Winter break is officially over, and we are settling back into our routine of getting online to learn and work.

There are days when I am struck by the strangeness of it all. Even though this has been our reality for months, it still feels like a bizarre dream, or like we have been transported from our lives and are now characters in a movie we never auditioned for.

There are times when I’m driving, and see people walking along the streets in their masks, and find myself thinking what I’m seeing outside the window seems more like something I would view on a screen, than actual life.

But this is life. This is our reality.

We are still living in a pandemic, and while there is hope with the new vaccine, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. For at least a little while.

And as the kids begin their second semester, I am comforted by the routine we have fallen into. The slow pace. The relaxed schedule. I don’t feel any pressure to rush. There is a peace that has filled our home.

I am grateful for this comfort, and for the relaxed pace of our lives right now. But my heart also grieves this morning.

As we begin the second half of the school year, the reality that my daughter will be finishing elementary school online is hitting home. The fact that I won’t be dropping her off, or picking her up from her school again. The fact that she won’t walk the halls as a student, or attend an end-of-the-year party is becoming painfully real.

She will be finishing her last year of elementary school online, just like her older sister finished middle school online last year.

And even though this has been our reality for months now, it doesn’t take away the pain, or the grief, that comes in waves at different times.

There are moments when we realize what we are missing more than others. And there are moments when the strangeness of our reality is more evident.

As we begin the second half of the school year, I have thought about how our oldest will be spending her freshman year learning behind a screen. She isn’t passing friends in the halls, or sitting next to classmates at lunch tables. She doesn’t know what it’s like to walk into school on the first day as a freshman.

It’s hard not to think back to my own education. My own high school years. My own final years of middle school, and elementary school. It’s hard not to think back on those moments in my own life, and compare them to what my children are experiencing.

There is grief that comes in waves. There are moments when the reality of it all seems more apparent than others.

And while my heart grieves, I can also simultaneously see the goodness. My daughter is on a break now, and is outside, in her comfy pajama pants, dribbling the basketball. My oldest is upstairs in her room reading. My daughter is having a snack at the kitchen island, while my husband and son both work in their makeshift school room and office.

Today, I have heard laughter. And I have seen smiles. They are getting used to this new reality. They are adapting. And last night, when I asked each of them again if they would rather be back at school, they all responded “no”.

They are okay with learning from home right now. In fact, in some ways I think they like it.

So I will try not to compare their education to my own. I will try to remember that they are learning valuable skills that will help them throughout their lives. They are learning time management, and how to work online with peers. They are learning self-discipline and the value of rest. These skills cannot be easily taught, but due to the circumstances we have all been thrust into, these are the things they are learning.

And I am so proud of them. So very proud.

I am proud of all of the students. Teachers. Staff members. Parents. Grandparents. Coaches. Of everyone who has stepped in during these unprecedented times to create a positive environment for these children.

I keep thinking of the balls of emotions at the end of the movie Inside Out. That is what I am right now. A complicated, colorful ball of swirling emotions that may seem contradictory, but are all felt at once.

They are all mixed together.

As the kids begin their second semester online, I am comforted. I am grateful. I am proud.

And I am grieving.

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