From the Nest…
a blog about faith, parenting and creating sacred space

It has been a difficult spring and summer to say the least. We have been struggling with decisions about the health and safety of ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our co-workers. Many of us have been working from home and caring for children, which is a laughable conundrum! As we get new information, we make different choices… can we go swimming? Should we go out to a restaurant? Can our extended family gather for a summer birthday? Can we still go on a vacation?

And the BIG question was..…Are they going back to school?

First, I do hope you were able to take a few days off from work, even if you had nowhere to go. I hope you were able to rest and turn off the loud and constant news cycle. I hope you were able to do some fun things you may not have had time to do because of work, child care and distance learning! If you did not take time to relax and have some fun this summer, it’s not too late. You can still carve out time for yourself and your family in the coming weeks and months. You MUST. In these extraordinary times, we must do some self care.

And then in the blink of an eye, we are back to school!!!
Parents, teachers and administrators are struggling to know what is best for children, how to keep teachers and staff safe, how to move from in-person to at-home learning when a child or teacher is sick, and how to get parents back to work????

First, close your eyes, take a deep breathe——let it out.

Whatever decision you make as a parent for your child and your family, will be okay. It is the right decision for you, for now. And as we have seen in the last six months, things will change and we can change with them.

A little flexibility will go a long way this school year. You might try something for a few weeks and if it’s not working, pitch it and try something else. Here are a few ideas.

Plan easy meals a few nights a week. At my house Friday is always pizza night! If I have time and feel inspired, we make our own pizza dough. But MOST Fridays, it’s take out or frozen! Tuesday is taco night! Again, the fact that there is no decision to be made frees up space in my head. It’s easy, I don’t have to plan it, I don’t have to think about it and my kids can do a lot of the prep, because we’ve done it for so long.
Make mornings easier. You could have breakfast food that the kids can make themselves, think yogurt, fruit, cereal, toast. Or, while you are cooking breakfast (if that’s your favorite meal), have them pack their own lunches. Even if they are learning at home, having lunch packed means no mess in the middle of the day AND they can take it outside and eat.
Our kids will meet our expectations. Teach them to do their own laundry, to make a bed, to clean the bathroom, to load and UNLOAD the dishwasher, to mow the grass. It will take a little time for the lesson, and a little patience as they don’t do it the same way you would do it. But, it takes a few jobs off your list and teaches them skills they will use the rest of their lives. And who cares if the bathroom is not as clean as you like it, there’s another opportunity to clean it next week!
Adopt a family check in time. This is NOT about giving you another thing to do. It is about finding space to check in with your children and how they are feeling emotionally. Many of us will be asking about physical symptoms as we go through screening questions on a daily basis. It’s important to check in with how our emotions are doing and take care of those feelings. We will be talking more about how to create space for feelings and family rituals in future blog posts.
Morning check in can be as simple as asking you child “What are 3 feelings you are having this morning?” If they need help naming feelings take a look at this feeling wheel.
Bedtime check in can be as simple as asking your child, “What was your favorite thing about today? What was the hardest thing about today?”
Parents, I would invite you to ask yourself these same questions. You might share some of your thoughts with your child, or you might write them down in a journal. {a journal can be a note on you phone if that is all you are able to do}

This is the strangest time and we are all trying hard to hold it together. Know that you are not alone, you can let go of some things, you will get work done, our children will learn.

My friend, Wendy Barrie wrote a beautiful blessing of the backpacks many years ago. Another writer, Traci Smith wrote a blessing for our blended learning in this time of COVID. I took those two prayers, added a few lines and created this blessing for right now, as we move into whatever ‘school’ looks like for your family.

A Back to School Blessing

God of Wisdom, we give you thanks for schools and classrooms, for homes and couches, for teachers and students and parents.
We thank you for this new beginning, for new books and new ideas, for all our devices and the technology that keeps us connected.
We thank you for sharpened pencils, and crisp blank pages waiting to be filled.
We thank you for the gift of making mistakes and trying again.
Help us to remember that asking the right questions is often as important as giving the right answers.

Today we give you thanks for these families, and we ask you to bless them with curiosity, understanding, patience and respect.
May their backpacks, laptops, notebooks and even their kitchen tables! be signs that they have everything they need to learn and grow this year.
We may be learning in many different places but one thing will always stay the same:
No matter where we are, God is with us.
No matter where we are, God loves us.
No matter where we are, we are God’s children. Amen.

You can find more prayers and blessings from Traci Smith here.

The Reverend Laura Thornton is the Children and Youth Minister at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Durham, NC.

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