Wow. That one small word just sums everything up. I figured I had it pretty easy when I found out that 3 out of 4 of our boys were going to be home. Hey, why not? I went from homeschooling our oldest, ( I think that was 13 years ago… I have lost track of the time!) to homeschooling 2, then 3, then 4, and now down to 1 again., to bringing home 2– who have online classes anyways – not a problem! I don’t have to worry too much about them. Of course, I can do it! Probably can do it better than most other parents, since that is just what I have been doing all these years.
A week later, I am a little bit older and hopefully a little bit wiser. Still trying to figure out where I went wrong in my thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure I am having a much easier time than most, so why have I felt so much more overwhelmed this past week than expected? I think there are a few things that I did not consider.
Firstly, I am in Pesach mode. True, I had already cleaned several of the rooms, and today I gave one room to my husband, and the older two boys have their room, leaving just my youngest’s room and the dining room and kitchen, with the latter two being done next week. But still, trying to clean for Pesach while having more people than usual who make good use of the house is a bit stressful. Do I wash all the dishes or sweep or mop? I can get 2 out of 3 of them done but not all three, unless I want to stay up later. But that is usually out of the question for I am too tired.
Secondly, my husband is working from home. Yes, I am thankful he is still working, and yes, he would occasionally spend a day working at home, but this is a bit different. The whole setup is different. Instead of him asking me to come to help with something or just to talk every few weeks, – which I never minded at all – it is now something that is done on a daily basis. I really don’t mind, don’t get me wrong.
Thirdly, it’s this whole being stuck at home business that is slowly (or not so slowly) starting to get to me. Every day I wake up and have to consciously ask myself what day it is for all my check points during the week of the various things we do, or normally go to, are now gone. Yesterday is the exact same thing as today and will be the exact same as tomorrow. The only difference is that once a week we have Shabbos. Baruch Hashem for Shabbos.
I have also been doing extra thinking about other ways I can help my family (other than laundry and cooking and sending them to bed!) For Hashem has basically stopped the world as we know it, giving us the chance to do introspection, to find all those things that we wanted to do and to change, and He has now given us the time to do it. Our lives have gotten so busy. There are things that we would love to do and things we have wanted to change, but there was no time to do it. Now, there is.
What is my bucket list? What things really matter to me that we are not doing already? Family time. Even though we are still missing our oldest (he is working and had planned on coming home for the first half of Pesach, but now cannot 🙁 ,) there are still the rest of us. We cannot all have lunch together because of the time zone difference between one boy’s school and were we are, but we try to all sit down for supper. Just us. No phones, no computers. The real nice surprise came when I only had to tell one boy, once, to please wait until supper was finished. I did not tell anyone beforehand not to bring electronics to the table. People just did it.
I had started, several years ago, little notebooks for everyone to write down things they are grateful for. The last time we did that was almost 3 years ago. I took them out again last week. Unfortunately, we only did them once for I don’t keep them on the table as a reminder. Hopefully, we will get a few more things written in them over the next few weeks.
The other thing that I have been trying to work on is more Torah learning and exercising for everyone. I try to read one or two short Dvar Torahs (Torah thoughts) at supper, and I sent everyone in the house, including my husband, on a bike ride yesterday. (One boy did not have a bike, so he used mine instead of me.)
I think each new thing that I have had to adjust to, on its own, would have been just fine. But, put all the things together, and now there is something new that I did not have before. So, that would explain why I need to go into hiding every day. Very grateful for an understanding husband. 😀
I had been looking at the news several times, okay, many times, a day. Not much new would happen over the course of an hour, though I found myself being compelled to keep looking. I have since stopped. Over the last few days, I have found I would only look at it once, or maybe twice, a day. Last week I was busy doing laundry (one boy had just a couple hours to pack all his clothes from the year at school before coming home – and yes, they were all needing cleaning!) to dishes to food to dishes to food to sweeping to OH! I do actually homeschool one boy for real and I do need to teach him (which that in itself is not going as normal,) to food to AHHHH!!!! to food to food, yes, and to more food. I forgot how much teenage boys eat! I love my boys! Glad they eat, however, with all this staying at home thing and limiting going out, and not being able to find food delivery options very well, the food thing really gets tight sometimes. But it is all good.
Things are not normal. Not even for the beautiful boy that I normally homeschool. I forced myself to understand that it is okay that we are starting late. I am up and working, I just do not start school with him like I should. It’s okay to not do everything. I have chosen to focus on a select few things plus some Pesach learning instead. As homeschool parents know, life skills is also learning, and right now we are doing a lot of life skills. So, we are learning, just different stuff. That is a challenge for me, but I’m working on it. I don’t like schedules, but I find I really some sort of schedule for our schooling (albeit I can be fairly loose with just one boy to teach) and I find it hard when we cannot do it.
This week, there is a feeling of some sort of routine which gives me some time to think. Imagine, a small thing that one can only see with an electron microscope paralyzing the world. How can that be? Obviously, it is Hashem’s doing. There is no other logical explanation. But, why the whole world? It’s not a city or two, or even a country or two, but the entire world. SOMETHING is happening. I am excited to see what is going to be! The entire world has basically come to a complete stop. Everyone is told to stay in their homes. Oh, when have we heard that one before? How about when we were in Mitzrayim (Egypt)? The difference is that this time it is the entire world that is told to stay indoors.
A friend told over a short Dvar Torah to me the other day. She said to make sure that every room in your house is holy so that when Moshiach comes, your entire house will be able to be transported to Israel. What better time to do that than now? Normally, I try to have in mind that I am cleaning all the chometz (leavened bread) out of me as I clean my house. I try to fix me, but honestly, I never can seem to do that for as I am cleaning my house and looking for physical chometz, I cannot focus on my spiritual chometz! I cannot think of what I need to correct while I am paying attention to the physical cleaning. This year, I found a better thing to do. I am going through the house and I am cleaning to make each room special, kodesh (holy). That I can do. I am happy that some of the rooms are done already, and it has given me the opportunity to do some organizing in some a few places that need it (like the garage!) I try to keep the areas I am working on reasonable and not overwhelming. Tonight, I am feeling accomplished. I feel good about myself. I feel like perhaps this year I will feel like I have changed somehow, even if I am not sure how. And when my children sing “Ma Nishtanah Halilah Hazeh…” perhaps the night will be different not only because we are all home by ourselves and not allowed to even daven together, but perhaps it will be different for I will feel that somehow *I* am different.
Grab opportunities. Let yourself change. When you do, you find that you are calmer and happier. And please, stay healthy and safe. Remember, Hashem has a plan for everything, and it is all good! Wishing everyone a very meaningful Pesach.