On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter. Needless to say, after months of digging myself out of snow banks, skidding on ice, and hiding beneath mountains of blankets, I was a little frustrated. I found myself cursing a cute little groundhog. Now, I’ve never been a believer in the mythology of Punxsutawney Phil (In fact I couldn’t even spell his name without the help of Google), but at this point in the pandemic, I was really looking for a win, however symbolic and meaningless it ultimately was, and I couldn’t even get that.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend this entire blog crying about how unfair the world is. I just find it fascinating that my breaking point, after all of this, was a silly little tradition in a tiny Pennsylvania town. Now that we’re just about rounding out a year of COVID-19, I think that a lot of the anxieties are internalized. It’s no longer shocking to find yourself in a sea of masked, socially distant shoppers when going to the grocery store. We’ve made adjustments. We’ve accepted our new reality. It’s become mundane.
Missed birthdays, missed holidays, missed graduations and proms, schools and jobs shutting down outright, all things that were initially heartbreaking, are now just part of our lives. While we can continue to function, and sometimes we can even feel like we used to, I think that it’s safe to say that everyone is a little on edge.
This is especially apparent in schools. My mother is a 1st grade teacher. She’s been working long hours to try and provide her students, some of which are still struggling to read, a reasonable education online. And now more than ever, she says her students are just fried. She said that this month has been more difficult than the first month of classes. First-graders weren’t meant to stare at computer screens for 10 hours a day, no one really is. And the toll is finally starting to show.
Passionate teachers like my mom and dedicated people like our tutors have been dealing with that fatigue for the entirety of the pandemic. They’ve been using every tool in their toolboxes to keep students engaged and excited. It’s not a battle that’s easily won, but I promise you, it does make a difference. You can do the same for your child by getting them up and active, finding safe ways to get them to experience life outside of the house, and making sure that they aren’t feeling overwhelmed by everything happening in the world. But this isn’t as simple as waiting out the virus.
The vaccine rolling out means that we can expect to see our old way of living start to return, but even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, its effects are going to linger on. The healing process will have only just begun. That’s why it is so important to check in with your children. It’s easy to overlook the signs of a burned out child just going through the motions. Maybe when they lash out at something seemingly inconsequential it’s just their Punxsutawney Phil moment.
Upon reflection, I think I know why that furry varmint got me so upset. It’s not the fact that he saw his shadow, it’s the feeling of being overwhelmed by the things out of our control. It’s the brain looking for little victories and getting frustrated by little defeats. Recognizing that in ourselves and our children can help alleviate that stress and prevent misunderstandings. And although it’s going to be a long and complicated process, I know that things will start to get better if we continue to work at them.