially in times like these) to be prioritized. Sorry social worker mom. Sorry teacher mom. I know your job is more important than ever, but you are now working double.
And men seem so useless sometimes! Telling my husband what to do with our kids is just more work for me. How do you explain distant learning?! I don’t have the time to bring him up to speed. So what do I do? I just do it.
The reality-works has to give.
I can see it…women slowly moving out of the workforce or being assigned fewer assignments due to their limited ability to execute. Slowly…pushing them down the corporate ladder.
I’m sure when Steve reads this he will shout in fury. I will help! I can do it. “That’s unfair Abby what you posted. Stop trying to make this a woman man thing.” (I can hear his voice as I write this). Trust me this conversation will happen tonight.
But…let’s be real. In the real world, this isn’t happening. It is a woman man thing. Sure, Steve, you could help more, but it’s more complicated than that.
We women have more going on than just our schedules. We have these roles (real or not real that play in our heads). I know that I’m supposed to be this mom like all the ones I see on Instagram. I have this mental image of what mom is. And for some reason, I think my kids do too. I didn’t teach them this, but yet it exists. They always want ME. If they need help do they yell “DAD?” Nope. MOM. Every time mom. Even in a dual working home, even when mommy for 7 years left for work before dad and came home hours later, I am still in this role that has been handed to me. I am still in charge of the kids and distant learning will fall on my shoulders.
And it is even MORE complicated than that my dear Steve. We also want that. As you men point out daily, we are hard to understand. I agree. I live in this body and can’t understand it. We want to be there for our children. We want to do right by them. But I also love my work and it’s important too. AHHHH! No winning.
So working moms…life just got a LOT more complicated.
I guess its all relative. I thought it was hard before balancing it all. But five more balls have just been added to the juggling act.
It started slowly. First it was just snuggle puppy last winter who declared in our pet shop game that he needed a home, but before I adopt him I should know he has cancer. But now it is a regular theme in our play. This Spring Jacob has introduced me to snuggle horse, snuggle hyena, and snuggle chicken. Each time I adopt one of these animals from the pet store he informs me that they have cancer. Snuggle Hyena shared yesterday that he has spent a year living in the hospital. “Getting so many surgeries! They kept cutting me open.”
When I inquired if Snuggle Hyena was sad. He said “yes, he missed a whole year of school with his friends.” And when I asked if he was mad that he had to go to the hospital, snuggle hyena said “No. If I didn’t go I would have died! Are you crazy?” (with a slap to his head!).
There is was. It hung in the air, at least it did for me. Jacob was quick to keep on talking. Saying the “d” word with no effect whatsoever. Just factual. “I would have died.”
But I on the other hand, have not truly recovered.
And today was the topper. He asked in his zoom call with his class if he could share something. He told the class the following.
“I would have been in this class earlier, but I had to go to the hospital because I had constipation, but it turned out I had CANCER (he said this very loudly).” Then he lifted his shirt and showed two butterfly needles coming out of his chest. “See. This is my port.” He then went on to show the needles etc.
Jacob is talking about cancer and it seems he knows more than we thought he did. He knows all.
Advice on how you can reach your new normal mentally. How you can accept reality and find peace. At first, I laughed. I would NOT be the one to give this advice. Me? Peace? Please.
Have you met me? But…yet she pressed.
I guess I am ahead of many of you. Not claiming I have cracked the code on coping in hard situations, but I recognize that not everyone has had the experience where your life turns upside down in a span of 24hrs. The virus may be your first era-defining moment. I can imagine that must be hard. Especially for my friends who pride themselves on their planning. You know… planning every after school activity, pick-up/drop off schedule, every vacation months in advance. They have that soccer schedule pinned proudly to the door. They control it all. They are in charge.
But they’re not.
It may be your first time feeling like that too. First time feeling like a small blip on the wheel of chaos. Learning that tomorrow is not promised even if there is a soccer meet scheduled. Even if it is written right there on your family calendar in sharpie. GONE.
This may be new turf for you.
It was for me when I had my first era-defining moment. I thrived in structure and order. I never even left the structure and safety of school. I left one imposed schedule of classes as a student to go and create them for others as a teacher. Blocks in schedules felt safe. I knew where I was, where I am, and where I am going. I had it all laid out in front of me. No surprises. Nope. I was the captain of this ship.
But that is not how I live anymore nor you. That may be VERY unsettling. But I will add that your era defining moment is a shared one. Take comfort that go with the world, not alone.
So I will share my coping strategies as requested. This is not Dr. Recommended.
Write. I write to remember. I write down what happened so I can feel like I controlled the past. It works as evidence for me. I did that. You don’t need to publish it. But writing REALLY helps.
Take pictures of the hard times (thank you, Jenny, for recommending that). When you scroll in your photos you see bright happy moments, but let’s be clear…that is not the reality. Capture that to allow yourself a balanced perspective on the past to make real expectations to the future
Limit social media. Nothing pisses me off more than all these people talking about how nice this family time has been. A very privileged thing to say. Yes, the 1% of the world will have that story, but the rest of the 99% are having a very different reality. So all these photos put me a bit over the edge. I stay away as much as possible. And trust me I’m on month 11. There is NOTHING fun about 11 months of isolation.
Pick up the phone and call a friend. DO IT. Even if you hate the phone.
Work. If you can work, do work for OTHERS. Do something to help society at large. Through that process, you will meet awe-inspiring people that will remind you that the world is capable of so much. It will also take your mental energy off your own situation.
Limit the news to every other day (or every 3 days if you can). Trust me, nothing changes except your anxiety.
Listen to music (a lot).
Smoke/ chew/ digest weed. If me… a lot of it. It is my retreat from thoughts, every day at 5 pm. Sorry- this is the truth. It helps me sleep too. You asked. I answered.
Meditate. I am terrible at this but adding it because the research is so clear.
Medicate. If you are finding each day hard to get through and find yourself crying in your closet (or at least that was my spot), get a consult with your doctor. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Medications exist to help.
Forgiveness. You may be letting your child on more screens than ever. There were a good two months last summer where Benno’s entire world was online. Jacob is confined to a bed for hours, screens SAVE us. SO BE IT. Or you may be struggling with distant learning. LET IT GO! You aren’t the only one. LET IT GO.
We are going into memory-making mode. OVERDRIVE. We have three months until the next scans. That is three months! That includes SUMMER. We can have a summer.
Last night Steve confided in me that all he has wished for was to have Jacob on the boat this summer and for us to be a family. For us to make GOOD memories. For us to adventure again with the wind at our backs.
My heart feels so full.
And for those who have asked what is left of Jacob’s treatment here it is:
3 more rounds of immunotherapy (and everything that comes with it. Daily shots etc). The next round is this coming week. However, the rounds get further spaced out after this round!!
Then we go into the vaccination process (which isn’t a vaccination. I’m boggled why they call it that. There is no cure to neuroblastoma). That is seven shots spaced over a year that have helped bring down relapse rates so very thankful for this new drug.
Thank you all for the flicks, prayers, and love this week.
I hated that phrase. It would illicit a good eye roll from me every time.
And I heard it a LOT. Even cancer moms would say it to me. The trauma of scans and life in the hospital will become “normal.” It will become easier. This was a ridiculous thing to say from my perspective. How could waiting for scans that will determine your life become easier? And would you please shut up! You have no idea. Want a new normal with a black eye? That I can help with.
But they were right.
They were right.
Sitting here right now I realize this. Today is a scan day. I know I am supposed to write AHHHH, but that is not how I feel. I feel perfectly fine. Not happy of course, but I don’t feel like jumping out of my skin, crying, or running for the door. It is just what I do. Even knowing that the possibility of relapse exists, I am fine. I know that I can’t control life. I know that tomorrow is not promised. AND I know that I am prepared.
It’s pretty remarkable how the human body and brain works. How sustained trauma becomes a baseline. How what is “big” is determined by what you consider small. How everything is RELATIVE.
Just yesterday, Steve forgot to tell me that our apartment in New York flooded with 3 inches of sewer water. So gross. When he finally remembered, he told me with a matter of fact tone. We went through the things we wanted to check for insurance and then I turned my focus back to my work meeting. Floods small. Helping children through the COVID crisis, BIG.
So if you are wondering HOW the world will work in a new normal? Or how YOU will adapt to the new normal, you will. Species adapt that is what we do. We will adapt. The issues of today will not be the issues of tomorrow as you have already resigned to the issues of yesterday.
You will try and fight it. You will. You will try and push your old life into the new one. That will be a phase. But that will end one day and you will see that the trauma feels less.
Right here in the room of waiting, it feels less. It feels like an ordinary day, because it is an ordinary day. It is my normal.
So yes…the new normal is a TERRIBLY annoying thing to be told, but I’m here to break it to you, it is real and guess what?! You will be okay.
I’m married to a pessimistic realist. He’s pretty much the killjoy of any party.
Excited that the growth curve is declining in New York? Oh, Steve will kill that. “It will be going up! The virus is mutating.”
Love how kids are making masks? Steve’s got ya. “They are using improper materials. Who’s teaching these kids?! Are they trying to kill people?”
Excited about potential vaccines coming quickly? Steve: “I wouldn’t bet on that.”
Thinking that the world will end up in a better place? Cue Steve. “I would start hoarding ammunition.”
Oh he is so much fun!
But don’t feel sorry for Steve. Oh no. He’s not depressed nor upset. He is prepared and ready. A true operator collecting data to move his next piece in the game. And honestly, we have spent a year playing this game, fighting for lives, this is just another battle in a long-drawn-out war.
I too am a realist. I like data. I like to read studies and all of a sudden my world is flooded with graphs. I understand that this is very real. That there will be a new normal. However, I would label myself as an optimistic realistic.
Even through all the shoes that have dropped this past year, there is one truth that I learn over and over. That humans are good or there are more good than bad. Look there is you. And when I forget I can look at my flair.
And maybe the pain is for something beautiful? I sometimes think that this year will define our family and set it on a path for greatness.
What if the same was true of the pandemic. A huge wake up call to humanity to remember what it means to be human?
So I post this video to remember it. I post it as it does feel like the mantra of the optimistic realistic.
I am worried about Jacob and also at my wits end with him. It’s a strange place to be. It’s a strange place to parent. As you know he has been through a lot, but also he is six and driving the rest of us INSANE.
And everyone says…you know…the “E” word. And I get it. He has had quite the year (dad’s cancer and then his own) but we all need Jacob to bring down the noise a bit. We all walk on eggshells around him. Worried that he will lose it. Just pointing out to him that his number 6 was backward in school, was an hour of screams and tantrums.
I’ve talked to doctors. I’m not rewarding nor giving attention to negative behaviors. I really am not. Ignoring is really the only option for survival! And therapy is just not possible right now with the virus and teletherapy is a disaster.
But the picking is getting worse. Jacob is mutilating his face and fingers. So I looked up this picking and spoke to some experts and there is was… the A word. ANXIETY. The number one most prevalent issue in society, but yet no one talks about it.
And we realized. I’m on Lexapro, Benno is on Lexapro (anxiety disorder diagnosed at 5 years old), but yet the child going through cancer NOTHING. Jacob has never come off as anxious. Angry yes, anxious? Never. This is a kid who can sit in a machine that closes in on him and stays still without a problem. This is a kid who thinks he is “lucky” to have cancer.
Just last week he asked me while skipping down the hall if I think he had cancer for years before we knew it. Before I could answer he did. “I don’t think we will never know that answer. Do you want to play?” And he launches straight into Snuggle Puppy, his favorite. Even today he was ranting how lucky he is that he had cancer. “I got to meet the Imagine Dragons.”
But is that what is really going on inside that brain? Who knows!
It never crossed our mind that he could be anxious. It looks so different than Benno’s anxiety which is clearly about fear of things new and anything that may seem dangerous (which can be anything from a train to a birthday party). But then I think about my anxiety, which I didn’t understand was anxiety until I was 36 years old. It is not like that. It is rather racing thoughts, etc. I don’t fear much. I am perfectly willing to partake in dangerous activities. Bring them on! So its clear anxiety comes in many forms.
So today Jacob joins the club. Today I medicate him and the decision is PAINFUL even though I know logically that this medication is not the end of the world and has no long term sides. That this is a true gift to give Jacob who has had such a tough childhood and that there is a high likelihood that he may have needed it regardless of circumstances due to family history. But it’s hard. I reread all the studies I did with Benno. Looking for long term health concerns even though I knew that didn’t exist.
And its funny. This is a kid who pops narcotics like candy when in treatment, but the idea of getting him help for his anxiety is full of shame and second-guessing. This I second guess.
So I share this story for anyone else who is considering a medical route for their children’s stress and anxiety, especially during this time. You are not alone.