After months of negotiations amid the raging virus that is Covid-19 my husband and I finally managed to arrange a trip north to see our kids and grandchildren. Endless debates preceded this decision. Driving versus flying; how long to stay; and where to stay. Chicago is a two-day trip from Orlando so we decided to fly Southwest Airlines. Middle seats were vacant and studies (probably paid for by the airline industry) maintained planes were safer than grocery stores (a persuasive argument considering how much time we now spend in Publix.)
Regardless of airline promises we bought K95 masks (nary an N95 to be found), face shields, and disposable gloves. A Covid test was required (by our son paranoid we would bring the virus along with us) and a subsequent quarantine. We were ready!
We suspected our fifteen-day stay could not really be deemed a vacation. We were on a rescue mission. Our kids were exhausted. They had been running their tele-therapy business from their home office, acting as teaching assistants for virtual kindergarten, and maintaining some kind of semblance of a household. Maria, the part-time nanny has proven indispensible to their survival. She took the two weeks of our stay off not wanting to compromise her health by being around toxic Floridians.
Thus began our short-term career as child minders and teaching assistants. Previous trips have afforded me child-minding experience but it has been a long time since I had to do kindergarten assignments.
I was the consummate guest arriving each morning at 9:00am accompanied by Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brews for the adults and cake pops for afternoon kid treats (we opted for a hotel stay since “our” room had been converted to a classroom.) Seated in my child-sized chair, Maya would sign on to Zoom for her Morning Circle session.
Thus began the school day consisting of thirty-minute sessions interspersed with short pauses for potty breaks and work assignments. I was a nervous wreck, constantly glued to my color-coded schedule.
There were so many good parts. Pappy, a/k/a grandfather Jim, was enlisted as Ru’s personal playmate. A giant Hot Wheels T-Rex Ultimate Garage equipped with a car-eating dinosaur occupied much of their day along with dodge ball in the backyard bouncy house.
I was a fly on the wall observing my five year old granddaughter mute and unmute herself participating with eight others in a kindergarten experience I barely recognized. I was privy to her classroom insights as she occasionally rolled her eyes, talking out of one side of her mouth (a facial expression I’ve seen from her mother on many occasions) commenting, “Abby and Emily like to talk a lot!” Her spot on analysis and conscientious behavior was so reminiscent of her perceptive parents. I was filled with pride as she grasped concepts like more than and less than in her ST Math independent sessions. But it is hard! Teachers post assignments and schedule Zoom sessions on an app called Seesaw. I felt like I was on a seesaw trying to figure out what button would take me to which assignment.
Monday (after work) my husband and I took our leave for a flight back to Florida. Many tears followed but also some humor as I said to my daughter-in-law, “Katie, after two weeks I’ve nailed this kindergarten thing!” “Now you really get me Liz Kitchens,” she replied.”
It was an honor to share burdens that felt as light as clouds. We celebrated three occasions during our visit. Ru’s fourth birthday; a presidential win; and an early Thanksgiving complete with Campbell’s Green bean casserole and a Hoosier Mama’s chicken pot pie (a local pie company in Evanston).
Flying home I felt a surprisingly large weight lift from my shoulders. I felt free (as one can be on an airplane) to read, play digital Euchre, or nap. But nestled there between my ribs was a warm contentment from sharing so much love.