Parenting through the Pandemic

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Stephanie Bramlett, parent of Chandler, Charlotte, and Carly Dean poses here with her family.

Stephanie Bramlett, DMS Parent

I’ll never forget it. It was a rainy Saturday, but a blip of sunshine peeked through the clouds. It seemed there would be a break in the storms for about an hour. This was perfect timing because we had plans to be at the park for a birthday party. While the kids ran around and enjoyed the slides and snacks, it began. Automated calls from our school district announced the closure of school for two weeks before spring break to give three full weeks as a break to clean and manage preparations for the COVID-19 crisis. Our president and governor had declared a state of emergency due to the virus. The kids jumped for joy when they heard the news! No school on Monday! Little did we know, this park party would be the last gathering with friends for many months.

I am an Instructor in a Respiratory Therapy program for a local community college. We had just wrapped up our collegiate Spring Break, but that same day, it was announced that another week of Spring Break would be added for students. Instructors were to use the week to prepare to move all of our classes to an online format for the rest of the semester. I teach several, hands-on, interactive labs, as well as multiple lecture courses. All of my students’ clinical times in the hospitals were suspended. Navigating this transition to online was incredibly trying and I knew, despite my best efforts, my students would miss out on valuable instruction to prepare them for work in the hospitals.

I have three daughters. My oldest is a 6th grader at Dalton Middle School. She is a high achieving student athlete. Right before the pandemic had been declared, the stresses from a full load of the most challenging classes and hours of homework had been mounting. My younger two daughters attend a feeder elementary school, Brookwood, in 3rd grade German Immersion and pre-k.

I would describe our family as your typical, American family. We fill up our schedules with extra curricular activities and live by our calendars to keep it all straight! Dance, basketball, soccer, softball, music lessons, and more filled our days, in addition to my husband and I each working full time jobs. We are active in our church and host a small group bible study regularly in our home. We have out-of-town family that visit regularly and we travel together. Needless to say, the shelter in place situation changed our day to day in a big way! Suddenly, our calendars were empty!

As time crept by, it became clear my children would not be going back to school this school year, in a traditional manner. There were no models for our school districts to follow, but our local district made every effort to maintain the highest quality of instruction for our students via a digital learning platform. For my pre-K student, links for read aloud activities and dancing and yoga were sent every day to keep her active in learning through play. My third grader, had regular zoom meetings with her instructors and daily lessons to work through each subject. My 6th grader, also, attended daily zoom conferences, with instructional lessons and work for each class, including her connections courses that are not part of her core standards.

A new “normal” emerged. Each morning I woke the girls with breakfast delivered from the school district to a park near our home. They would eat and then log on for scheduled meetings and class work. I would check emails, record lectures, and zoom with my students to answer questions. My husband, also, worked from home. So, we were a full house! Even though sometimes it felt like we were on top of eachother, the time together was invaluable. We would walk to the park to pick up lunch. Typically, by lunchtime, my younger two were finished with schoolwork and they would play games or play outside while my oldest finished up schoolwork by mid afternoon.

One of the biggest blessings was having our evenings free from tear-filled homework and running to every corner of our town with full schedules. Instead, we played a lot of card games and finished watching the Marvel movie series in timeline order! We learned how to proof yeast and bake bread from scratch that we shared with our neighbors. While we could focus on all that we missed , instead we honor memories we made in this time together that we will all cherish forever. Between digital dance recitals from living rooms around our town, to birthday party “drive-by’s”, zoom calls for book clubs and bible studies to a new found love for neighborhood family walks, parenting through this pandemic has been an eye-opening experience to cherish the small things!