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  • Leonard Armitage

Pandemic Fail

Oh pandemic how you have affected our lives, let me count the ways.

What did I do this weekend? Hmm, lets see. It was my weekend with my kids. I also had to cat care duties for mi madre's cat as she was out of town. There was grocery shopping, fish fry, Exploding Kittens (no one can beat Aneka), Munchkin, Barnes and Noble, some new movie on Disney, Subway and Domino's, I built a shelf for the new gaming coffee maker and finished hanging the new cabinet, I added an ancient pull down map that I found in the attic. I redid the gym space, I worked out, I made a paper towel holder, I walked to the bakery, I watched House and read a lot. Oh. Yeah, I also convinced my kids that going back to school is the best way to save at least some grades this year. Though, I didn't actually convince them, they did it themselves. As we discussed, at dinner, the ways to get things back on track at least a little (cause virtual school has been a total disaster), first Aneka, then Aodhan said if they were going to do anything then they would prefer to go back to school. Aneka wanted to start right away on Monday. Aodhan was more reticent but definitely open to the idea. I was so fucking overjoyed I could have shouted - but had to restrain myself and even try to provide counter arguments so they could cement in their own reasons for wanting to go to school. This is the biggest thing I've accomplished this winter*. I have little idea of how to actually get their mom to accept it. I've already messaged her saying we should target next Monday. Of course there is no response, as expected. And this whole thing could (and likely will) fall apart once they are in her influence again. My gf says I should enforce my will more but ... lol, that's another blog post at some point maybe. More than half my thoughts since their acceptance of going back to school have been around how to try to influence while they are away this week.


I've been trying to convince their mom they need to be in school and have sent message after message to which she finally replied with a ton of reasons of why they shouldn't return (none of them valid imo) saying that the loss of grades and friends for a year isn't that big of a deal.

2020, I watch as the DC trip my son was very much looking forward to be canceled. I watched as teachers suddenly had to learn how to teach virtually with maybe a weeks notice. It was a disaster. It wasn't even worth trying to get thru that. Then no farewell from 8th grade. No farewell from a school that did so well for our kids. Cancelled soccer and horse camp. We stayed in our homes. But summer was coming and it was going to be ... ok? Maybe.

Fall of 2020, the beginning of HS. A new adventure. One of the biggest of a person's life at that point. Canceled. Closed. Virtual. I railed at the gods that aren't about how I hated this. My son NEEDS structure and people and reinforcement. My daughter needs to be with friends, to close out the 8th grade as she is supposed too, to be in theatre, and school council and anything she wants to explore. And my ex is overly fearful of the pandemic. Scared of what C19 could do to Aodhan (he as asthma. no, he doesn't, not really). I've watched my kids withdraw. I've seen depression overwhelm them. I've watched them disengage from school and grades go from all A's to all F's. I've tried talking to them over an over. Tried to figure out what motivations would work. Tried to cajole. Tried to enforce. Tried to add structure. My time with them is limited though. Courts and bias against fathers and a vindictive harridan of an ex-wife have limited me to maybe 30% of time with them during the school year.

There was a time this winter when it was late at night, dark in the house. I was alone. Probably a Monday night. I was more than likely a couple glasses of vodka in. And I broke down. I was nekkid, probably dripping wet from a bath, fridge door open, its light the only light on in the house ... and I broke down. I collapsed. I sobbed. I screamed at the futility of it all. I punched the floor as hard as I could (and pretty sure I fractured that knuckle cause its still not better), once, twice, thrice.

I was to blame as much as the pandemic. Forever I have told stories of my disdain of the lower echelons of education and heaped more disdain on public education. Forever I have said it doesn't really matter. Hubris. Puffed arrogance. Lies from a storyteller. Exaggerating elements, minimizing others in order to make a good story. And repeated a thousand times. My kids grew up with that as one of their pillars. My ex even said in one of her many messages about why Aodhan and Aneka should not return to school "you've never cared about grades before" ... a simplification of the message/issue but more than a kernel of truth.

Then I abandoned my 2nd marriage. Broke the family. The year before the pandemic I left. Divorce. My kids were just starting to adjust to this new way when the pandemic hit. Their main influence day to day was a woman who never left the house, thinks she's a medical professional, preaches a gospel of fear and cannot build structure or practice discipline as a parent. It was like trying to convince the surf to stop.

End of first semester I started to talk to the counselors at the HS. Neither kid was doing well, but Aodhan was failing everything. There was an option to have go in on Fridays and spend time with teachers. I set it up, I had it all planned. The counselors were great. I knew he was scared. he had never been to HS at all. He knew he was failing. He knew he was depressed. Technically my custody doesn't allow for them to be with me on Fridays until after school every other weekend but often, always, Aodhan would stay with me from Wednesday night thru Monday if it was my weekend. This would help me get him to school. But then the first Friday arrives and he is with his mom and she can't get him to go. Called me after 8:00 AM in the morning to convince him, to make me the enforcer. The next week I planned on getting him to school when all of sudden he "wasn't feeling well" that Wednesday (my night) and stayed with her ... meaning he didn't stay with me for Thursday or Friday schooldays. When I picked him up Friday after "school" he was fine - no illness. It was an obvious ploy to not go. The next Friday though was my weekend and he stayed from Wednesday thru the weekend. I contacted the counselor. Wanted a guided experience for him. Would walk him in. Pick him up later. He was nervous but when I saw him afterwards I could tell it went well. He said it did. He had bounce in his step. I've watched my son shrink further into himself every month this last year. Sure he's a teenager but this was way more than that. He needs to be with others. And that day went well. But then he was back with her and the following Thursday he went back to his moms house avoiding the Friday. We only got one in that semester. But it lit a spark that carried over into the beginning of the next semester but died just as quickly when he avoided Fridays again.

If I can just get him to go to school, which is now fully open, I KNOW it will be amazing for his mental health. Hit the summer on a high note from school. Be ready for HS next year. Forget this pandemic and the complete and total over reaction of the uniformed masses.

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