Rachel Farkas, Curator of Collections
The end of the school year is upon us. We made it through. Or did we? Usually this time of year we’re looking forward to summer fun: days for slowing down, get togethers with friends and family, camp adventures, time off, the general vacation daze ahead. But while businesses begin to reopen and life slowly returns to some semblance of “normal,” as a working parent, normal still feels a long way off.
Despite being home for over two months (what week are we in now?) and our efforts to find a sort of routine at home, each day has its struggles. Some days the struggles are small, like the kids squabbling over a toy they both want (namely “dad’s tablet,” which has earned higher status than “mom’s tablet”) Some days the struggles are bigger, like finding time to get outside or do an activity between my meetings. Some days are an all out “us v. them,” making me grateful my husband is on my team. Largely though, the days all run together, with virtual class, remote meetings, and as much time outside as we all can get.
While I’m not sure what may be ahead with daycare reopening and summer camp on hold, the end of the school year is a time to recognize and celebrate accomplishments. In spending this unprecedented amount of time with the kids, I’ve gotten to observe and participate in some of their achievements and make some of my own. Here are a few of our highlights:
- My daughter Paige, 7, learned to ride a bike. She set her mind to taking the training wheels off, and after a bit of practice, she now flies down the street between virtual class times, making me very grateful for our lightly trafficked cul-de-sac.
- When she’s not outside, Paige has been independently creating her own diorama with various materials, bringing her vision to life. I get to see her creativity in action, notice the inventive details, and see the care and effort she brings to her work.
- My son Carson, 3, learned how to use scissors. I wouldn’t have realized what a big accomplishment this was for him, or me, without sitting alongside him during virtual circle time each morning and watching his progress. He has replaced drawing prompts with collage to get more cutting practice. (We’re working on his gluing skills now.)
- When boredom strikes, I’ve also watched Carson grow in his independent play, creating structures and designs with magna-tiles, engaging in pretend play, and generally expanding his repertoire beyond trains.
- As for me, I’m learning to meet the kids where they are at, meaning that when they take their own interpretation with an activity or project, I (try to) stop directing and step back to watch. We may skip from step two to step five this way, but P and C make their own observations and discoveries along the way, and I am rewarded with their awe or delight in the process. Working at a children’s museum, I know that’s the whole point.
- I’m learning to be present while playing. Putting aside work distractions to be fully engaged with the kids is admittedly a struggle for me when I’ve been conditioned to multitask. It may remain a work in progress, but it looks like I’ll have the time to keep practicing.
- Last but not least, I found a winning homemade vegan cupcake recipe (https://minimalistbaker.com/one-bowl-vegan-funfetti-cupcakes/). For a birthday in quarantine, this was a true success, making the day for my now seven-year-old and earning raves from her brother, the one with allergies.
Through all of this, I’ve gotten to see their sibling relationship grow and had a birds-eye view of their unique learning styles. Paige is a natural big sister. She looks out for Carson — most of the time — and is an attentive and eager participant in class. She lights up getting to see her teacher and friends and has developed a mindful sense of when to mute and unmute. Carson, meanwhile, is the jokester, at home and in class. He feeds off of the attention of those around him, especially when earning a laugh from his sister, but has no hesitation pressing the “leave meeting” button when he’s not in the limelight, literally and metaphorically. They are a reflection of me and my husband, alternately making us beam or cringe knowing where they got some of their character. They are more capable than I have given them credit for, determined (for better or worse), and so eager to please.
While I’m looking forward to more adventures in our neighborhood, beginning to venture back out into the world with the kids, and extending summer bedtime to read “one more chapter” in our latest book, I also can’t help but feel like I’m missing out in some ways too. As the Museum staff begins re-entry, it is hard not to feel left behind in the activity. I am eager to get back to the familiarity and routine of my role at work, knowing the kids are safe, but I also want to continue to embrace the rewards of this time – more family dinners, getting outside during the middle of the day, and an expanding art gallery to keep the kids close when I am at the office.
If you haven’t already thought through your wins and achievements or observations while working from home with kids, I encourage you to make your own list. With the summer months stretching ahead, taking note of what we’ve achieved is bolstering my spirit. I have to pause and remind myself that it won’t last forever, so what can we take away from it going forward?
Catch up on our Working from Home with Kids series:
And check out our “WFH with Kids” highlight on Instagram!