Giving myself time to reflect

Dawn Arteaga
Posted September 3, 2021 from United States

I came across a note today as I hurried the kids out the door on their first week fully back in school since March 2020. It reads, "Mom can we watch a movie upstairs or do we have to finish our Zoom calls?" (Spelling corrected.) A different pen has circled and underlined the part of the note that reads "finish Zoom calls" with a smiley face scribbled.

I have no memory of this request, but I know a few things:

  • The handwriting is that of my youngest daughter (age 8).
  • It was written sometime in the last 18 months, during remote learning in the pandemic.
  • I was on my own Zoom call while this request was made and am responsible for the scribbled response.
  • There was strategy behind this request: The oldest always asks her younger sister to make requests she thinks will be denied.
  • They were obedient and went back to their Zoom calls.

This note makes me smile. It also makes me sad.

I smile because it shows their sweetness, obedience and resilience that I've seen in bigger ways than ever before this pandemic. While I stay glued to my screen from 9-6 daily, my kids have been curious, creative, adventurous and funny. They have learned how to pass me notes without their arms appearing in my Zoom background. They've learned which calls I'm on where they can appear and say hello to the people on my screen. They've even learned the names of the people I work with and can recognize them in other contexts without ever being formally introduced. I'm still marveling at the time we received a mailing from World Pulse with photos of community members sketched on the cover and my youngest exclaimed, "Mom is that Tam?" 

We have all learned so much in the last 18 months. They went from asking: "Mom my teacher says we need attachments. What are attachments?" to: "Ms. Anisa could you enable screen sharing so I can show you my story?" in a matter of weeks. I've learned so many new things about them, the kinds of students they are -- where they struggle, where they shine. I admire them as people so much more than I did before.

The note also makes me sad.

I feel guilty that for the last 18 months they've been around me constantly but I've rarely been able to look directly into their eyes. There was the time my youngest was crying in the bathroom, blowing her nose between sobs because her teacher hadn't invited her to unmute all afternoon, even though she'd had her hand raised. I was presenting to a group and couldn't go the few steps to the bathroom to give her a hug.

There was the time that they were playing in the kitchen and my oldest cracked her head open on the countertop. Her sister helped her to the couch and got her a paper towel before she timidly interrupted me from another call to take her to the emergency room.

These are some of the moments that fill me with guilt and sadness at all the ways I've failed them the last 18 months.

But today, for the first time in 18 months, I'm sitting with my laptop outside at a coffee shop. We're still deep in the pandemic, but the schools have found a way to reopen. We have a long way to go, with lots of worries and uncertainty. And yet, I'm able to take a breath long enough to reflect on this note that I don't remember. Let myself feel the sadness I've been burying for 18 months. Let myself feel the deep appreciation I have for my sweet, sweet children. Who at some point in the last 18 months had hope that I'd let them skip the rest of their school day to lie in bed and watch a movie.

This story was submitted in response to Dispatches from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Comments 9

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Jill Langhus
Sep 03
Sep 03

Well, hello, stranger:-) Welcome back!

Aw, big hugs to you dear, Dawn. You're carrying so much weight on your massively capable, and overworked (seemingly) shoulders. I feel for you so much. I don't see any of your "fails" as failures. I know with 100% certainty you always do your best. You're always honest, committed, dedicated and have a very high level of integrity in all that you do, including being a mom.

I see what you're saying however, about it being sad. This was the new reality for so many. I'm sure you weren't the only one having to make such difficult decisions. I hope it improves soon. And, thanks for sharing as I'm sure others can relate to what you're saying, and conveying, too. XX

Dawn Arteaga
Sep 03
Sep 03

Thanks Jill :) I appreciate you too!

Jill Langhus
Sep 03
Sep 03

You're welcome:-) Thank you!! XX

Jensine Larsen
Sep 03
Sep 03

Aw, tears... Thank you for sharing this fleeting moment, filled with so much poignant mixed emotion in these uncharted waters. I am sure countless others share similar feelings ~ you are extraordinary in all that you do, Dawn, even if there are those moments when it doesn't feel like it. Wrapping love to you and to your sweet children.

Dawn Arteaga
Sep 03
Sep 03

Thank you Jensine ... this comment brought tears back to my eyes. Appreciate you and all the ways you see me.

Hello sister thanks for telling us your situation but one thing I know is that those children are brave and wonderful dispite your busy schedule they were able to do some discoveries themselves.
I love their efforts especially the young one. When children does things like that and at the end of the day you see them coming out with other discoveries because by so doing they expand their knowledge.
I am happy for them and I believe every things will soon be okay.

Regina Afanwi Young
Sep 03
Sep 03

Hello lovely Dawn,
Wow!!! What a lovely write up. Just as Jill said you are always decided and extremely committed in all that you do. That has been such a great source of inspiration.
Am sure your children are proud of their lovely mum and do understand your nature of work.
I hope you are keeping well and safe.
Sending you hugs and love from Cameroon***
Regina

maeann
Sep 05
Sep 05

Hi Dawn :) had the same experienced with hubby as well, like my world is on laptop and zoom :( and I could barely talk to him like we are on a sign language when I have calls or sometimes he need to leave the room while im on the zoom just not to disturb. but i need to schedule things. how this 18 months created a ripple effect on each of us. hay what a life this covid brought to us, but im blessed we are still alive :)

Beth Lacey
Sep 09
Sep 09

Dawn, this is so lovely. Your children are delightful. Don't beat yourself up over the last 18 months. Your task as a mom was impossible, but it seems you all made it through just fine. Go lie in bed and watch a movie :-)