Welcome to another episode of Simply Unbreakable brought to you by Chronically Simple. Your hosts, Kristy Dickinson and Brenda Agnew are discussing today about a new year started in the middle of a pandemic. As parents, guilt and shame are sometimes inevitable, but adding a bit of grace into our daily lives can completely change our perspectives while transiting these difficult times. The pandemic has given us many hardships, but also opportunities… opportunities to connect, to slow down, and to realize the value of what really matters. Listen to this episode and hear the perspectives of two mothers who are asking themselves the same questions that you have.
Narrator: Welcome to Simply Unbreakable with Kristy Dickinson and Brenda Agnew, a podcast from Chronically Simple. Simply Unbreakable is about telling stories, learning from each other, and forging new ways to navigate the health care system together.
Kristy: Hi. Welcome back to another episode of Simply Unbreakable, the podcast put on by Chronically Simple. I’m your host Kristy Dickinson here with my good friend Brenda Agnew. Good morning, Brenda.
Kristy: Happy February 1st.
Brenda: Happy February 1st, yes.
Kristy: We’ve made it through the longest month of 2021.
Brenda: Yes and my husband’s going dry today. Yeah, February 1st, yes exciting. It’s good.
Kristy: So we made it through the first four weeks of this kind of blah New Year that no one – everyone went into like, “Wah-wah, happy New Year”.
Kristy: We’re still in lockdown.
Kristy: Our kids are still being taught virtually.
Brenda: Yeah. But that’s for all those people that said, “2021 is going to be my year” [laughs], you can’t do –
Kristy: Yeah, no.
Brenda: – you know, you can’t do that.
Kristy: Never again.
Brenda: Everyone who was like, “Out with 2020” and then 2021 said, “Hold my beer” and this is where we are, so yes – but yes.
Kristy: And at the end of 2020 I just said, “Can 2021 just not be any worse”, like –
Brenda: – See, I have been wanting a New Year since 2007. So every year since 2007 I’m like next year is going to be – nothing could be worse than 2007 so every year I’m like it’s got to be [laughs] …
Kristy: But every year is better than 2007 for you.
Brenda: Well, yeah, relatively speaking I guess. But [laughs], but …
Brenda: Minorly, right.
Kristy: So but you bring up a good point and something that actually, you know, my dad and I were talking about yesterday is your perception. Because we were talking about just, you know, being in lockdown and how everything’s been going and I haven’t been feeling well the last three weeks so that’s been a challenge – or two and a half weeks. I don’t know, it feels like forever.
So, you know, perception of I feel like our – anyway, the people around me are very tired of – it’s like COVID fatigue and pandemic fatigue and lockdown fatigue and I guess you and I have a different level of perception on, you know, what is a challenge and what’s not. We were talking before we started recording about is lockdown really any different for you or I. And it’s – you know, for people living with a chronic illness, staying at home to keep yourself healthy is not a new concept for a lot of people and you’re an introvert so you enjoy staying at home.
Brenda: You know what, I’m kind of of the mindset that let’s just get this done and – OK. So let me – OK, so let me back it up a little bit. So there’s certain things I don’t like about it. I miss travelling, I miss the movies, I miss entertaining, I miss all that sort of thing. What – I don’t mind slowing down.
Brenda: I don’t mind being, you know, in the house, nothing on the agenda, nothing crazy going on, I think that’s probably a little bit of the difference. Are we getting bored, yes. Is it impacting Maclain a lot, yes because he can’t engage as much the way other people can engage. I can still stay connected. I still have a full day of work, I can still send texts to people, I can still do things like that but it slowed our lives down a little bit and that’s not the worst thing.
Like I don’t think I’ve hit the COVID fatigue, I think it has changed – what I will say has changed is my desire to go out. I think I’m becoming more of an introvert, which is not my personality. It is causing that a little bit. But, you know, we’ve lived a really, really busy, hustle and bustle, non-stop on the go life as many people have and, you know, to get up on a Saturday morning and all I have coming that day is my grocery delivery is not the worst thing.
Also, it’s the time of year. So it’s OK I think for us to be kind of hanging in because – and my mentality now is let’s just get this done so we don’t have to do this again. Like let’s just get this over with. If everybody can just do what they need to do and then we can just get past this and have a normal – I don’t know, go forward, whatever normal means. That’s my mentality I guess. Maybe I’m in the wrong here.
Kristy: No, I think – so I read a quote like in May when people thought that it was only going to be, you know, four, six, eight weeks that, “In your hustle to return back to normal, really like take stock of what you want to go back to”. I’m not doing that quote any justice. But, you know, all of us our calendars went blank.
So I think like for any parent that has kids that are in lots of activities, that work full-time, that go see family a lot, that travel, like to have a blank slate – to your point – on a Saturday or on a Sunday is so abnormal that even still I wake up and I’m like, “Well what are we going to do today? Oh yeah, nothing”. Like we’ll go for a walk or, you know, take the kids tobogganing or take the kids like somewhere where the people aren’t. So I don’t know, like I had a really hard time over Christmas not seeing my family, but –
Brenda: – Yeah, yeah. I definitely agree. I think the holidays are a lot more difficult as well. I mean I’m an only child so it was, you know, harder to balance. My father-in-law is struggling with, you know, a diagnosis of dementia, we don’t know what that will look like next Christmas. So I think for us it was disappointing to not have that holiday piece, as you say. That’s a – you know, and I do feel – I mean I’ll back it up for a sec.
I do feel robbed on some things. I mean, you know, my older son has always played rep sports, right, rep baseball and rep hockey for as long as I can remember. And, you know, this year for baseball was a [dunky? 00:07:13] year because they didn’t get to really play until maybe September and they played a couple – he lost the passion and he quit.
So I felt like I didn’t get to see him play at all that last year he was playing baseball and now he’s not going to play anymore, and the same thing has happened with hockey. So I thought we squeezed out one more year of rep hockey, there was no rep hockey this year. That’ll be the last year that my son plays rep hockey, he doesn’t want to play next year. So I kind of feel like in those pieces, you know.
Kristy: Yeah. And like you probably weren’t as present or paying as much – because we have a tendency to think, “Oh well, you know, he’ll be always playing or I’ll see the next game, I’ll catch the next game”. So that is something that I do think I’ve become much more intentional about where I spend my time, like the content I consume, the – we were talking before we started recording about books and which shows we’re watching.
So like people that I can see or will see when the protocols let up a little bit, like I’m very intentional about how I spend my time now and I don’t think – because before I was just a hamster on a wheel going, going, going, going to the hockey games, going to the dance classes. I hope that my kids haven’t quit. I think probably Keagan won’t go – like they’re going into grade nine and I don’t know if he’ll play next year or not.
Brenda: Yeah, things change anyway.
Kristy: Yeah. I feel sad that this is how – for Keagan and Maclain that this is how their grade eight year is being spent. Like they looked – Keagan looked so forward to their grade eight trip which isn’t going to happen. So, you know, perspective on things could be a hundred million times worse but also then being OK with, you know, feeling sad or a little bit grumpy I guess.
That’s probably the wrong word but, you know, feeling disappointed that trips have been cancelled or, you know, they can’t spend this time with their friends because they’ve had a pretty tight cohort.
Kristy: I don’t know. For me, this past month – and I think because I was so sick for the first few weeks of it, like stuck in bed sick, I feel a lot of guilt. Like guilt is the overriding emotion that I have felt in 2021. I feel guilty that I’m not more present with the kids’ virtual schooling, that I’m not, you know, helping Sadie and sitting next to her while she is doing all of her stuff.
Which really is a useless – like it’s a ridiculous emotion, it doesn’t serve anything but I haven’t been as productive at work because I’ve been sick, I haven’t been as – you know. I just feel like I’m giving like 30% in every area of my life which I don’t love.
Brenda: See and I think I’ve gone into it – which is a completely flipped role for you and I. I think I’ve gone into this with a little bit more grace and I used this word the other day in a podcast, but I have gone in – you know what, Kristy, I have tried to get rid of the guilt for 2021.
I’m like you know what, I look at the social media posts and I see people taking their kids’ tobogganing and I’m like OK, I should be doing that. And then I go hold on a second, my 15-year-old isn’t interested in going tobogganing so let’s – I’d have to force him to go do that and it’s not a realistic activity for Maclain and he doesn’t want to do it. So I see it and I say, “Oh my gosh, we should be doing this” and then I say, “Maclain, do you want to go do this” and he says, “No, I want to do this, I want” – you know.
So I try to get rid of – you know, and we had this – so we had this conversation. So my older son, academics are very important – and I know we’re going to talk about virtual school. But academics are very important in our household, they’re just very important. It’s the way I was raised, academics are important to me. And when I say academics I mean trying your very best.
Brenda: I am not a math whizz, if I tried my very best and pulled out a 60, OK. But when my parents would see achieving below potential ability on my report card, that was a whipping that was coming [laughs].
Brenda: Even if it was a 95 on that report card. So we’re very big on academics and my older son is too. He’s very – he knows the importance for us, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. Now having said that, I mean he could do a little bit more than he does, but that’s not the point. So, you know, he – so the one thing that he can do really, really well is math. I mean he’s good at other subjects but he is a math guy.
It boggles my mind because I don’t compute like that. I’m an English, history – right, I got into university with grade 13 French. So [laughs] and I told him the other day, I said, “Chase, I dropped math after grade 10” and he said, “No way”, I said, “Yes, I did. Math and science were gone after grade 10”, so thank God for OAC French.
But anyway, he struggled a little bit this year with math. He’s had to do it online and it’s quadratics and I keep calling it like hydroponics and he says, “Hypotenuse” and I’m like, “Is that like hippopotamus”. And, you know, so that shows you the level of my understanding but he’s really good in math and again, he computes it really well. He can spew it out and he’s had a hard time this year and I’m hearing from people, you know, grade 10 math is difficult normally.
So then you take that and you put that into a home situation where, you know, they’re having to do a lot more of it virtually, not a lot of kids are comfortable asking questions online, they don’t have their person next to them to turn to. And so his math mark normally would be in the high 80s and he tanked his culminating and he’s struggling right now to pull that mark up to an 80.
And I know that that sounds – but in the scheme of things for him that’s important. He wants to have honours every year and that’s just, you know, an 80 for him – like math is the mark that’s going to pull everything else up –
Kristy: Yes, yeah.
Brenda: – and he was devastated the other night. You know and actually I thought OK, if we were in real times right now I probably would put down the hammer a little bit, I probably would not have been as gracious as I was. But I sat there and I thought OK, we’re in a pandemic, they’re virtual learning. I didn’t do well in math in a real learning situation, he’s having to do it virtually, it’s hard for them.
I can’t stay motivated for my job, I can’t stay motivated for making dinner, I can’t stay motivated for things that I want to do right now because of the way it is and we’re expecting our kids to stay motivated and inspired and try their best and all of these things when I can’t do that. And so I actually had some grace with him and I said, “You know what, if this is the year that your mark comes in and it’s not what you want it to be and it’s not what I want it to be, that’s OK. It’s not a year that the marks count”.
I’m trying to use these lessons right now because I think we’re all going through a lot and we’ve never been through this and no one can identify clearly what this means to each person, what the impact it has on them and so, you know, let’s have a little bit of grace. Let’s have grace on ourselves and you know what, I’ll make this up to them. Listen, my kids have had an OK life.
Let’s be honest here, they’ve done OK, right. They’re not wanting for anything, we do a lot of adventures as a family, we do a lot of things, OK. So, yeah, does it suck right now a little bit, yes. But you know what, people have lived through worse in their lives and come out the other side of it. So I look at things like let’s get through this and then I’ll make it up to them in some way and maybe that’s going to be a trip, maybe that’s going to be this, maybe that’s going to be that. I don’t know what that’s going to look like but it’s going to be something.
Kristy: I promised my kids last night that we’re going to go to Hawaii when we [laughs] …
Brenda: Right. OK, so I’m aiming a little lower.
Kristy: Yeah, yeah.
Brenda: You know, but that’s the kind of thing. Like Maclain and I talked last night about maybe going to New York and we had a whole conversation about going to New York maybe in November. We’d get the book and we would read it and research it and so that’s given us something to look forward to. And I think that’s – so, you know, yeah, is there guilt there but – I don’t know. I don’t have a place for it right now, I just don’t.
You know what, our kids are resilient, we’re resilient, we have enough – listen, Kristy. We’re trying to keep our jobs, pay our mortgage, make sure our kids are fed, make sure that all that stuff is going on while all this stuff is happening out there, I don’t – just I don’t want to feel guilty about something right now. I just don’t.
Kristy: You know, I think what threw me for a tailspin honestly is I live with – like I will say I live with like a set amount of guilt for the fact that I’m sick because I grew up with a mom that had a terminal diagnosis and was sick and I know that impact that it had on our childhood. Like it was just like a gray cloud – and she was phenomenal, like we lived a very normal childhood but there was always that gray cloud as a kid.
And so I hate the fact that like when my kids – fast forward 10 or 15 years when they use words to describe me, one of those words will be sick, I hate that. And like I know that it’s illogical, I know that I can’t change it, I know that it doesn’t serve me to – because I still, to your point, like they have a great life, I do everything that I can. So I started this year, and as you know I always choose a word, and my word this year was grace. It is grace.
Brenda: Look at us, I love that.
Kristy: Yeah, but then like I tossed it out the window the 2nd of January –
Brenda: And went with guilt …
Kristy: – when I got so sick and like this is not normal sick for me. Like I don’t normally get respiratory illnesses so I went down and like when I’m talking down, like I didn’t get out of my bed for a week, that’s not normal. The kids couldn’t see me because we didn’t know what I had.
So I was isolating and then all of these guilt feelings came because like Sadie didn’t know how to submit her work and so, you know, we’re transitioning the kids into virtual school. And it just became a snowball and then I was laying there like just kind of festering in this horrible emotion that really doesn’t do any good. No good comes from sitting in a place of like shame for how you’re feeling or guilt for not doing enough, especially during a pandemic.
Brenda: See and I don’t think the kids – and again you know me, Kristy, like I sweat over lots of things. Like I’ve already ordered my heart-shaped pasta for Valentine’s and everything, like this is what I do, right. This is I’m constantly – and I have a friend of mine who’s like, “Brenda, stop always trying to make things up to your kids or try to” – you know, and I’m like, “Well I don’t know, I’ve [unintelligible 00:18:13]”.
And it’s not that I spoil them, it’s not that I – I’m just always trying to create this thing and I’m always trying to create this experience and I’m always trying to make it a good one and I want to try to make it a memorable one. And I’ve learned – when I’ve talked to people, you know, I’ve learned that the kids – you know, again they’re resilient but they remember the things we don’t expect them to remember. So I bet your kids are not going to remember – yeah, they’re going to be like, “Mom was sick” but they’re not going to think about that.
They’re going to think about going tobogganing, they’re going to think about watching a movie, they’re going to think about fighting over a game, they’re going to think about hot chocolate bombs. Like they’re going to think about stuff like that, that’s really what I’m taking away from this. And I think again, I mean I’m trying to give them things to look forward to. It’s going to look a little bit different but that’s the stuff – like I feel like that’s the stuff they take away from things.
They don’t – I hear what you’re saying and I think that worry is probably – I can’t tell you not to worry because you know I’m a huge worrier, but I think we just have to think, you know what, I don’t think they’re going to think as negatively as we think they’re going to –
Kristy: – As I do, yeah.
Brenda: Yeah, I just don’t think they will. Listen, think back to when we were younger, OK. We would’ve given anything to virtual school.
Brenda: We really would’ve. Think about that, think about how many times you didn’t want to go to school, right.
Brenda: Now, I know it’s not the same as a snow day, but I look at things like how often in life are you able to do schooling in your pyjamas. How often in life are you able to – like there’s just certain things about this that kids may take back and go, “Oh my God, do you remember when I was in grade eight? Yeah, I didn’t do this and this and this” – maybe grade eight’s not the right example. But someone like Sadie, she’ll be like, “Oh my God, do you remember when I was in this grade and we had to do school from home” and – like things like that.
Kristy: Yeah [unintelligible 00:19:58] standing on my back, yeah.
Brenda: Right, but that’s what I mean. Like I think that’s the kind of stuff. You know, Maclain is equating this right now with playing video games at lunch and –
Kristy: Yes, yeah.
Brenda: – he gets a hot meal every day at lunch and he – you know, like he gets pancakes for breakfast every day because those aren’t things that we can make happen when we’re rushing everybody out of the house in the morning.
Brenda: And so I think that’s the kind of the stuff I’m trying to really take a look at. I hear what you’re saying, I really do but I don’t know, I just – I’m trying to just really –
Kristy: – I definitely need to change my mindset. I know that I’m not in my normal place. Like you – this podcast, it’s like you and I are – I don’t even know what happened to us, it’s like Freaky Friday.
Kristy: OK. So you and I have kind of swapped places in this podcast because generally I’m, you know, Polly Positive and you are the –
Brenda: – Nellie Negative.
Kristy: Well, yeah. Well you just keep me – like my feet lift off the ground and you bring back down to reality in a good way, that’s why we balance each other out so well. So I don’t even know what to do with this shift in dynamic, relationship dynamic. You telling me not to worry, jeez, this world is probably coming to an end [laughs].
Brenda: It’s true, it’s true. But, yeah, you’re right, it is a complete shift. It’s not my normal nature but I’m having to do it and maybe for different reasons. Maybe just for my own mental health, maybe for my own – you know, like I – it’s like, Kristy, I don’t celebrate small wins, you know I don’t [laughs].
Kristy: I know, I know you don’t.
Brenda: Listen, like yesterday I’m like – OK, so I had friends that reached out to say, “Do you want to go on an annual camping trip” and I was like, “OK, what weekend”, so they picked and I’m like, “Oh my God, we’re supposed to leave for PEI, who knows if that’s going to happen”. So then I had this stress because I want to do both.
So I mentioned to the people from PEI, I was like, “Is there any way I can move my week” and then 20 minutes later they were like, “Absolutely, we’ve put you in” – I go like look at those stars just align, so now I can do this and I can do this. And I thought holy moly and I took that as like a small win and I went OK, all right, like that – I don’t know. So maybe this is – maybe we’re in bizarre world and maybe when things open back up [laughs] it’ll be different but – you know.
And I do, listen I do feel bad for – you know, I don’t feel bad for Chase as much, he’s an introvert, but I do feel bad for Maclaine, I really do. He misses his friends, he needs them to be physically with him, tangible. He hasn’t enjoyed grade eight, he was looking forward to so many things so, you know, I know it is harder on him and I’m probably overcompensating with him.
Kristy: I think it’s been a hard year – it’s interesting because I’ve talked to other moms and it’s been a hard year for Keagan as well and I think it’s been a hard year for a lot of these grade eights because it’s just shifting expectations. They wait – you know; you wait to be the king of the school; you wait because you see the other – the grades ahead of you and you see what they get to do and little things like finally being the grade eight on the hockey team.
Kristy: Like you’re definitely going to get picked because you’re the grade eight.
Brenda: Because you’re grade eight, they’re not going to not pick you.
Kristy: You’ve got a guaranteed spot. So little things like that I think just, you know, realigning expectations. And Keagan is generally a pretty go-with-the-flow kid, like I don’t worry about him as much but he had a really hard, really, really tough start to the year. So I think, you know, you are right, the kids are resilient, they’re fine. They have their grad – or at least that’s what they wanted.
Brenda: That’s what they wanted; we’ll figure something out for grad. But listen, I mean I hear you. I mean I started worrying about the grade eight trip back in grade six because the grade eight trip was always a – it was always at a camp, right, it was always at like the Muskoka Woods or whatever it was. And so we started having conversations because I knew that that wasn’t going to work for Maclain.
So we started having conversations back in grade six to try to see if by then we could change it so grade eight could be to Ottawa or somewhere that was more accessible and we were like OK, this is perfect. So last year they set the stage so that the grade sevens would go so that it wouldn’t be odd when they got to grade eight and suddenly changed the trip and then people would be like, “Oh, that was Maclain”. So we did a lot of work to get to the point where we could have [laughs] a grade eight trip that would work for him and then we don’t have a grade eight trip.
Brenda: So, you know, I talked about things like, you know, maybe there’s an opportunity, it’s not the same thing but maybe he grabs, you know, Ethan and Keagan and Jack and him and maybe I take them somewhere for a night somewhere – I don’t know. I mean it’s not the same thing, I know, but …
Kristy: Keagan thinks he’s going on a cruise with you.
Brenda: Well Maclain has invited him a lot of different places.
Brenda: Yeah. So – yeah [laughs].
Kristy: I mean [unintelligible 00:24:34].
Brenda: Yeah, I’m sure he is.
Kristy: “I need a passport, mom, I’m going away with Mclean”.
Brenda: Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure he is and that’s fine. I have no problem with that.
Brenda: So, you know, I think it’s things like that that – yeah, they definitely have looked forward to, there’s no doubt about that. I mean they’ve lost out on two trips for grade eight.
Kristy: But you know what, I think what you just said is you’re – like that would be another example of celebrating those small wins, right, “You can’t do this but we can do this” or, you know, we – yeah.
Brenda: And they may not remember the entire part of their crappy grade eight year if we can give them a decent graduation.
Brenda: And maybe their graduation isn’t what the normal graduation would be like but that’s OK. I mean I heard from people who – yes, they got robbed of their grade 12 prom and their grade 12 grad and that is not cool but think about that story.
Brenda: Think about when you tell your kids what your grade – you know, your grade 12 grad was like. I mean there’s other positives to pull out of this.
Kristy: “I had to drive through to get my diploma”.
Brenda: Drive through to get your diploma which would be Chase’s heaven.
Brenda: Like he’s hoping that there’s COVID in grade 12 so he doesn’t have to go to prom and he doesn’t have to graduate, he’s like this – I’m crossing my fingers, everybody can see.
Brenda: Yeah, he’s like, “Come on COVID”. So, you know, whereas it’s – you know, but again I look at it like, Kristy, if we do this the right way now, maybe our kids going into grade nine don’t have to do what the grade nine kids did this year because I can’t imagine sending Maclain to grade nine in the environment that we had this year. Can you imagine what that would be like?
Brenda: No. So maybe if we do this right maybe the grade nine for our kids is going to be a better entry than the grade nine for the last kids. So there’s no doubt this has had an impact on friendships and I know we’re going to have a lot of work to do when we come out of this.
Brenda: I mean personally I feel the same way. Do I have the same friendships I had going into this; I hope so. But I think I’ll figure out the friends I didn’t really talk to over the past 10 months because maybe we were only connected by hockey or by something else, but I’ll come out of this with a strengthened friendship with those people that helped us get through this time.
Kristy: Well and I see – like I’ve noticed a shift in some relationships because now that we have more time, like relationships that may have taken a back seat because of how busy we were – like I think an example is my godchildren and they live in Milton.
But they are both – they’re a little bit older than Keagan and Grayson, and like rep hockey, rep baseball, gymnastics competitive. So I just didn’t – our schedules haven’t aligned, when Brandon came into town we would go watch him play hockey if it could fit. Since this pandemic started I have Facetimed with them more in the past 10 months than I have in the last three years.
Brenda: Right, right.
Kristy: So I think that there’s been some re-connections because you have time to think about like maybe people that you haven’t seen or people that through – you know, we’re a low maintenance relationship, but that friendship of mine and my relationship with our godchildren is really low maintenance. But it’s been more – like I think about them more often now so and when I think about them I Facetime them because I have nothing else to do.
Brenda: Right. And I think – yeah, I mean and I think I’m going to try to be – like when I come out of this again I’ll probably reassess some friendships, but I also – back to grace, I think I’ll also probably be a little bit kind if there’s been people who, you know, haven’t reached out as much or haven’t – you know. I have days like that. I have days where my phone blows up and I have days where I go I’m not looking at my phone today, I can’t send one more text, I can’t –
Kristy: – Yeah.
Brenda: You know what, I’ve got Zoom fatigue.
Brenda: If someone said to me right now, “Do you want to Zoom” I’d say no. I just – you know. So I think, you know, in another way too that I think because we have had to stay so connected constantly all day, every day in different ways, there’s also times where I’m like I don’t want to talk to anybody. I don’t want to do that right now because I’ve been doing it all day long and, you know, I think that’s another – I mean I feel like I’m tethered to my laptop.
Brenda: I don’t have that time to go in my car and listen to a podcast for an hour on the way to work, I’m on this the whole time.
Kristy: Well and you’re working an hour earlier because you’re not commuting –
Kristy: – and you’re working an hour later.
Brenda: And I’m working late, I’m working over lunch. Like that’s the kind of thing, right. So, yeah, it’ll definitely be interesting.
Kristy: Can we move topics to I want to know –
Brenda: Virtual school?
Kristy: – yeah, I want to know how virtual school is going for you because I have some feelings.
Brenda: So you know what, it’s been fine – and you and I talked about this before we started recording. So Maclain did really well in March. When we had to shut down and go into online schooling he did really well, he had one on one time with his EAs. You know, it was a bit of a novelty back then, right, I mean the COVID was a novelty back then but he did really well because he was in an environment that he was comfortable.
People could listen to him, he could speak more freely, he wasn’t competing with other people in the classroom, he wasn’t trying to process all the sounds, he wasn’t trying to do all those things so he actually did really well and he was able to focus a lot better.
And then when we went into school, he was excited to go to school don’t get me wrong, but he was having a hard time as well and you and I talked about this. For Maclain school is fun, he loves school. He has always loved school; he’s never wanted to miss school and he knows the importance of academics as well but it’s fun for him. This year wasn’t fun for him. He had a split cohort and he couldn’t see the kids in the other cohort because they weren’t supposed to mingle.
So this cohort they had been together with this entire time and for right or wrong – reasons are made from an administrative perspective, right or wrong it was split. So now he’s in a class with half grade sevens, half grade eights. He doesn’t know the grade sevens, they may not know him and he’s missing some of his grade eights that are in the other class, that’s one.
The two is now they’re all wearing masks, it’s harder for him to hear them because of his hearing impairment and they also have to stay away from each other. Maclain wants kids on – you know, I mean Keagan rides around on Maclain’s lap, the kids tip him back in his wheelchair, the kids are in his face, the kids are all over him all the time, he loves that. He loves joking, he loves having fun, that hasn’t been the environment this year.
Brenda: So for him, he’s had a really tough time with the in-person piece of school. So when we went back to online learning, he wasn’t devasted and when they made the announcement, while every other parent cried he was happy that they had extended online learning.
Brenda: Because again he was back in his environment where we’re fortunate we have a caregiver who can give him one on one, he has his EAs that he works with, he still stays connected with his friends through projects, he plays video games at lunch, he has a hot lunch every day, Liam makes him pancakes with chocolate chips every morning, we’re not rushing. We’re getting up a little bit later, we’re not rushing. You know, he’s here, he’s warm, he’s all of those things. So for him, he’s been OK. He hasn’t –
Kristy: – He’s thriving.
Brenda: He’s thriving, he really is thriving. Academically things are catching on because he has time to process them, he’s enjoying it, he’s laughing. I walk in there, I hear him talk nonstop, he’s enjoying it.
Brenda: So, you know, and Chase has adapted as well. I mean, you know, it is what it is. I mean high school students have – it’s a little bit different but it is what it is, right. He’ll – anyway, it’s fine. He’s doing fine, it’s not the end of the world. But, yeah, and again I can speak about it more optimistically, Kristy, because I have someone to sit with my kid.
Let’s put that in perspective. I’m not you with three kids who are online schooling right now and you’re trying to do your job. I have Leah, she can take care of Maclain but in all fairness, he has to have a Leah because you can’t do it without her.
Brenda: So I do have that piece. So for me – and I work from home and I have the ability to work from home as does Graham. There’s no sacrifices for us right now having our kids virtually learning. So I appreciate that that’s not the same case for everybody, I really do.
Kristy: Yeah. I mean and so like it is not a sacrifice for us to have our kids home. I am busy throughout the day, all day every day I’ve got the meetings and like a job that I have to go to, but Simon is home and – when he’s not on shift. So we do have the extra parent here that I know a lot of families don’t.
Where I’m struggling and I know – like as you know, I’m a big school supporter and I know some of my teacher friends that have been teaching in the virtual setting since September, they’re fine because they went through the learning curve and they figured it all out and they’ve got it down pat, so they’re laughing right now.
But I think what I’ve noticed is some of the teachers – you know, some are embracing it and it’s been fantastic and unfortunately, you know, for my middle learner who is – he was our best online learner in the spring because Grayson is very routine and he needs – you tell him what to do and he will do it.
Kristy: And so, you know, in the spring all of his work was laid out, he would get up, he would do it, he would submit it so that he could go and have his free time.
Kristy: And so we’re not having the best experience because I think his teacher is struggling a little bit with figuring out how to teach this curriculum in a virtual setting and as a result, he’s disengaged.
Brenda: Yeah, which is a very good point.
Kristy: He doesn’t like school anymore; he hates the content. He’s just not happy and he is such a big personality in our house that when he is not happy – I mean you’ve heard it.
Brenda: He is my favourite, don’t tell the other two.
Kristy: I know, I know.
Brenda: But I tell you that all the time [laughs].
Kristy: I know he is. So, you know, for us to try and navigate that, it’s been a bit of a challenge. And then I do, I worry about – just I worry about Sadie and she missed half of grade two and then, you know, she’s a little – because she’s a later baby she’s a little bit further behind and so, you know, how far behind is she going to be going into grade four.
Because she was a December baby going – like she’s the later baby in the cohort anyway so I struggle – like I want her to stay – because academics are also very important in our family and I want her to be at the right reading level, to be at the right math level, like …
Brenda: But that’s where I think, Kristy, there’s going to be a job to do and I’ve been reading a lot of articles too about people that are saying don’t worry so much about the – you know, don’t worry about the schooling part right now, don’t worry about the academics right now which I know is easier said than done but our kids are not in grade 12. And I think that’s where there’s going to be a role for consideration when the kids go back in September is what does that look like ramping them back up, what does that –
Kristy: – Yeah.
Brenda: That’s going to be a lot on teachers to figure out where they are at and, you know, maybe it’s going to take a little bit of time to catch up on some things because those kids – you can’t assume that every kid got out of virtual learning what they would’ve in a classroom because you’re not there with them, you’re not – and again, a lot of kids don’t share, right. They don’t share their struggles, they don’t. So I think there’s going to be a place definitely when we go back to seeing where those kids are at to help catch them up.
Kristy: Yeah. I just feel – I hope that there is.
Brenda: Me too.
Kristy: I really, really hope that there’s some consideration there because, you know, it’s a snowball, it’s a compounding effect. So we’ll take Sadie for example. She missed March, April, May, June, so four months of grade two and then she started in grade three. And so they – did they shift those last four months of grade two and teach that in the first month of grade three, no.
Kristy: So now we’ve lost the four months, so now she’s trying to figure out because they’re starting on grade three curriculum and she’s doesn’t have – she never lost them, she just didn’t have some of the foundational, you know, things that they needed in order to get the grade three concepts.
Brenda: To build on, yeah.
Kristy: And so now we’re kind of – I don’t know how long we’re going to be online for. And her teacher is phenomenal, like she is amazing and she is so engaged and the kids are – like what I love about Sadie’s age is they’re all on camera because they want to show you everything.
Brenda: Yeah. I mean it’s a pet parade every day.
Kristy: Yes. Gosh, yeah [laughs]. Everyone in that class knows her Stuffies, they’ve seen my whole house, they’ve probably seen me in pyjamas, like they – whereas, you know, the older kids, I don’t think Grayson’s been on camera once since January –
Brenda: Yeah, yeah.
Kristy: – – and he’s only in grade five. So that makes me sad because there’s no – they’re not having that connection with their peers and that I think is what Keagan is missing, I know it’s that collaboration. Like Keagan does better in a group setting where you’re idea-sharing and you’re collaborating and –
Kristy: – and then he takes it all in and then he kind of spews it out in his essays or his whatever. So having that gone or with missing that piece, that collaborative piece is really impacting him.
Brenda: Yeah. And I’m trying to be – you know, I try to be both sides of things. I try to be not too critical of teachers because I know this is tough and I know, but then there’s another piece where like you see some doing it better than others which you would never see in a school environment and you wouldn’t – I mean we look at high school and they have this piece in high school that’s called Virtual Academic Support, VAS.
And, you know, it’s a period of time after lunch before the next course starts, so let’s – I don’t know the exact, let’s call it 90 minutes. You know what it is, it’s gaming time. It’s – you know, the idea is that kids are going to use the VAS to reach out to their teachers and ask for help; are they, no.
Brenda: So there’s a whole chunk of time there that really – but I’m trying to be cognizant that maybe that’s a period of time where teachers needed to catch up, to do – I don’t know. I don’t know why that’s been built in there but I look at it and I’m like it’s frustrating to me but I’m like OK, OK, maybe [unintelligible 00:39:20].
But I’m also like if that was a period of time that could be used for actual synchronous instructional time, would kids be – I don’t know because then Chase comes back and says, “Mom, you tell me what it feels like to have three hours of one course in the day”.
Kristy: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a lot.
Brenda: I can’t pay attention for more than 45 minutes in a Zoom meeting so I don’t know that I could do three hours of anything. So, you know, it’s –
Kristy: – Well remember back to university like three-hour lectures, you’re like ugh by the first – after the first hour.
Brenda: And we were in-person. We could talk to the person next to us, we could – you know.
Brenda: But then the same thing is he says when he goes to school, how much fun is it at school, you know. And I’m not – hey, you know I’m a pro-masker but you go to school and you’re wearing a mask, you can’t sit next to the person and talk to you so it’s a no-win right now. So my thing is like again, let’s just get this done because I want to go to PEI in July and I want to go to New York in November.
Kristy, you know how happy I am that I can now venture back into the U.S. with a free mind and a free spirit and like embrace it fully and not just – like and not just use my excuse of Target. Like I can go back to loving the U.S.A. again. I want to go but I can’t go if the borders stay closed because of the COVID. So let’s just get it done so I can go to the Cracker Barrel and I can go to Target and I can do all of those things.
Kristy: You’re hilarious.
Brenda: Right, like that’s –
Kristy: – I can’t wait. I am so excited to go back to Target.
Brenda: Like honestly, honestly. I just want to go across the border and go to like Mighty Taco. I don’t care at this point; I just want to – I want to do that.
Brenda: So, you know – yeah and I want that for our kids too though. Like I want this over so that our kids go back to a normal school experience, they go back to – whatever normal is, they go back to that. What I am getting a little bit tired of hearing is, “Oh, our poor kids are missing out on so much. They’re missing out on so much. They’re missing out on so much, they’re missing out”. You know what, they’re not. It’s this period of time in their lives that’s small and they have it either on one side or the other where they’re going to get that back. So are they missing out on a lot, no.
Brenda: They’re missing out on some stuff but they’re not missing out on a lot. Now I’m taking out those children who are having a hard time right now at home, that they’re not in supportive homes, there’s abusive things that are going on, there are kids that are really struggling being at home all the time where school is their refugee, right.
Where that is their safe place to go, where they can get hot meals, where they can get – take that out of it. For the other homes that function kind of like ours, you know, I have a little bit of like the tiniest violin that I’m playing in my hand because you know what, they’re going to be …
Kristy: They will be OK.
Brenda: And they’re not missing out on anything. Listen, I was 18 before I went to Disney World OK, and my mom made me take a picture in front of the Cinderella Castle and I had to take a picture with Goofy because they couldn’t afford to take me when I was little. So they recreated all of those wishes when I was 18, so – you know.
Kristy: My gosh. That’s – like you know that we had to cancel our Disney trip –
Kristy: – and my kids have never been.
Kristy: And now I’m kind of over it, right. So now I’m like well I – like we tried.
Kristy: And, you know, we probably aren’t going to do that. I will take them to Hawaii 100%. Like that is –
Brenda: Right, right [laughs].
Kristy: – we’re going to take three weeks; we’re going to rent a tiny little house and we’re going to go and live on an island for a little while.
Kristy: But so I will probably make Keagan, like the big, tall giant boy wear the Mickey ears and stand in front of the things and he’ll go on It’s a Small World with me and –
Brenda: – Yes, absolutely because that is just –
Kristy: Yeah, it’ll be like a [mommy and child? 00:43:08].
Brenda: Hundred percent. And again I look at the cancelled trips. Yeah, does it suck that we couldn’t go to Scotland, yeah. Does it suck that we couldn’t do – yeah. But guess what, it still will be there, we will go one day, we just have to adjust our expectations. As you had said earlier, we just have to manage those pieces. And you know what, my kids have been to Disney World so if we can’t go to Disney World right now, they have been there and they’ve done that. And so, you know, I just think –
Kristy: – Well and it’s funny because I will say like – so like you, I try and I probably will go overboard with certain aspects of my life, like trying to make – create these super special moments and I think back to we did a road trip from – when Sadie was about two, to Halifax.
Brenda: Is that the one you had to rush back for, for Maclain’s birthday?
Kristy: Yes. Yes, it is.
Brenda: Yes [laughs].
Kristy: Yeah. Yes because of priorities, so we made it back in time.
Brenda: Yes, yes.
Kristy: So we did – like we drove, we did all the stuff in Quebec City, we went to New Brunswick, we went to Halifax to visit my in-laws. We did a day trip to PEI as you do. Like we did a lot and we showed the kids a lot and like I was super impressed with my organizational skills. If you ask my kids what the best part of that two-week road trip was, I kid you not, it was the water slides inside the hotel that we stayed in in Quebec.
Brenda: There you go.
Kristy: Of all the provincial parks, the national wonders, the ice cream, the meals –
Brenda: – I thought it would be Carl’s ice cream. Yeah, I thought it would be Carl’s ice cream.
Kristy: Well, yeah, and like it is that was the high point of their trip. So that was like a good kind of gut check, level check for me like hey, you’re like booking princess tea times and spending 50 kajillion dollars to try and fabricate these experiences when your kids are just happy – to your point – sliding down a hill with me standing at the bottom. They couldn’t believe yesterday – now I haven’t been outside for a while because the elephant on my chest doesn’t like it.
Kristy: So Simon was working and I was kind of cabin feverish. So I took the kids tobogganing and Sadie is like, “Are you going to work in your car” because on Wednesday I drove them tobogganing and I had my laptop on my lap and I worked for an hour and a half. Now I couldn’t have been outside on Wednesday, stepping out the door threw me into a coughing fit. But I’m like, “No honey, it’s Sunday. I’m not going to work in my car, I’m going to come with you”, she’s like, “Sorry, fun mommy is coming”.
Brenda: Yeah, see.
Kristy: All I did was stand at the bottom of the hill and they tobogganed at me for two hours. I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands and I also think I did maybe some permanent lung damage, but when Simon got home this morning and asked them what was the best part of your day yesterday, they were both like, “Tobogganing with mommy”.
Kristy: I did not – like I didn’t even buy them a hot chocolate.
Kristy: So I guess to your point – and see now, I’ve kind of done a 180 talking through – this is like a therapy session this podcast.
Brenda: See, see. Look at me Ms. Optimist.
Kristy: I know, I know. How long is this Ms. Optimist going to stay for because –
Brenda: – Well it only recently appeared when I started new medication [laughs], so it hasn’t been around long. But as long as the meds stay the way they are, I anticipate it’ll be around for a little while.
Kristy: I love it.
Brenda: And maybe that’s why I don’t want the real world to open because I’m OK in this world right now [laughs]. So, yeah, maybe that’s why. Maybe I’m just living in a little bit of denial. But, yeah, I just – you know what, worrying does us no good right now and like you said, I mean that’s the things they remember. If you asked my kids about the Disney cruise, you know what they’ll tell you their favourite thing is, the soft-serve ice cream.
So you spend [laughs] $15,000 to go on a Disney cruise and their favourite thing is that they can go and get soft-serve ice cream at any time of the day. So, you know, that’s the – and then there’s things that I say to Chase, I’m like, “Remember we went here” and he goes, “No” [laughs] –
Kristy: Not a clue.
Brenda: – because he was eight and he has not a clue that that’s what he did then. I have the pictures but he doesn’t remember that.
Brenda: So, you know, I think we just have to do the best we can to get through this and I hope that we keep that mentality, Kristy, moving forward. I hope that we keep – while everybody is saying right now to each other, “Do what you can to get through this, do what you can to get through this, one day at a time, manage it the best way that you can”, I hope we – that’s what I hope we keep when we get out.
Kristy: Yeah, yeah.
Brenda: That we keep that, “I’m doing the best that I can”.
Kristy: And everybody being kind and considerate that you’re doing the best that you can, that I’m doing the best that I can.
Brenda: That you’re doing the best that you can, that every day is a pandemic.
Brenda: Every day can be a pandemic in your life, right. Every day can be a bit of something going on that you have to overcome and so let’s just be kind and have grace with each other and, you know, just – I don’t know, let’s manage expectations. Let’s – you know, let’s just do that because that’s what this has really taught me I think is, you know, to try not to judge –
Kristy: I love that.
Brenda: – to try not to – it might be different next week. We can talk about –
Kristy: – I know, I know, but –
Brenda: – next week in my podcast I might be angry, Brenda, again, who knows, right.
Kristy: Yeah. But I think that’s a good place for us to leave it this week is I love that. I think that what I’ve been reminding myself of and, you know, we see it in memes and like on the socials and stuff.
Kristy: Like, you know, just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean that it’s not heavy.
Kristy: And if we –
Brenda: – Take it from me.
Kristy: Yeah if we – yes. Yeah, you’re a very prime example of that. And so if we can collectively as a community come out of this experience with everyone feeling – like understanding that, having an understanding of that that, you know, everybody is carrying their own stuff and just because they’re carrying it well doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact them.
Kristy: So again, we just go back to be kind.
Kristy: Just be kind.
Brenda: We never have a shortage of things to talk about.
Kristy: We don’t. I always love our time together. Thank you.
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