Can we all just agree that 2020 has turned out to be nothing like any of us would have expected? Whether we’re talking social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer, homeschooling, or a run on toilet paper, all of us have been forced to adapt to new realities. Some of them have happened rather seamlessly, while others have been ROUGH. Let’s talk for a minute about homeschooling. This is truly something I never imagined myself doing, for a number of reasons, but as COVID-19 started spreading throughout the United States, it became a part of my daily life. I have always found great value in education, both formal and informal, so I had no questions about the need for it… but I am not, by trade, a teacher. I do possess a passion for learning, but sadly, that same passion did not exactly pass down the generational ladder to my children.
In all seriousness, March, April and May were filled with many fits and starts and trying to figure out what would work for our kids. Despite their best efforts, most of my children’s teachers were not super helpful because they were thrown into the whirlwind the same as we were. Five months later, as we prepare to start back into school, albeit with a combination of remote and in-school learning opportunities, I have decided that I need to up my game: no more coasting through the school year and assuming the kids will be alright in the end.
I think as parents and individuals, we learn to function at acceptable levels and then, out of desire or necessity, we let our personal growth stop because we feel as though “we have done enough.” Sometimes this is out of a sense of self-preservation, but sometimes it is just laziness. I have been guilty of doing it for both reasons. Well, over the summer, I have spent a lot of time researching school options for my kids and have arranged for tutors to help them at home so that I don’t have to do it all myself. This way they are accountable to someone besides me and their dad. We have tried our best as a family to create and maintain healthy habits that will hopefully help mitigate the spread of disease in the boys’ classrooms and we are trying to address some of their mental health issues that have presented themselves during the course of this pandemic. In particular, my youngest struggles with the isolation and anxiety that being alone so much has caused him. After much discussion, we decided to take the plunge and get a new puppy; a companion for him to spend time with and to help channel his feelings through and to work with and take charge of. So many people have asked me, “don’t you know that having a puppy is just like having a newborn?” Yes, yes I do… but I think in the long run, it will be worth it. I’ve trained dogs before, and I’ve trained kids before… and let’s face it, they’re not all that different.
But, back to the title of the post: teaching old dogs new tricks. I am, in fact, now an old dog. I have become rather set in my ways and somewhat lax in my parenting style, permitting video games and pizza nights with my boys much more frequently than I would have when my girls were still at home. But COVID has caused a bit of a paradigm shift in my thinking and has in many ways proven to be a testament to my ability to do hard things. In the spring, I was convinced that we’d never make it through the end of the school year; and although I’m not optimistic that my kids starting school is going to be hazard-free, I do feel a little more prepared to face the challenges that come our way.
September’s tenet says “we seek after knowledge and wisdom.” This can be accomplished in many ways. In fact, I believe we never stop learning. But, with all of the online school options we have been involved with, this “old dog” has decided it’s time to learn a few new tricks. In June, I decided to apply to an online master’s program at Arizona State University. I’ll admit, it was totally on a whim, but the degree focuses on the study of World War II. I have always been a HUGE history nerd, so it felt like a perfect fit. I hastily prepared my application and submitted it, and then I waited… and waited… and waited… to hear if I had been accepted. About two weeks ago, I was notified that I had been accepted, and I am over the moon. The September tenet also says that “we value and cherish the wisdom passed on through our elders.” I am so excited to delve into the study of “our Greatest Generation.” In large part, as I have started my studies, I have felt the peaceful reassurance that there will always be hard times, whether they come for war, disease, famine, or financial disaster. While we learn about such times, it is hard to find hope and easy to feel despair. However, when we learn about these times in the past parts of our human history, they serve as poignant reminders that our generation is not the first to endure hardship, and certainly will not be the last. I find myself often thinking about what lessons I can apply from my studies and what lessons I can glean from my current experiences to carry with me to call upon during future hard times.
To say that I am nervous to dive back into a school setting nearly 20 years after receiving my bachelor’s degree would be an understatement. College today, with all of its online platforms, discussions and expectations is very different from my experience the first time around. However, I find myself looking at the world we live in and think that it should have evolved differently in so many ways. I love the quote by Maya Angelou that says, “When we know better, we do better.” I am looking at this new opportunity to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the many flaws we have as individual humans and as a society in general. Studying war gives us insight to where we might make peace. To understand another’s struggle, we must often see the problem from their perspective. It has always been amazing to me how quickly the citizens of the world forget the atrocities of war, division, and poverty. We observe that during one decade we can march for equal rights and social justice and in the next, we can become obsessed with only ourselves. I guess when it comes right down to it, this trick I’m trying to teach this “old dog” isn’t exactly new, but it is one that deserves to be looked at in a different light. It is the “trick” or task of building a bridge of knowledge between generations.
I love this quote by actress Ruth Negga: “I think if we don’t understand history, if we don’t keep referring back to it, we become complacent. And complacency, as we all know, it leads to repeating history.”
It is up to us, the women, the mothers, the daughters and sisters to teach future generations about their past so they are not condemned to repeat it. It is our duty to model examples of listening and engaging in respectful dialogue and in supporting the growth of our greater human community through education. We draw nourishment from our roots to strengthen and grow our branches.