By Frank Blechman
Last week I spoke with many parents here in Fairfax struggling with the decision to select part-time-in-school-in-person education versus full-time remote learning. Meanwhile, both parents and children were expressing a lot of unhappiness about the loss of expected experiences, ranging from summer vacations to seasonal sports to in-school activities. Since my children are long out of school and out on their own, and since I have very little specific planned for this period, I have watched, listened, and empathized, but have suffered very little real dislocation.
Even so, I am aware that the spreading coronavirus certainly has changed both the rhythm and substance of everyday lives.
To console my friends and neighbors, I have tried to point out the very good lessons today’s children are getting. They are:
- Living through a real challenge to assumptions about how life works.
- Experiencing something that strikes silently with no regard for political boundaries, race, class, or national origin.
- Seeing adults wrestle with difficult decisions about whether and how to do things that used to be routine.
- Observing that some adults are handling these changes better than others.
- Losing rights and privileges presumed to be automatic and natural.
- Discovering that small acts can add up to make a big difference.
I am suggesting that this has been a healthy dose of reality. . . . The disruption caused by this pandemic has given a generation experiences that will serve them well all their lives.
I’m not arguing that this is all fun, and that in the future they will laugh about the great time they had during the pandemic of 2020. I am, however, suggesting that this has been a healthy dose of reality.
So many suburban white kids grow up with the reasonable expectation that all good things will surely, effortlessly flow to them because that is the way it is. (At least, that is the way it has been.) As parents, we want to shield our children. We hope that they don’t have to learn vital life lessons ‘the hard way.’ We want their lives to be ‘easier.’
The disruption caused by this pandemic has given a generation experiences that will serve them well all their lives.
- Unexpected, improbable things happen. We may not see them coming, or predict their consequences, but we can live with less certainty about what tomorrow will be like, and prepare to deal with those disruptive developments.
- Wealth, privilege, knowledge, and even luck may not protect us from external events.
- Wishing problems away doesn’t work. Ideology has limits. Hard decisions have to be made. Actions, inactions, and reactions interact in surprising ways.
- Adaptability, not rigidity, from our leaders is what we require in the face of adversity.
- Understanding deeply that when we say, “We are all in this together,” WE have to contribute personally. It is good but not enough to applaud when others do the right thing.
You might say that I am whistling past the graveyard, making lemonade out of lemons, or more simply, deluding myself to feel better. You might be right. Our children may believe that this never happened; that it was a bizarre interruption; that ‘normal’ life will return. I give the rising generation more credit than that. I think they will emerge better prepared to weather the storms of life than they would have been without this experience.
We can hope so.