Yesterday my four year old daughter, Leila, was having a hard time feeling happy. As the afternoon waned and the sun shown a little less brightly, She and her brother, 5 and a half year old Leo, had completed a long day with Daddy at Daddy-school. Morning was filled with English language arts and math games, along with birthday cards for mommy. This was followed by lunch and then a massive driveway chalk project that celebrated their teachers for #teacherappreciationweek.
By four in the afternoon, Leila and Leo had begun taking their being stir-cray out on each other and regardless of their being outside for the afternoon, Leila, in particular, was not in a good mood. She told me -and then her mom- that she "wanted a new home".
She let us know that she wanted to bring all of her toys and many of our current possessions were fine. Leila just wanted a different environment. This home was the place she has been stuck since March 13th, 2020. Every nook and cranny of the house had been explored and there just wasn't anything exciting to do here any more.
Sadly, while this explanation was interrupted by various levels of tantrums that 4 year olds are really good at, Leila had expressed precisely what every one of us was feeling.
Once the anxiety of not going to work or school subsided, There has been new fears and challenges. How do I actually stimulate the brains of my PreK and K kids every single day? How do I manage their need for attention with my responsibilities to work? Is there a timeline that I can use to map how long this will last and what kind of help I might seek out ...before my wife and I begin to have tantrums.
In the end, though, we are just a bit stir-crazy. Leila wants to stretch her legs, see different things, be in a different environment from the one she has been in every day. In fact, we all feel the same way. Of course, we have more time, finally, to do things for ourselves and our family that we have not had the time to do in the past. This is impossible to dispute. And it is important to pay attention to the merits of this perspective, especially when the other aspects of this pandemic are so sad and unsettling. But with this new time, there is a responsibility to our kiddos.
I think that Leila represents her age group perfectly. And while adults may have a hard time with change, and there is growing momentum in the media for shining light on how great this pandemic's silver lining may actually be. We must also honor the fact that children need stimulation. This must be beyond the screens and monitors that are so easy to prop them in front of. This must be more than plopping them down in front of their peers and teachers so that they can learn via #Zoom. Parents will need to get creative. Kids will need a change of scenery and be engaged in learning new and uncharted experiences so that they can continue to grow.
If socialization and emotional wellness were gaining momentum before in schools, that focus should be implicit in whatever is being planned for September and the new school year. Our kids deserve better than a schedule wherein the same classes are offered virtually. Our kids must be given opportunities to explore the myriad stimuli that encourages them to continue to ask questions....or they will all want a new home.