Thresholds: Stepping Into a New Familiar Place
Editor Albany UU | May 08, 2020

This month’s theme of Thresholds seems so timely to me, as my family shelters at home and carefully considers each trip in and out of our house. Some people my family knows leave home daily due to essential work, some do not step out at all, most fall somewhere in between. For many of us our homes were turned, overnight, into the only available place to work and learn, with none of the physical or social circumstances usually associated with those activities. It’s been a big transition.

One thing regularly popping up in social media feeds in the early days was the subject of homeschooling, which in this context means the sudden need for many parents and caregivers to take on new responsibilities related to their child(ren)’s education. Responsibilities that had previously been handled by professional educators, in a setting explicitly designated for that purpose, now needed to be met from home, with whatever resources were available, possibly while also doing one’s own job at the same time. Parents and caregivers were scrambling, experienced homeschoolers (who had chosen homeschooling prior to, and independent of, pandemic) were offering advice, and there were tons of opinions on how to do it, when to do it, how much to do it, how to give up on doing it…there was a lot to process.

And yet, very few of these well-intentioned communications addressed all the learning taking place just by living daily life during Covid-19. As a teacher and a mom, I saw my students and my daughters learning so much. They were learning they could handle big change. They were learning which of their communities did not let them go, just because the building was closed. They learned how their family and those close to them navigated stressful circumstances and pressure and fear. They learned fun things too, like baking a cake, finding things on a scavenger hunt, making a great rainbow or leveling up on a video game.

There were (are) more lessons. On negotiating space and time. On what classmates’ houses, pets and family members look like, and the ups and downs of teleconference. Kids old enough to notice are learning about public health, the value of science, and why politics and governmental policies matter. About economics, ethics, and psychology with regard to hoarding. About the protective application of privilege, about resourcefulness, about the many forms of vulnerability. One night my daughter asked “Mom, what about the kids who don’t have homes?” What, indeed.

So maybe, for now, it can be enough to notice how much learning is going on, and be encouraged by it, and reminded that as adults we are modeling it. Like many parents I am learning new ways to do my job and manage home and family life, and what my household needs to hold onto and what has to be let go. Maybe, like me, you’ve made a mistake or two, and learned from that, too. Maybe it helps to realize that all of that accumulated knowledge comes with us as we cross the threshold into a new reality, which, much like our homes these days, can look and feel both very familiar and starkly different all at the same time. May we all be fortunate enough to encounter strength, comfort, and forbearance as we find our way in this new yet familiar place.