Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well, and enjoying (or enjoyed) your summer! This year has been EXTREMELY challenging, from the very beginning. I think I can pretty much say that we are ALL treading in uncharted waters. Which is part of the reason I haven’t published here as often as I told myself I would.
So many things have been extremely different this year with COVID-19. As many of my readers know, between my boyfriend and I, we have four kids. One is mine, and three are his, or as I like to call them – my bonus kids. We have two teens that live with us full time, (Teenager 1 is Bubs 16 year old girl, teenager 2 is mine – 15 year old boy) both of which go to different schools. As well as two others that we have every other weekend. Mind you, all (3) of my bonus kids have different bio moms. This has raised more challenges than I ever could have imagined. All four of our kids have completely different circumstances. Parenting is hard enough as is, co parenting is even harder. But when you add the current pandemic into the mix, it is so much more than difficult, even heart wrenching at times.
Distance learning for us was… tough. The two teens had extremely mixed feelings about distance learning. Since they both go to different schools in different districts, they both had different struggles. This came from teachers grading differently than they would normally in face to face learning, or some teachers being unclear with instructions. Since they didn’t have class time,they had to rely on the exchange of emails for answers. In terms of parenting, though, the teens were much easier. Since neither of the two teens have the other parent in the picture, this meant for them that we didn’t have to communicate with the other parent in regards to what their schedule was (this also rings true for face to face learning). We just had to keep them both motivated, and remind them that this isn’t forever.
We usually have the youngest bonus daughter, Jos (almost 12), every other weekend. Throughout the summer we see her a bit more, but it’s never the same schedule as the adults schedule changes. With the kids out of school, and her not being old enough to stay at home by herself, it’s easier when us adults work together with our schedules. (At our house, if us adults aren’t home, the teens can watch the younger siblings) When the distance learning began, we kind of adapted to the summer schedule. Summer schedules get really hectic, but when you add in distance learning it was extremely challenging.
First of all, the amount of work the school sent home was ridiculous! Everyone was telling us that they shouldn’t be “working” for 8 full hours… however the amount of work they sent home told a completely different story! This got really complicated when we had split weeks with what school work was done, who was dropping off completed work & picking up the following week’s work. We had to sit down and make a schedule every week with what work was being done on each day, and what would be completed at our house and what would be done at her mom’s house. I will say, it wasn’t impossible, but it definitely wasn’t easy.
We didn’t have the joy of seeing the youngest (Jr. – age 6) at all during distance learning, or during the 19-2020 school year. For us, that was actually the most challenging part of our situation with him. Which brings me to my next topic!
We All Have Unique Circumstances
As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, all three of my bonus kids have different bio moms. Sometimes it’s not as difficult as others, but each of them has a unique circumstance.
Unfortunately, the mother of my oldest bonus daughter (16) is not around. She comes around every once in a while, and she’ll spend a couple of hours with her daughter and then she’s out again. This makes for a very uncomfortable experience for Cassidy, and it breaks my heart. So in this instance, she doesn’t present us with any “views” as to what she believes is right for raising her daughter – especially during the current pandemic.
The bio mom that we seem to have the most communication with is Bub’s middle child, Jos’s mom. I think that is because we live in close proximity, and share schooling responsibilities and such. Of the two bonus kids that don’t live with us, Jos is the one we see the most. We have seen her SO MUCH MORE since the beginning of the pandemic. This is due to work schedules and kids being home. We have also had the pleasure of having Jos’s younger sister with us at times as well. She is not Chris’s daughter, but when she can’t be at home, she is always more than welcome with us. We try to include Jos’s sister as much as possible when we can, for birthdays, and bake days etc… We still stick to our every other weekend schedule with Jos, but we also pick up random days or weeks.
Of course we also have to communicate what goes on at each house if the kids get into trouble, or if they do something really well. I think that it’s so important to share the victories of the kids, and praise them when they do well. For example, even though Jos struggled during the school year she finished strong. All of our kids did. So she was definitely included in the reward of the trampoline, and I made sure that she knew that we were proud of her as well. In regards to the pandemic, we do what is right and take precautions. When she is with us, and we go out in public, masks are worn, we constantly wash our hands etc… When she is with her mom, they don’t really go much of anywhere. They live on a farm, and the area they live in is a bit more rural than our little town. Talk about social distancing.
The youngest child, Jr., lives the farthest away – a couple counties over. When we do get to see him, it is a two hour drive each way. I have mentioned in some earlier posts that sometimes it is hard to see him. Usually during the winter, when we have extreme weather here in the North Western U.S. Unfortunately, during this pandemic we went a six month stretch without seeing him. The county he lives in has a much higher population than where we live. As we know, this also means there are many many more active Coronavirus cases in his region. So for the safety of both homes, we agreed to wait until the summer months when things started opening back up to be able to see him. That was a really hard decision to make. Of course, the time frame of which things were to open up again was also constantly changing. Talk about heart wrenching…
I can easily say that was the most heartbreaking part of co parenting during this pandemic. We missed his little face, and laughs, and hugs. His sisters missed him so much, and it was hard to also hear them talk about it, and see their hearts break. I know we are not the only ones missing family during this time, so to all of you who are – my heart goes out to you.
Important Lessons Learned Along The Way
We will all get through this. We don’t really have any other choice – do we? Just like any other new situation, we will learn to adapt, and cope along the way. As I’ve mentioned before, and I’ll mention it again – even though we are all going through this pandemic at the same time, it is in no way the same for any of us. Every single family has different struggles. There are a few things I have learned from this pandemic, though.
The first thing I would say I have learned is a bit more patience! It’s not always easy, but things seem to be changing so quickly. Sometimes, I have to pause just to catch my breath, and remember to breathe.
The second most important thing I learned, is to kind of take everything with a grain of salt. So much is going on, and a lot of it we can’t control. We have to adapt, get through it, and help our kids get through it as well. Yes, all of us adults are going through a lot right now, but so are these kids! Everything is new to them, too. They’re not used to not being in school and seeing their friends every single day. The school year is upon us once again, and there are going to be so many changes – yet again. Between four kids in four schools, yet again, they all have different back to school procedures. Yikes!
Lastly, just like any other time, communication is so important! Maybe even a little bit more so now. Although sometimes it’s easier said than done, we have to work with the other co parents involved in our kids lives. If we are having frustrations with each other, we have to discuss it with each other, when the kids aren’t around. Our struggles as parents aren’t always for the kids to hear. Virtual communication is also important for the kids when we can’t see them in person. They need to know that we are still here, and here for them whenever they need us. Depending on their age, this may also mean communicating with the other parent as well (again) to set it up. It’s a full circle!
I want to wish everyone the best, from the bottom of my heart. What have your biggest challenges been during this pandemic while parenting or co-parenting, or even otherwise?