In this “Not Normal” School Year I’m Embracing the Gift of Time

This morning I was struck with a deep sense of gratitude. As I meandered my way down the hallway in the early morning hours to wake my high schooler for the day, I smiled at the calmness that now fills my home. 

In a normal year, our mornings would be a complete frenzy of activity. Total chaos would rule our day from the moment the 5:00AM alarm on my phone rang until we all finally crawled into our beds at the end of the day. It would be a race against the clock as we scurried around the house each morning trying to get everything done in time for us to leave for the day. 

This school year is different and, in some ways, better for my family. (Twenty20 @alinabuzunova)

In a normal year the mornings were frenetic

In a normal year, there would not be a sense of calmness in my house during those early morning hours. No, there would be four of us rushing back and forth, making lunches, feeding and walking dogs, packing backpacks, and reviewing schedules, all while watching the clock to make sure we make it out of the house in time to avoid getting caught behind a slow-moving school bus.

In a normal year, my high schooler would have to leave for school by 6:15AM and would not be seen again until after dinner. His school days would be filled to the brim with classes, sports practices, meetings, and games followed by a few hours of homework each evening. Dinner together would be a rarity.

In a normal year, we would barely see each other. My primary contact with my high schooler would be via text messages with quick reminders about dentist appointments, ride coordination, and requests to complete household chores. Responses back to me would be written in teen shorthand like “k lu 2” (translation: “Ok, mom. I love you too“). 

Rinse. Repeat. Five days each week. 180 days.

This is not a normal year for high schoolers

But this is not a normal year. This school year is different and, in some ways, better. 

This not normal year means that most days my high schooler is home doing remote learning and not in person at his school. There is no need to race out of the house before the sun is even in the sky. There are limited sports practices and games. His schedule is more flexible and manageable. We see each other every morning for breakfast and most days for lunch. We eat dinner together every night and see each other in between his classes and my own work meetings. 

This not normal year allows space for us to not only talk about his day, his friendships, his accomplishments, his struggles, and his lessons but also to see him as a student in the moment. Some days he brings his laptop to our kitchen island and I can observe him, like an animal in the wild, as he learns geometry, world history, biology, Spanish, and as he interprets literature. 

This not normal year provides me firsthand insight into how he interacts with his teachers and his peers in the classroom — insight I have only been afforded in the past as I watched him interact with his coaches and teammates from my spot in the sidelines or when he was in preschool in my office building and I could peer through the one way mirror to watch him playing with his friends. 

This “not normal” has given me insight into who my son is

What a precious gift of insight this not normal year has given to me as a parent.

More than getting to be an observer though, this not normal year also affords me the opportunity to be a participant. Over lunch the other day, my high schooler asked me to review a creative writing piece he was working on.

Later in the week, he came into my home office between his online sessions to tell me he earned an A on that test we studied for together. The next day we were able to sit together over a snack and brainstorm some ways for him to approach one of his teachers about a concern.

This “not normal” year has given me the gift of time

This not normal year has given us the priceless gift of time with each other, allowing for a deeper connection between us. 

I know that our hectic schedule will surely return at some point. Soon enough we will be back to seeing each other for only fleeting moments each day. Soon enough chaos will rule our weekday mornings. Soon enough our primary contact will be reduced to text messages. 

Until then, I’m holding onto quiet mornings, lazy lunches, family dinners, and deeper connections, hoping that the benefits from this gift of time will last long after this not normal year has ended.

More to Read:

Our Entire Family Had Covid-19: Here’s What We Learned

About Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan is a psychotherapist, college professor, creator of Changing Perspectives, and co-host of The Changing Perspectives Podcast. Jenni is passionate about exploring the topics of parenting, relationships, grief, and mental health through her writing and podcast episodes. She lives with her husband, 2 teenage sons, 3 dogs, and 2 cats in Boston, Massachusetts. You can follow Jenni on Facebook at and on Instagram.

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