It honestly feels like yesterday that Anthony and I enjoyed our morning coffee together on January 31, 2019. We spoke about what 2020 would look like and shared ours hearts of expectation for the upcoming year. I don’t know, there was just something new and exciting about entering a new decade. I am not one who makes New Year’s resolutions—mainly because I know that they all end up distant memories three weeks into my quest of trying something new or doing something different. Living a lot of life has taught me to keep my bar raised to very realistic levels.
One thing I know we can all agree on is that 2020 has turned out to be many things that we never dreamed of just a few short months ago. The pandemic, quarantine, isolation, a crazy election year, and everything in between. Living this life we live has taught Anthony and me so many lessons, but one thing that has really stood out for me this year is the reminder that God gives us periodically to not focus on the things that we cannot change or that don’t really matter.
Truthfully, had it not been for our precious children, this whole quarantine thing would not have bothered me very much. I love being home. I love spending time with my family. I love all the things that come with living a life where, even in normal times, I am mostly home. I may miss visiting a coffee shop or walking through a store every now and then, but more than anything, I love being home with my family and our animals. I have learned that there is very little that I need to bring me joy and contentment.
Sadly though, I know that 2020 has been devastating for so many people on many levels, and that just breaks my heart. For us, the hardest part has been for our children who have special needs. This year has been so very hard for them as they have tried to adjust to this “new normal.”
There are few things that our children absolutely love. Yes, they all have their personal favorites that make them who they are. Harper loves necklaces, bracelets, and any music. Hunter loves crafts and her love language is to help—she LOVES to help with anything and everything. Kael loves food, his favorite spot on the couch, and any outing in the car. Haven loves to take trips and be with her friends. Hasya loves when people get right up close to her so that she can see them and feel their arms and face, and she loves to go where we go. Hailee loves her music toys and her favorite shows on the TV. Their favorites are important to us, and we are mindful always to ensure that they have or do the things that bring them joy.
But the one thing that they love, love, love?
When we enrolled our children in the public school system five years ago, it was with a lot of apprehension. Having had them home since we adopted them, I was nervous about what being in school would look like. Would they be loved and cared for? Would they enjoy going every day? With most of them being primarily non-verbal, would they be able to let their needs be known? I will never forget putting them on those big yellow school buses for the first few times with a knot in my stomach.
It didn’t take long for us to know that we had done the very best thing for our children. They thrived in school! They had incredible teachers and were so deeply loved and cared for. And before we knew it, we had gotten into a routine and every morning they would happily get ready for the bus to arrive. And at the end of the day, the joy and excitement getting off the bus to show us some special art or craft which they had made was beyond precious.
When the world shut down in March, our first thought was our sweet children. I just knew that they would not be returning for the remainder of the school year. As the days and weeks passed, Harper and Hunter would ask for the bus. How do you explain to a developmentally delayed child that the bus isn’t coming? They don’t understand what’s happening in the world (probably a good thing!). They didn’t understand why their bus was no longer coming. It has been one of the hardest, most painful parts of 2020 for me.
As the new school year approached, we waited to see what our school district would do. We watched as schools around the country opened and then closed. Our district first spoke of starting with in-person school and then quickly switched to remote learning. Online learning in the spring was super challenging for our children. They don’t learn that way, and it ended up being frustrating for everyone. Our children go to school not just for the education, but for the socialization and the routine that they thrive on. They love being integrated with their peers. They love making friends and being in general education classrooms. They’re social butterflies who love being with people and for one of our daughters, video calls became way too emotional. She saw her peers but could not understand why she couldn’t be with them.
With all of the uncertainty of what this school year would look like and what the coronavirus would do, we ended up making the tough decision to not enroll our children. More than anything, they thrive on routine and structure. With the uncertainty of the pandemic (schools being opened and then shut and then opened and then shut), we knew that being in school and then having it all taken away again at a moments’ notice would be devastating emotionally. We’d have to start all over again with emotional children not understanding what was happening.
I hate it for my children. I hate that they can’t be with their friends. I hate that they don’t get to do the things they love at school. And I hate that it feels like this ever-evolving “new normal” is here for a very long time. I have days when I wonder how long it will take before they are able to be back in school the way it used to be. Being children who can’t/won’t wear masks, will they ever be integrated with their peers to the degree that they were? So many unknowns as we fast approach the end of another year.
I don’t know how or when this is going to end. I only know that my heart goes out to every parent who is raising a child who thrives on socialization and school and their peers. My heart aches for every sweet child who can’t understand why everything is so different. And I feel for the Moms and Dads who wrestle with trying to do what’s right for their children. It’s painful and I am right there with all of you—trusting that God’s grace will be enough in this season. We sure are living in a time that most of us never imagined.
But in the midst of the all of the upheaval and the uncertainty, I hold onto this one thing…
The Father will be faithful. He will! He has been so kind and gracious with us and with our children’s hearts in this season. He has held them closely, and they are happy and content. God has been so amazing to take care of every need that we all have these unprecedented, very uncertain times.
I know that eventually this too shall pass. It always does, doesn’t it? I long for the day when our children can be back on the buses that they love and can hang out with the teachers and friends who they love. But until then, we’ll continue to keep our eyes fixed on heaven and all that is eternal.
He never promised us easy. But He sure did promise us that His grace would be enough in every season.
And it is.