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I have been sidelined for the last two weeks. I hurt my knee and IT band, and I was instructed to rest and heal. For those of you who have met me, you'll know immediately that this was no easy task. I have been relegated to sitting on the couch, and I am usually running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I've felt a wide range of emotions--initially, I was just optimistic and thankful. I have great health insurance, sick days, and an amazing co-teacher, Laura Klein, who would hold down the fort. After a day or two, I felt productive because I've planned out what we'll be doing in the days after February vacation. Then, for the last week, I've felt angry.

I didn't really understand why I was so intensely irritable. This is not ideal, but I'll be ok. However, the anger was just simmering. Then, last night, it hit me. I'm not mad about this experience--I'm mad about the Pandemic. Truth is, being sidelined sucks, and I've watched my family lose so much in these last ten months, and we aren't processing well.

It is in my nature to be optimistic, and I find the silver lining everywhere. However, I've run out of Polyanna truisms. I've run out of distractions. Earlier, I wrote about how my family has divided the Pandemic into chunks of time in "What Stage is This?" I'm hoping that soon, I'll be able to call this stage the "Vaccination Stage" (my appointment is on January 19th!). Right now, I'm feeling it is the Harsh Reality stage.

The Harsh Reality is that we've all been sidelined. When all of this went down, my son had a lead in the school play as a 6th grader, and by the time it is done he's likely going to be going into 8th grade. He had a solo at All-County for chorus. He was finding his place in middle school, he was playing organized sports for the first time, and then he was sidelined. We all were. When you are 12, a year is 1/12 of your life, as a month is to a year. As parents of middle schoolers, we have to have a ton of patience and grace because this sidelining is monumentally hard when they were just getting into the game! I'm fearful that this "being sidelined" is going to cost him some of the confidence that gets built as one struggles through the middle school awkward years. The fact is, by the 8th grade, you are supposed to have figured out a bunch more about who you are and what you care about--all based on the experiences you've had. He's been robbed.

The Harsh Reality is that my "little freshmen" daughter has basically become a college student: she takes classes online, has a job, and stays up until all hours. She makes pots of coffee, does laundry, and plans future travel with Google Earth. She's been forced to be incredibly independent and also responsible for her brother when I'm at work. As the parents of high schoolers, we are going to have to realize that we've forced so much upon them that going back to the school in the fall full-time and being back under all of our thumbs is going to be tough. I expect that many of us will find teenagers who are insulted by us trying to control things. Case in point: my daughter was telling me how odd it was for her to think about sitting in a school classroom where she has to ask permission to go to the bathroom or to get a drink or sharpen her pencil. Her comment: it seems like we were really controlled back then.

The Harsh Reality for me is that I love engaging kiddos in a way that is life changing, and this year I'm falling short. So much that I do depends on relationships with students and families, and that is so incredibly difficult right now. My co-teacher and I are trying, for sure, but the distance is both physical and emotional. Yeah, I know that my ELA class is not life changing for every student. However, I try my darnedest to offer them an experience of the world that is not what they are accustomed to. In Room 255, we "do English" to talk about them, their life, and their issues. We "do English" to become communicators, writers, and creators of content that helps them move from insecure middle school students who are dying to blend in and stand out at the same time (the middle school juxtaposition), to young adults ready to own their ideas, to build their own "brand" and take pride in the amazing people they already are. It has been harder than ever to forge relationships, and families are stretched super thin too.

As a former athlete, I'm trying to determine the meaning of this "sidelining." I've been sidelined (benched) one time in my life. I went to a friend's house after school instead of to practice. When I strolled into the game the following day, my coach told me I wasn't playing, not to even get dressed. I could sit on the bench, but that was it. The result: I really wanted to be in the game, perhaps more than if I were actually playing. This is certainly the experience I'm having right now. I love my own kiddos activities, but any over-scheduled parent knows that there are months of the year where you literally believe you can not go to another long concert where your own child is highlighted for a few minutes, you have to park seven miles away, and the auditorium is packed with squirming, sweating, adults and irritated brothers and sisters. Sidelined, how do I feel now? I'd buy tickets to spend an entire night at someone else's kid's concert at this point.

I've been working on this blog for a few days, and I can honestly say that this metaphor of being sidelined by Covid is comforting to me. Being sidelined is a temporary state. We will all get back in the game. We will play harder. We will appreciate it all a little more. I'm trying hard to believe that the next game is in sight. Of course, just as I'm settling into this metaphor, my ticket--the Covid vaccination--was cancelled today. I'll be looking for a new appointment, hungry to get back in the game!

In the meantime, I'm going to really look at parenting from this perspective, and think of ways to help my students deal with this time period as well. I don't have the answers, but I certainly have my sidelined time to think more about this.

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