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Flourishing in the flounder

Krishna Kabra, Executive Director San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum.

Editor—This is the second in a series of columns by Krishna Kabra, who recently joined San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum as executive director.

Parenting constitutes nothing more than an endless slew of complex, confounding decisions; co-sleep or crib, breast or bottle, positive discipline or punitive punishment, finger count or mental math?… it never ends. It can all be rather overwhelming and onerous and even occasionally paralytic. The constant deliberating and decision making … only to land in a place briskly besmirched by that one irksome, judgy friend, “Why, we would never consider homeschooling Sophie, I mean how do those kids acquire any social skills!”

Um. Yeah, OK.

Much like blue and red, ‘tis the year of division and derision. Outdoor playdates or indoor playdates, masks or no masks, socially distance or socially drawn? So many binary blah choices, so few brilliant options, one can’t help but think, “Well, if I’m not getting this ‘right’ is someone else at least getting it ‘wrong’?” Oh and what is ‘right’ anyway? What about ‘wrong’? Anyone? Ugh, who knows. I suppose we’re all just trying our best and making it up as we go. 

The most recent dilemma in this endless series of parenting pickles is, ‘to in-person school’ or ‘to homeschool’. Nay, it’s more complex: to hybrid or to homeschool, pandemic pods or parent pods? There are so many options, a kaleidoscope of factors to consider, not to mention the incessant flux and flow of a dynamic environment. The truth of the matter is that for the vast majority, no single option is satisfactory, everything feels like a compromise, a cruddy concession. 

Most of my friends are so stressed by it all that it feels inordinately impossible to make any kind of ‘right’ decision: and for almost all, the decision is dictated by imposing circumstances rather than casual choice. 

So how are most of us navigating these unchartered waters? In our family, we have been rather fortunate. My son’s school has rather ingeniously set up modified outdoor classrooms and my daughter, who seems to have been cheated of the bruising social passage that is middle school, is on campus two days a week. Her enthusiasm for being on campus has waned and I do wonder whether the lackluster confines of Zoom have become a place of cloaked comfort. A decent top but who cares if you don’t have the right hi-tops? 

Under immense pressures, it seems that everyone has crafted their own version of ‘adequate schooling.’ I feel for the kids and parents who work long hours and/or aren’t able to access virtual school. The digital divide is real: at least 14% of school-age children are without access to the internet. One common red thread is that our experiences are wholly shared and yet wholly individualized in this storm that we’re all sailing through. We’re all at the helm of our own little dinghy boats waiting to hear the words ‘land ho!’ and yet we’re in November and … crickets.

People often ask when we’re going to reopen here at San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, and the truth is we don’t really know. We are closely watching the school districts, using them as our beacon and barometer as we develop a reopening plan. I do know that we will be extremely cautious and conservative when we do reopen, given that our young visitors are encouraged to learn through hands-on experiential methods and models in our space. We miss their glee and gaiety, their gasps of delight and squeals of joy. Truth be told, even though we are remodeling our lobby, and the Museum team can always be found filming virtual content or pulling together science or gardening activity kits to ship, we aren’t loving the ghost town ambiance. We, too, feel the pressures of life during the pandemic, and are looking for every opportunity to provide support and respite to our community, even if for now it’s done virtually.

Just know, fellow parents, your uncertainty and frustration are shared. During times where every day feels like Sunday and where the working week never seems to end because you’re always playing catch-up, just know that you’re not alone. My to-do list just keeps growing and stays as the to-do and never done. It’s almost impossible to keep up with your child’s schooling while trying to add more to your to-do (never done) list. Most days are going to feel like a fumbling failure where you’ve thrown all of your toys out of the pram or stomped your feet because NO ONE IS LISTENING!! And when banal pieces of advice like ‘keep it positive’ aren’t particularly helpful (no thank you, World Health Organization), do what you need to do to take care of yourself, especially when you’re balancing conference calls with lessons in counting. Take a breath and know that there’s always tomorrow. Perhaps tune into an episode of our ‘Parenting On-The-Go’ series with Ms. Whitney, even ten minutes of advice can be enough to equalize your energy. 

Whatever you chose–homeschool, hybrid, pods, or private tutoring–just remember that there is no right way right now, there is just your way. And whatever the long-term impact might be of our current circumstances, we’ll deal with them then, in the long-term. 

Grant yourself the grace of just being present. The name of the game is surviving (with the odd jubilant moment of thriving). Know that no one has it anywhere near nailed, we’re all floundering and faking it for now … and that’s perfectly OK. 

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