On Monday, Mike came down for a coffee refill, and, after a quick glance at my face, paused. “Babe,” he said. “You OK?”
Not really, no.
The boys and I were sitting around the kitchen table. Each kid had their laptop out, attempting to do assigned schoolwork. Pax, who couldn’t sit still any longer, was actually on his feet, wielding a pencil like a sword, and using the other hand to half-heartedly poke at his Chromebook. He was eating something (Cookies? Candy? — I had lost all control) and bouncing up and down, asking questions incessantly: “MOM! What’s the login? MOM!! I can’t login!! MOM! It isn’t working!! MOM! Can we print it? MOM!! How do we print?? MOM!! MOM!!”
Raines was clearly miserable too, hunched silently next to me, head in his hands, as I read through his daily assignment list, my voice tense and clipped.
The scene must’ve looked as bad as it felt because Mike actually stopped. Setting down his empty mug, he pulled up a chair and sat, his hand on my leg. “Talk to me,“ he said quietly.
I took a deep breath. How do I even begin to explain this…this…online jail we’ve been living in for weeks?
“Well…” I began. “Things are not working…and I’m not even sure why.” Mike nods, waiting. “I mean – it shouldn’t be hard? Right? It’s not that hard!! For example, for math today, all Raines needs to do is learn about box plots in Khan Academy. And then next he takes a quiz in…wait no. Box plots are not in Khan Academy? It’s this link — is this the video? OK, but there’s THIS link too…oh wait. This is the video that explains how to login to…somewhere? But there’s also a math game the whole class is playing in — oh god it starts in 10 min — and Raines! Do you know how to get into Google Meet?? And then there’s still the Khan Academy assignments — where are those again? Raines, are those listed IN Khan Academy?? And that’s just math. I haven’t even gotten to language arts, or social studies or science….”
About halfway through this little speech I had started crying. And now? I was outright sobbing. Like…big, gasping sobs, while babbling about Khan Academy and Google meetups. Raines and Pax were both frozen, staring at me in shock.
Mike, whose eyes hadn’t yet left my face, leaned forward and peered at the screen. He read through the checklist for maybe…four seconds? (seriously maybe even three) and then sat back.
“Babe” he said. “I have no idea what-“ here he waves his hands vaguely in the direction of the screen “-this says. And, well….we both know I’m not gonna do it.”
Yes, Mike. I’m well aware.
He continues, “But this is clearly making you miserable. And I don’t see why you should have to do this either. Why don’t we just…I don’t know…fuck it?”
And we did. The End.
No, but seriously — here’s the thing: those tears of mine were not sad tears. They weren’t even frustrated tears. My tears were tears of fear and of release. They were the tears of a mom who knows — to the bottom of her heart, to the depths of her soul — what the right answer is. But the right answer — so nicely summarized by Mike as ‘Fuck It’ — is scary. Raines is in 6th grade. By all accounts, grades in 6th grade matter — especially in Philadelphia, where getting into a ‘good high school’ looks more like a collage application process. And yet.
Mike was still looking at me, expectantly. I took a deep breath.
I turned to Raines, who had been trying to apologize this whole time, swearing he’ll ‘do better’ and that he’s ‘so sorry, Mom, so so sorry’. God. He breaks my heart. “Raines,” I said softly, “you are misunderstanding my tears.”
He stopped and looked at me, in that serious, unblinking way of his.
“Raines, if I told you that you could study anything you wanted…what would it be?”
The kitchen had fallen silent. Pax was staring at me, dumbfounded, but Raines was thinking, a look of wonder on his face.
“I want to learn more about ancient Athens” he said. “Maybe Sparta. Their battle strategies. And physics I don’t really know what it is, but I think it’s important.”
Pax piped up, “I want to learn how to be a YouTuber! I want to be a better skier and snowboarder, and I want to learn how to make school fun — you keep talking about that mom, and I keep trying, but it isn’t WORKING.”
Mike and I looked at each other. He patted my shoulder — his work here clearly done — and headed back up to his cave.
I told the boys to each make a list. On paper, not the computer — of things they’d like to study. And that their Mom needed some space to think. So they set aside the laptops and made lists and played. I thought and stress-baked, and remembered all of those times in the last few weeks I had barked at Raines for missing yet another assignment, or snorted in disgust because he didn’t understand something —horrible, bad behavior on my part because I was also stressed and pressed for time — and after a sleepless night and lots of Googling and a four-mile run…I sent Raines’ teachers an email telling them that this family needed to make some changes.
“If our situation at home were different, perhaps we (Mike or I) could better support Raines’ school duties during this tough time.” I wrote. “…Raines (and Pax) have been virtually left to their own devices. I pop in to help when I can, but the net result is that none of us are happy. Raines is constantly feeling like a failure, and, as a result of trying to balance both my own work and the kids’ school work…so am I. After a series of hard conversations, Mike and I have decided that we need a change. Our kids need our support, and Raines, especially, needs to not feel like a failure, on top of all of the stresses that a worldwide pandemic brings. So going forward, we are going to dial way back on school.”
In truth, we’re still doing some school. Before I sent the email, Raines and I had talked it over and came up with a plan. He’s going to continue doing his IXL language arts assignments and the Khan Academy math assignments. But after that…we’re going to supplement with things that he wants to study. It turns out that IXL also has a unit on ancient Athens & Sparta, and that Khan Academy has basic physics. I ordered a few science kits online, several books on relevant topics, and some LEGO robotics stuff (Raines has promised to teach his brother the coding needed to program the robot). And I’m still making both boys do 20 min a day of Typing Club. The boys have been playing logic board games and D&D, learning dances on TikTok, reading books, actually using our vast arsenal of art supplies and learning how to cook.
And YES: when all else fails, the boys play video games (if I’m fed up) or watch documentaries (if I still have some fight left in me). Screen-time is simply not the worst thing in our world right now.
It turns out that my boys, when pursuing their own interests, work independently for much longer periods of time. And the time I am spending with them is now enjoyable. Instead of going over missing assignments, or trying to navigate through endless systems of logins…we’ve been spending time talking through physics concepts (haha — this is fun for me), doing a science experiment, reading a book together, baking or playing logic games. These last few days have been tear-free. We’re feeling more…settled. More connected.
At times, we’re happy.
And Raines isn’t feeling the pressure of performing in a system that fundamentally doesn’t work for a kid like him.
There wasn’t (isn’t) a problem with Raines’ teachers — they’re all amazing, incredibly gifted educators, who found creative ways to implement their curriculum online. I’m excited for Pax to have them in a few years. But this entire concept of schooling mass amounts of children from home is one that — for a kid like Raines — is flawed. Raines either needs a ton of my help to keep up with all of the various assignments, or he needs enough space and time to pursue his own interests.
We’re choosing the latter. We’re choosing to prioritize Raines’ self-worth, to, quite simply, trust the kid we’re raising. He’s an awesome kid. One who, I hope, will look back at this time and remember — if nothing else — that his parents chose him. That his parents believed in him.
And, if he’s behind when school starts up again, he’ll do what a kid like Raines has always had to do in school: work hard and catch up.
Untamed. I’m ordering Glennon Doyle’s book. Primarily because I find myself breathing out a relieved yesss whenever I come across her Instagram feed. She has a way of bringing clarity — via pointed, eloquent words — to some of my gut feelings, especially the ones that are always floating just outside my line of sight, the ones I have trouble looking at directly. This business with Raines’ school was one. And as I was deliberating, I came across her recent IG post about kids. “Instead of teaching them to never disappoint us — let’s teach them to never disappoint themselves.” yesss [and breathe]
My latest crush. I’ve got it bad for Sal Khan. Between Raines’ online math courses and now his physics courses (narrated by Mr. Kahn himself), Raines has switched to using headphones because he’s sick of hearing his mother laugh at allllll of Sal’s jokes. “OMG isn’t he funny, Raines?? He’s SO FUNNY!!” [cue eyeroll from Raines]. Anyway, Khan Academy has recently launched a new course on income inequality. You can watch two of the videos for free on the NYT. Am thinking this may be a family summer project.
Back at the Rack. My absolute favorite heeled sandal — the one I wore allll over Italy last year, the one I keep getting compliments on — has suddenly re-appeared, on sale at Nordstrom Rack. I realize that their use is limited at the moment, but these PAIGE mules are ones I’ll be wearing for years to come. The leather upper is buttery soft, and the mules are actually walkable. Fit is TTS. Can’t recommend them highly enough.
I have until midnight Sunday to decide…which pieces I’m snapping up at NINOBrand, 50% off with code TME50. I know I’m keeping that Thea top, but am deciding between the dresses (practical Millie, or go with crazy Prudence???). You can see all of the pieces – mirror selfie style – here. HELP. PLEASE.
On the topic of forever-classics…the stars of the current Shopbop sale, IMO, are all by Loeffler Randall. If anyone has had these tall boots (with a walkable heel) or these tall boots (*cough*Gwen*cough*) haunting their dreams…they’re now alllll on sale. Actually, it’s worth taking a peek at Shopbop’s entire LR sale selection, there are SO many good options.
Let’s round it out. Since everybody always asks…my top picks under $100 in the Shopbop sale are….this striped pullover, this Anine Bing tee, or these fancy sport sandals (I have similar and LOVE them).
You had me at ‘coral sunrise’. I came across Atelier Cologne’s Pomelo Paradise while perusing the Sephora sale…and while I admit to being a sucker for a good marketing ploy, I find this one especially hard to resist. This is literally the scent’s description I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP:
“Was he a fool to drive all night just for a chance to see her? Perhaps it was adrenaline and the lack of sleep, but as he pictured moments they had been together, the word destiny stuck in his mind. The coral sunrise burned bright and he drove faster. There was no choice but to see her again.”
RIGHT??? I am powerless to resist!! (Except for the fact that it’s $140.) Happily, Atelier Cologne has a mini perfume set for $55 that includes eight small bottles to try, including Pomelo Paradise. Swoon.
Like a lemon souffle. For your eyes. Elemis recently sent over a few goodies to try, and I was completely blown away by their Pro-Collagen Eye Revive Mask. My eyes have been looking uh, tired/crepey/wrinkly, and this overnight mask was so quenching that I noticed a difference immediately. Like…within seconds. Even better, it works as a makeup primer so I’m now wearing it daily, around the clock. The texture reminds me of the yellow layer in a lemon meringue pie, and the official description uses words like “bouncy gel texture” and YES. Truth. This product seemed so freaking good that I assumed I was simply hormonal…until I checked the reviews. Whoa. I’m not the only one raving about it. If interested, I’m also impressed with Elemis’ decidedly non-greasy face oil (I’ve been using after cleansing in the morning) and am a solid HELL YES on their SPF 30 face cream. It smells delicious and sinks in effortlessly.
I hate all of my makeup. The entire team put together a post about the makeup they’re wearing on the regular. If you missed it, I’m finding it really helpful. I tried to come up with something myself…but I’m either wearing no makeup, ancient makeup (that should’ve been thrown out years ago), or makeup I hate. The only exceptions are that Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter, which I still adore (but haven’t been wearing because I’ve been trying to ‘test’ other no-foundation foundations and I GIVE UP), BadGal Bang mascara that literally looks like giant, goopy fake lashes (which I normally LOVE but feels like too much right now), and this Ilia Beauty multi stick. I have ‘Dreamer’ and it’s perfect for making a no-makeup face look a little better.
I’m off to (hopefully) clean out my sad and disappointing makeup drawer which desperately needs a clean slate. But quick, before that Sephora sale ends (actually, it’s only Rouge members right now, VIB can start shopping on Tuesday, Insiders on Thursday).
We were teasing Raines about his ability to attract wild creatures (bees, squirrels, geese have all attacked him at some point), and Mike jokingly referred to him as the male version of a Disney Princess. So tonight we’re watching Enchanted — seems appropriate (and funny).
And yup: Mike is finally getting a movie night with us. Makes me hopeful that next week will be better than this one.
Whew. What a tough one. Hope you guys are staying sane and safe.