Cathy Schmit-WATG Board Advisor/Past President
Even the best among us need reminder talks of courage, endurance, commitment, resiliency, kind leadership and dedicated teamwork! Some of the best sports speeches about these topics could apply to ordinary situations for parents and school staff: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the importance of teamwork, and the discipline required to reach lofty goals. In light of that, I am taking this opportunity to have a “half-time locker room talk” with each of you. Why? Because we could all use a little (or BIG!) pep talk right now.
As I write this article, I am surrounded by a wonderful, vivacious group of 40 gifted middle school kids, from different backgrounds and family groups. While watching them play today, it hit me-- these kids are happy right now. Truly happy at this moment without access to technology or the pressures of homework. Concerns of the pandemic seem to have melted away for perhaps the first time for some. Forgotten for the time being (or not), these children have all experienced something over the last 2 ½ years of the pandemic that will inevitably affect the rest of their lives. If we do the math, an average 12-year-old has now given roughly 1/3 of their lives to the ways of this pandemic. This math does not include the first 4 years of life that are hardly remembered. Rather, it counts the 7 formative years following this point. To phrase this differently, one third of their young lives have been disrupted and unsettled by Covid. One third of their school years have been dismantled, play groups canceled, activities and social gatherings discontinued. Chaos is slowly inching toward a new “normal” for these children that engulfs the most memorable part of their young lives. As an adult, can you even begin to imagine a third of your lifetime being interrupted by something so unerringly profound as a pandemic? For some of us, this statistic would represent decades of discomfort made better only by the fact that we have memories built up of “different times” that kindle a dream for things to become “normal” again. As I sit here I am struck by the realization that many of these children have less than five years of memories of ‘normalcy.’ To them, this has become normal. When was the last time they were able to breathe, simply breathe without the challenges typically associated with being gifted-- when was the last time they were able to simply breathe without the pressure of a world that currently fears breathing?
In my lifetime, I have seen “hands-off” parenting, “helicopter parents”, “lawn mower parents” and many other styles of parenting. But what will future generations call our parenting style through Covid? Will we be remembered for helping our children build the space and time in their lives to breathe, or will we be remembered for barely being able to keep it together ourselves despite decades of practice in resiliency?
Parents and caregivers, we have to step up and be parents and caregivers. I know! We are tired, but there are jobs that need to be done… must be done for the sake of the youngest generation! There are jobs that only parents and caregivers can do and one of them is simply just showing up, we can grow from there! I can honestly say, our kids have probably never needed us more.
Teachers and other school personnel. You have to step up! We are tired! But there are jobs that need to be done. Our kids are hurting and scared, buckling under the weight of everything being thrown at them. We are the adults--they need our care and concern. I know it is hard. We are battling through each day mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
In these last few moments of summer, in this “half-time” before school begins, I challenge you to see how you can make space and time for these children to just be children. How do you need to show up for yourselves so that we can show up (even better) for them? I implore you to take time to sit with yourselves and find ways to parent and teach with energy again, help these children remember what it is like to have people show up for them simply for the joy of showing up. I know the pandemic is hard but in order to continue to move forward, we must do so as a team and to do that it takes teamwork, perseverance, resiliency, humility, and heart. Take a deep breath…
This is YOUR time! Go get’m team!
Student and Parent Voices
Hear from and about gifted and talented students and parents across the state Wisconsin.