It was only six weeks ago that I began looking into homeschooling.
My daughter had been having a lot of issues in school, and I felt like homeschooling would be a viable temporary option until she would be able to change schools. It’s not commonly done in Luxembourg, but I was pretty desperate.
Now, I’m already doing it. Not because I chose to, but because I have to.
As we say in German, Manchmal muss man zu seinem Glück gezwungen werden — Sometimes we have to be forced into our own happiness.
Living in Luxembourg – a country so tiny that even some Germans think it’s a part of Germany – I often don’t have a lot of things in common with moms in the US. Our vacation dates are different, school system is different, expectations are different, cultures are different. But this time, we’re all in it together. I couldn’t believe it when they started closing schools, restaurants and public establishments in the United States. Things close all of the time here, but in the United States? It feels incredible that all over the world, life is shutting down.
Except … I’m not feeling the shutting down of it.
For the first time in ages, I feel like it’s finally opening up. I look out my window and see birds, flowers, trees in bloom. The environment is coming alive. The traffic jams are gone. People are giving themselves permission not to work. We’re actually getting enough sleep. I’m not spending half of my day driving to harp lessons, swimming lessons, religion classes, ballet classes, choir practice.
I’m using the reserves in the pantry rather than going out and buying more food that we don’t need. I’m wearing the clothes that are already in the closet instead of purchasing new ones – and have time to clear out the ones that clearly need to go.
It’s like someone has finally given us permission to live the life we have, rather than forcing us to keep racing forward to some unknown destination.
Tonight my husband and I will be exercising together in the basement (the gym is closed) and then working on puzzles at the kitchen table. That’s quality time that would normally be unthinkable during the school year.
In Luxembourg we are being reimbursed for the time we are taking off of work. It will be expensive for the government, but it’s the right thing to do. We can stay home and let this virus pass us by with relative ease because we can afford it. I realize we are lucky.
I realize there are millions of families who cannot afford to stay home with the kids right now, or who work in the health care industry, or work for businesses that are downsizing because of the crisis.
I can imagine that they are not regarding this as a big “opening up” of life.
On Monday I told my girls to meet me at the dining room table at 9:00 a.m., dressed, teeth brushed, fed and ready for school. The first item of business was giving our new school a name. Then I wrote different activities on index cards and told the girls we could decide what we wanted to do and when. They looked up at me with big eyes.
“We get to decide? We get to make the schedule?”
“Yes – this isn’t your normal school, this is our school – and in our school, we get to decide how we’re going to do things.”
We taped the index cards on the sliding glass door to the patio and started our lessons. It was a bit of a challenge finding activities that would stimulate both a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old, but this is a learning process for me too. It’s our school, after all. Here the learning will definitely include the adults. And it feels so good to learn something new. I haven’t felt this fulfilled in years.
I know there will be hard days. I know there will be rain, I will get tired, the girls may be grouchy, I may not feel creative, I will need a break, and we will get stir crazy. As of now Luxembourg is on total lockdown, which means we aren’t allowed to be out driving around if we need a change in scenery, either.
But deep down, I’m rejoicing in this experience. Because for years I’ve been silently screaming, “slow down!! This is going too fast!” This is the most real that life has felt for a long, long time. We are in control here. We are together in this. And we have so, so much opening up to enjoy.
I’m taking a lot of photos and trying my best to keep up my other routines, like writing in my journals. I want to remember this, as something tells me it will end up being one of the most wonderful memories of motherhood.
Last night, my oldest, spirited daughter, who often cries in bed on a school night, whispered to my husband, “I can’t wait for school tomorrow.”
Who would have thought a virus could bring…relief? Fulfillment?
Sometimes, we have to be forced into our own happiness.
Libby Kramer is an American who has been living in Europe for over 15 years. She currently lives in Luxembourg with her husband and two girls and works as a Grief Recovery Specialist.