The pandemic has us feeling trapped.

We’re trapped in isolation. It’s been almost a year now since we’ve been able to hang out in person with our friends. It’s been almost a year since I’ve stepped into the office and looked across a conference table at a colleague. It’s been almost a year since my wife and I have sat down in a restaurant or gone on a proper date.

We’re trapped in the city. We’ve stayed downtown because we spent so much time in the nearby hospital and because I work a few blocks away, so it saved us time and money. But our small condo feels smaller since our son and family have grown with the addition of a (not-small) seizure dog. We’ve been thinking about finding a place with a little more space. However, the exodus of people leaving the city has home inflated prices in the suburbs. Few people want to move into the city during the pandemic and no one knows how much cities will bounce back if more people are working remotely at the end of this. As a result, we can’t go anywhere.

We’re trapped in our schools and our jobs and our patterns. We’re trapped by our trauma. We’re trapped by our pasts. We’re trapped by our circumstances. We’re trapped in our lives.

The sense of being trapped is suffocating. The air is slowly escaping our lives and leaving us struggling for breath.

We occasionally find a way to break free. We escaped to Maine last year in a desperate attempt to catch our breaths. But, ultimately, we were pulled back into the real world and felt the trap closing tighter.

As much as I would like to believe that this sensation was caused by the pandemic, the reality is that we were trapped before the world started getting sick. We were already isolating ourselves. We had already let the difficulties we were facing take away our freedom, our connections, and our air. This was our pattern before it became everyone else’s pattern, too.

The question, then, is when the world opens back up, what will we do? Have we learned anything during this time of forced confinement that will cause us to do anything differently? Will we have more energy to do anything differently? Or will we continue on, doing what we did before and during the pandemic? Will we choose to stay trapped?

There is a quote that says, “Water, when trapped, makes a new path.”

I suppose I should try to be more like water.

But it takes so much physical and emotional energy to do something different. It takes energy to change mindsets. It takes energy to pretend, and to move forward. Trapped water builds pressure and it uses that energy to push through obstacles. Pushing through our obstacles and making a new path takes energy that, most days, we don’t have.

I guess I just imagined that it would be different. I imagined it would be easier. But it’s not.

Maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s part of the journey. Maybe it’s enough that we’re making it through right now. Maybe it’s enough that we’re still here, still living, still trying, and still together. I’m so grateful for that.

Going Virtual

The fourth grade started so well.

It was the first year where my son had multiple teachers for different subjects, and each of them took a genuine interest in him. They asked how they could best support his learning. They brought us in to talk to the entire grade about epilepsy. We strengthened our relationship with his aide. The new special education teacher showed initiative and commitment by working with the other teachers and us to make sure my son’s IEP was current.

My son seemed to be doing better than last year, too. Even though he had a modified schedule and didn’t need to, he would get up early and be ready for drop-off at the regular time with his friends. He was going to school every day of the week, and we had fewer absences than we’ve had in previous years, too.

Of course, school was still difficult for him. The noise of the classroom and the building triggered his anxiety. The attention issues were still there. He was still drifting further behind academically and socially from the other children. He still worked with his nanny on homework and subjects he missed after he got home and rested. But we found a bit of a groove in fourth grade, more than we had before.

And then the pandemic hit.

For as well as the fourth grade was going in the classroom, it didn’t translate when they closed the schools and moved classes online. My son’s school was not equipped to do online schooling successfully, and they spent the rest of the school year just trying to get through it. There was a lot of homework, a few virtual class sessions, and a lot of busywork. But with the help of our nanny who also went virtual, we figured it out and made it work.

As frustrated as my wife and I was (as were many other parents) with the quality of the “forced virtualization,” my son enjoyed the move to virtual classes. Of course, he missed seeing his friends, and the online sessions didn’t always offer a chance for the kids to interact. But he could take the lessons from the “office” we created in his room. He didn’t have the noise and anxiety that came from going into the physical school surrounded by other students.

While we knew online schools were an option, we didn’t consider them because of my son’s age, and because one of the reasons we sent him to school was for the social aspect. But because of how well he responded to the move to virtual classes during the pandemic, my wife started looking into them as an option for fifth grade.

Initially, I was worried about how they would deliver instruction to an 11-year-old. From what I saw of the virtual classes in his current school, I couldn’t imagine learning anything. But the first thing we picked up on talking to the online school was that it is very different when a school is set up to operate virtually versus a traditional school that is thrown into teaching online.

The online school is also required to accommodate an IEP and might have more flexibility in accommodating my son’s schedule and his need to chunk activities during the day. They have programs in place to help students meet and connect in the real world, too. We’ll have to get creative to continue to develop his social skills, but the in-person meetings will help.

The more we looked into it, the more that it seemed like a good thing to try for fifth grade. Forcing my son to go back to an environment that makes it more difficult for him to learn when there is another option is irresponsible. Besides, we can always go back to the traditional classroom if it doesn’t work out. But, especially with the state of the world and the uncertainty about the fall, all the signs point to trying something different.

If you have any experience with online schooling, I would love to hear about your experiences, good and bad. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly.