In March, after schools were closed for a couple of weeks, we found some humor in the hilarious prayer of a desperate mom confronting the terrifying task of suddenly being the full time home school teacher for her children.
We laughed and then said, “Well, OK, here we go. Not sure how I’ll do this, but we’ll give it a shot.”
Now, you should know that I have home schooled some of my children before. I was terrified when I first made that decision. I felt confident that I could help the parents and students through this adjustment.
Then the announcement came that classes would be postponed an additional week. Teachers took crash courses in Zoom and other distance learning technologies. Even for some teachers, it was terrifying.
I felt fortunate that I have been teaching distance voice lessons for some time, and I was confident we would all be fine after a couple of test drives.
Then the new world of distance classes began. Big breath here. For most it was a bumpy ride, but now in Week 2 of online classes, it’s smoothing out and we are going to be fine.
We were looking forward to seeing each other in May on the last day of Conservatory classes. Then the announcement came of no more classes until after May 29. For the California School of the Arts, that meant, no more school for the 2019-2020 school year.
Now there’s a different feeling in the air.
For some, the boredom was temporarily replaced with walks in the park, puzzles and games at home, relaxing a bit, fixing up around the house, and getting to know each other again. All good things.
But along with the extended “holiday-not” came frustration, more anxiety over the health crisis, and increased irritability between parents and children. The novelty of wearing gloves and a mask is now a mandatory protection, and it’s just not as “fun” as it was when this all started.
Reality is setting in. Jobs are disappearing. The future is uncertain. How bad will the economy be at -30% loss? Will this virus find its way to my house? Will the world as we know it ever be the same again?
I’m an optimist. I’ve lived long enough to know that things typically turn out all right, and it was all a learning experience. I’ve lived the rainbows after the rain. I’ve tasted the lemonade after the lemons. I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just hard to remember these things are just around the corner when you are in the middle of the storm.
A FAMILY SURVIVAL KIT FOR PANDEMICS
In my Family Survival Kit for Sheltering in Place (for who knows how long) are the following tools:
1. A positive, hopeful attitude. Perhaps the most difficult of all is to “Put On A Happy Face” when you’re just not feeling it. But it could be what saves you and your family from sinking into a dark place.
I teach my students that the first question to ask after an audition is not “What went wrong?” or “Why didn’t I do this or that?” Rather, it is “What went right?” or “What worked?” It’s no different with life.
2. A source of faith and inspiration. If you have a religious belief, get connected to it in a bigger way than you have before. If not, read inspirational books, watch inspirational films. Focus on what uplifts you.
3. Music. Music can transform the world around you. Playing inspiring, upbeat music in your home can turn a chaotic environment into a peaceful one.
I’m not talking about loud music that interrupts conversation or study. I’m talking about background instrumental music. Classics. If you play a variety of music in your home, your children will grow up with an appreciation of it.
Also, add songs to listen to together, with uplifting and positive lyrics, such as this one from Andy Grammer. Talk about these messages. What do they mean to you at this time?
Who would have thought that this song would be speaking to the very emotions we all feel right now?
THE STORY OF “IT’S JUST LIFE”
It’s no coincidence that I was compelled to secure the rights to a song written by Ross Boothe, a former member of the Brigham Young University Young Ambassadors, for whom I named my musical theatre program – The Youth Ambassadors.
It’s called “It’s Just Life.” It was extremely difficult to reach Ross. I persisted for several months. Finally in early January, we connected.
I had no idea that we would be in the middle of a pandemic that would change our world and put all things in turmoil.
I began teaching this song to both my musical theatre students at California School of the Arts and the students in my Youth Ambassadors program. The goal was to perform it for community audiences and at the end of the semester.
I’ve been teaching them the value of making the best of every moment, good or bad, to know these experiences are for our learning, and that it all turns out okay.
Listen to this song. Ask yourself, “If I memorized these words and this catchy tune, would it put positive thoughts in my mind that could carry me through tough times throughout my life?
Music has done this for me. I’ve had more than one song that has worked, and this is one. Here’s “It’s Just Life”:
4. Unity. Create opportunities to bring the family together, even when you aren’t feeling up to it.
Here are some ideas, again, involving music – and also dance. I come from a family of musicians, singers, dancers…and doctors. (What a combination.)
My nieces and nephews have created some videos that are examples of what their families are doing to unite, have some fun and inspire others.
Several of them are in the entertainment business, and are also doing what you are doing – continuing to sing and dance online, even though their classes have been postponed. They have posted these videos on a site called TikTok. Are you ready to take the TikTok Challenge?
Here we go!
5. A grateful heart. Instead of grumbling about what life used to be or what you want it to be, look at what you have. It could be worse. You may be laid off, but it won’t be forever. It’s likely you may find something even better. Children are watching. They will follow your lead.
Set aside a time each day at the dinner table to share what you are grateful for. Make a daily list. You will be amazed at what you might find!
6. Talk. Not just any talk. Talk about the important stuff. What do you do when you are in crisis? How will they cope unless we teach them by our example? How will they know how to keep on going even when all seems hopeless, if they don’t know this is important to you?
My five children are all grown and all but one married and with families of their own. They live from Seattle to Rio de Janeiro. A few weeks ago we learned that one of my sons who is a senior software developer for Amazon in Seattle was very ill. We went for several days concerned that he might have contracted COVID-19. We were relieved to learn that he did not and he recovered.
Another son is a medical doctor. He kept us on our toes with the latest information on tests, vaccines and prescriptions for this virus.
Some wonderful results can happen in times of crisis and trial. I have been getting reacquainted with all these adult children that have been off and running with their own families and careers, and it has been the most amazing experience. We are so close and united, even though we are far away geographically.
We are talking again, about fun and humorous things. They’ve created a thread called “Letters From Mom” (a/k/a “Too-Long.” After reading this column, you probably know why LOL) But we are talking about life. Most of all, we are a support to each other. I’m finding that after all these years, they remember some of the good times, and we are loving it. I’m also pleased to know that they remember a few of the things I tried to teach them.
This is a huge teaching moment. Your children will take on your positive, hopeful attitude. They will respond to your faith and inspiration. The right music will fill your home with peace and happiness. Organizing a family project will bring unity. Your grateful heart will be contagious, and you will connect on a deeper level of conversation as you talk with each other about the most important things in life.
YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TEACHER IN YOUR CHILDREN’S LIFE. This could be your best teaching moment ever. Let’s get started!