How I learned to be OK with things just being OK

By Chanel Polk

Like many parents, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out when the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close. But here I am.

I figured learning online would be a lot for most kids — but especially for my 10-year-old son who has trouble with sensory processing. The closures created changes to the daily routine we both had come to rely on. Uncertainty was all around us, and there was nothing we could do to change it. 

Like many kids with sensory processing and other challenges, my son feels safest when his world is predictable. COVID-19 changed all of that for him.

I had been working from home for several months when the pandemic began. I didn’t have to worry about making arrangements for my son’s care, or about bringing the virus home with me. Instead, I wondered how I would get my work done. Remote learning meant that I’d have to sit by my son’s side during each virtual class. I’d have to make sure he understood the lesson and support him as he completed every assignment. 

I learned fast that sitting around worrying about the future, eating snacks, and doing work whenever was not going to work for us. I relied on my faith in God, shifted my thinking, and embraced the idea that if we took proper precautions and hunkered down at home, we would be OK. Then I took action. 

First, I read my son social stories that gave him the facts about COVID-19. These stories explained how to stay safe and helped him understand why he couldn’t see his friends at school. Thankfully, this put him at ease.

Next, I brought structure back into our lives anywhere I could. I began to use our pre-COVID routines to support my son again. That has made things much easier for us. 

Maintaining a work-life balance is a juggling act, and that’s just fine with me. Every day I put a chair next to my son’s desk, open my laptop, and go through my emails while he’s in reading class. I clean and put dinner in the slow cooker when he breaks for lunch, and I prepare for afternoon virtual meetings while he does jumping jacks in gym class. The lines between work and home are blurred in my world, so I use separate planners to keep me on track. I check items off of my to-do list as I go through my day. 

COVID-19 has made our social lives different in some ways. But in other ways, it’s just the same. My son is sensitive to loud noises. He’s a picky eater, and sometimes he has difficulty adjusting to new environments. We typically stay at home a lot because of this. Adding more pillows, opening the curtains on sunny days, and diffusing essential oils makes our apartment feel so comfortable — sometimes neither of us wants to leave. Playing video games and watching old DVDs when we have free time has also made staying at home a lot of fun. 

Nothing is quite like it used to be before COVID-19 came along, but I’m good with that. I’m grateful for what I’m able to do, and for the extra time I can spend with my son. Most of all, I’m thankful that we’re both healthy and happy. 

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    About the author

    About the author

    Chanel Polk is a Chicago-based writer and editor and is a recipient of the Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club, the Chicago Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.