Thanks to the COVID19 experience, I found myself homeschooling our kindergartener, texting as the only means of a social life, and living with my parents. At thirty-two years old, married with children and financially stable, it is a curious situation but not altogether surprising.
Three years ago, my sister and her husband, myself and my family, and my parents, started shuffling between Washington state and New York in efforts to be closer, under the motto: We have more fun when together.
When the writing was on the wall that staying home was going to be government mandated, we decided to live in Warwick, rather than our New York City apartment. At first, I believed I would swiftly snuff out our six-year old daughter’s habit of writing her 3s, 6s, 9s, bs, and ds backwards. Since she didn’t learn it in kindergarten.
Fast forward six weeks into homeschooling and I find our daughter still shows that backward habit. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts writing all her letters and numbers backwards soon. Heck, she might start walking backwards at the rate my teaching skills are going over. It makes me think about what parents really teach their children.
Not to be missed, our three-year old exasperatedly tells his big sister “I just can’t deal with this right now,” complete with my voice inflection. Then he pins her down in what I can only assume is an unsanctioned wrestling move and I feel as effective as a wall.
During quarantine, we also expanded our garden and I turned the planting experience into school, with math and measuring, labeling and hypothesis. But Mom has to teach me how to tell a weed from something I intentionally spent money on and planted.
Dad loads me up with essential reading on healthy soil. This is all information I can’t believe I don’t already know. I’m a farmer’s daughter for Pete’s sake. I worked on the farm in Washington and yet my farming knowledge is regularly outdone by my own kids who learn about gardening from a five-minute, annoying (to me), Youtube song.
I know my parents taught me all this stuff as a kid. There’s no way they didn’t. But just like the backwards 3, I just didn’t retain that information.
The only thing I retained was the repetitive stuff. Like where a parent should be on Saturday nights, reading about Churchill in their bathrobes. Or, who to address with their most gracious manners, grocery store clerks and the migrant workers on the farms.
My parents still teach by example, but I’m finally in the empathetic position as a parent and an adult to learn actual facts and details.
May my own daughter figure out those backwards letters and numbers on her own, so she doesn’t have to wait three decades to actually take direction from me.
CARLY PETERSEN HILIOS