I got a call recently from a parent of two kids in Fairfield County basically relaying the message that she was “done” with the distance learning for her 3rd and 5th grader. After about 30 minutes of being on a screen with Zoom at 8:30AM, both boys lost interest and got almost zero value out of the rest of the day in distance education. Her depression over it was palpable.

What stood out to me, though, was what she said about their relationship to learning: “They seem to have lost the joy of learning, that spark of interest they used to have about it.” I’m butchering the phrasing, she was much more eloquent about it, but I heard a familiar tone in her voice in describing what had been lost: a deep inner fear that her kids had lost something in this pandemic that couldn’t be recovered. I could tell she was trying, with all she could muster, to be positive, chipper, brave. She even talked about how there was no weather that was too cold to go outside in for her kids, one would just need the ‘right clothing.’ But underneath, it was easy to discern the deep dread of the impact of this thing on her small, vulnerable legacies.

It was all too familiar to me, not only because I had spoken to dozens and dozens of other parents of children and young adolescents, all with eerily similar stories, but because I knew that inescapable duality myself. No matter the joy and positivity that I try like hell to squeeze from the granite of my tired soul, I will never shake the dread that my three children are irreparably hurt from this pandemic, and the fear even worse: I could do something about it, but have failed to. It’s a thought difficult to even write, and yet it sits on my conscience like the raven on a door.

She wanted someone to come to her in her house and tutor her kids through the spring, some consistency, someone to re-establish the joy of learning for her two boys. I reassured her I could provide that. Before we hung up, she said something to me I don’t think I’ll ever forget. She said simply, “This just has to go well. I don’t think I’d be able to manage a failure.” It didn’t sound dramatic.

It’s been a gauntlet of horrors for parents, and like the mountain in Dante’s Purgatorio, it’s worst feature is not being able to see the top. Honestly, the only thing that remedies it in any way for me is the thought that I’ve at least been able to help some parents in providing them a resource that their children can rely on through times like these. No one can take away the grief that all parents feel right now about the life snatched away from their children. All I can do is make one small difference in it, no matter how insignificant it seems, no matter that it does nothing to lift the veil of dread, and hope one day soon, it will feel like spring.