I feel as though I am trying to escape quicksand

Good news. I have identified a major benefit to working fulltime while homeschooling. Our morning meeting has become a drop-in support group for parents.

Yesterday, we all giggled as a teenager banged on the wall of a colleague’s office to tell them to be quiet – the volume of our meeting was disturbing their Zoom class. Today, it is more of an unburdening.

“I feel dark today. I can’t be positive.” This was me. I don’t feel like I am doing a good job today, in parenting, teaching or my actual job.

I am a pretty upbeat person and get very excited about new things happening at work, but today I think I might be bringing the happiness quota down a mark or two.

It’s 11.56am and we are just beginning homeschool after a morning of free-range parenting. This means the children have been watching The Simpsons.

In that time, I have completed two meetings, written an article and gifted my husband with some major passive aggression over the fact that I am homeschool principal this week. I feel like I am drowning. I feel as though I am trying to escape quicksand.

Today I am not messing. I tell the children that as they work, so will I, and set my laptop beside them.

My plan is foiled before I even begin.

‘Oh YAY,’ the eldest exclaims. ‘I have to write to a newspaper today and you ARE the newspaper.’

 Torn between thinking: ‘Oh my God, he knows I am something other than his mother!’ and ‘Will he need help with this?,’ I feel like the worst parent in the history of parents. 

I am captive. Frozen, unable to move as queries about adverbs and whether a goldfinch has yellow or blue feathers are lobbed my way. Panic is bubbling up and my replies are more staccato and less nurturing.

Maths proves difficult. There are tears and proclamations of ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I am done’. Who said what is completely interchangeable because I am sure we all said both. 

Luckily for all of us, the biscuits are located. Thank goodness for biscuits. These are the ‘bad biscuits’, – ones that have long been rejected for palm oil and ingredients we don’t recognise, but no matter – they are a welcome sugar hit.

And then, in an instant, my icy heart is melted.

‘Hey newspaper! How’s it going? I hope it’s good because my Mum works at the newspaper in real life.’  His words, so beautifully written in joined-up handwriting remind me that I am here as a caretaker of my boys’ innocence and that my role is to lift them up, not to be resentful of their learning.

 A goldfinch proves to be an unlikely inspiration today. Pic: Annette McDonnell 
 A goldfinch proves to be an unlikely inspiration today. Pic: Annette McDonnell 

So I slow down. I take a breath and I start to read about the goldfinch as part of my Second Classer’s homework. These brightly coloured birds are masters of survival. 

If they are out in the wild and can’t find another goldfinch to make a family with, they’ll consider their options and hitch their wagon to a canary or a bullfinch.

As a result, a brand-new bird is born, and this canary-goldfinch is a direct response to the times its parents found themselves in.

In a way, I think to myself, we are all just acting like little canary-goldfinches trying to get on while a pandemic swirls around us.

Or maybe it’s a signal that it’s time to ring the bell on another day of homeschool down.

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