The Adventures Of Fatherhood – August 7, 2020

Last week’s column about my desire to see my boys back in school brought a variety of feedback.

If you are like me your mind is scattered these days, jumping often among subjects and concerns, but there is one thing I am certain of currently. There is a tremendous division currently about three things in our world – masks, school reopening and Trump.

The last subject doesn’t belong on this page and you likely get plenty of discourse on him elsewhere. I have no reservations following the rules on facial coverings, and I think it’s the responsible for thing for all of us even if uncomfortable. If my special needs 10-year-old son with sensory issues can wear a mask during summer school, I think we all should be resilient enough to as well.

On the topic of schools, I wrote last week I saw the consequences of social isolation last spring on my kids. For my 12-year-old son, he struggled when school was cancelled as well as soccer and lacrosse. I saw the toll on him because he’s social being.

My special needs 10-year-old suffered great regression on the social front. My wife was a master home schooler with him, and he thrived in the limited academics offered. She was probably too good because we both saw a major reliance on her to help with his school work. It’s unnatural and unhealthy for all involved in my mind for parents to take on the teacher role as well. Along with the school aspect, his routine has been disrupted, and it will take months to get his autistic mind back on track in a real school setting. The longer he is out of school the more challenges there will be.

We believe our kids need to be back in a school under the outlined safety precautions. I understand not everyone agrees. For example, one email this week accused me of being selfish and not understanding the big picture of the pandemic. I will take exception to the being unaware claim because I am fully educated on this pandemic. It’s this knowledge that tells me there’s conflicting and contrasting information available at every turn, depending on which medical expert or scientist is opining. It’s a new virus and that means we don’t know everything about it. Opinions vary greatly on just about everything about it.

Another email was more courteous and directed me to an online piece from Red Rocks Consulting founder Sara Waters, a speaker and psychotherapist, who penned an excellent commentary about wellness for kids in this trying time. I’d like to share it as it brought some clarity into my world.

Life is not fair.  It will not always go their way, no matter how strongly they believe it should.  We are doing these kids a major disservice if we show them what it looks like to cement ourselves into a static place when it comes to our own beliefs and behaviors.  Instead of teaching them to resist and fight every last unfortunate turn of events, perhaps we start to curate a generation of young humans who learns to stand up for what they believe in while also feeling confident in their ability to roll with the punches. Perhaps we teach them the value of true non-agenda’d curiosity over certainty.  Maybe we start to educate them on hope in combination with non-attachment and titrate out this addiction to certainty that their opinions are the only ones that are right. 2020 is a brilliant universal reminder that there are multiple (and often very polarized) versions of what is “right” and that it varies from person to person. For you, sending your children back to school might be the thing you want most in the world right now. For the family next door, remote learning or a hybrid version of school may tend to their family’s needs in exactly the perfect way. The school board was going to piss a whole lotta folks off, no matter what they decided.

If there is one thing I know for sure (in a world where almost nothing is certain), it is that we can be all right. … We, ourselves, can be more like bamboo… deeply rooted and sturdy, while bendy and able to move and flow in the wind and water when the storms come. Bamboo isn’t mad at the storm. It doesn’t judge the wind for the direction that it decides to blow. … It relies on its deep roots and flexibility until a day when the storm calms and it can once again, with all the scratches and scars from the volatile weather, reach up for the sunshine and continue living. 

Be gentle with yourselves. It doesn’t feel good (and it’s really not good for your health and wellness) to be in a static state of tension or worry or anger or resentment. Be gentle with each other. Say lots of “I respect you’s and “I care for you’s, and mean it, especially to those who you disagree with. Have a divine amount of grace for people who hurt or frustrate you and remember if you can’t respond from a place of love, calm, grace and patience, the issue is not the person or group of people who upset you, the issue is that you have not yet learned to mindfully manage your reactivity. That’s your problem to tend to, not theirs. Once we learn that, we will be able to show and teach our children to be resilient, calm, strong, thoughtful, kind and compassionate. THAT is what will benefit your kid’s psychological wellness the very most.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.