This is our second week in total and complete lockdown and our 5th week homeschooling our children. Why? Because my military family is currently stationed in Northern Italy; where COVID-19 has impacted tens of thousands of people. But not all is lost. I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned in the last month living in the hardest hit area of the world, and perhaps you’ll ponder these takeaways as you navigate your new normal during this international pandemic. 

Give grace. 

I’m usually pretty good with this one, but sometimes, when we hear others complaining about their lives or generally just being pessimistic or grouchy, it’s not uncommon for us to start thinking how our own situation is either equally or (in our minds) worse than theirs. Everyone is guilty of this at times. But let me tell you my friends, we are all being impacted right now. Every single one of us. Even if we never test positive for the virus or know anyone admitted to the hospital for treatment, this is affecting us all and is difficult on everyone. 

It affects the high school senior missing their prom…the retiring service member who was looking forward to civilian life…the mom of brand new twins who can’t go out and find a reprieve from the challenges of new mommy-hood…the college basketball star who missed out on his chance to play in the NCAA Tournament his team worked so hard for…the family who was only days away from a PCS move and is now stuck in an empty house…the dual-working families struggling to figure out childcare because of school closures…I could go on and on. 

Bottom line: Give Grace.  This is new for everyone and we’re all trying to manage the same feelings and emotions. The challenges aren’t worse or better…they’re just different. 

Pay attention.  

When it comes to my children’s education, I am that mom.  I’m that mom that will be there on that first day of school to meet the teachers. I’m that mom who tells the educators that my husband and I are also co-teachers with them. I’m that mom who wants to know what’s going on and how to best support the kids and their teachers as best as we can.  I am that mom who emails or calls at the drop of a hat to get to the bottom of a situation. I am that mom who is hyper-involved in the school. It probably doesn’t hurt that I work there a substitute teacher, but my children’s education is important. I am literally that mom. 

With all that said, in the past month of homeschooling, I’ve learned a few things about my kids that teachers weren’t able to pick up on. With so many other students in a class, no matter how great the teacher, they can’t always hone-in on every weakness a child may have. I’ve noticed my son thinks faster than he can write or type. He has wonderful ideas and he can answer questions eloquently, but can’t slow down and take the time to put those thoughts into well-constructed sentences. My daughter thrives on the one-on-one time. Outside the confines of a full classroom of her peers, I’ve learned she knows more answers than she lets on. In class she’s very shy and worries about getting answers incorrect. Noticing these little things have helped me see where I can support my kids better when they’re back in the classroom again.

Slow down.  

What else are you going to do, right? On a normal non-COVID day or month, our schedules are jam-packed; juggling work, school, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, sports and the usual household stuff that needs to be done. I have always been guilty of overloading my schedule, and I’m notorious for being unable to say “no” when I am asked for something. It’s all fine. It’s part of my personality and I like to be really busy. But what I’ve learned is that my life was so full it felt so “normal” to be that busy, that I didn’t know how to slow down. 

I sat on the back porch with my husband yesterday and we both read our books. I can’t tell you the last time we did that. Our lives have been so busy for so long that when we did have alone time or quiet time, we’re having conversations about things we need to talk about: what needs to be done, what’s going on at work, etc.  Yesterday afternoon, there was nothing to talk about and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world.

Ask Yourself: Do you really need it?

I think this will be one of the biggest societal lessons we learn from COVID-19. Deciding between a legitimate want and need. I’ll admit, if I needed something from the market or commissary, it was going to be taken care of that day. It wasn’t going to wait until I was on post or in that neighborhood next time. I would make a special trip just to get what I needed/wanted. 

We’re figuring it out just fine without all the extra’s. In Italy we only have Netflix and the eight channels on the Armed Forces Network (AFN…love those commercials, right?). That’s it. Oh sure, we have movies but we’re also learning we don’t need to be entertained anymore either.  My kids have been outside going on “adventure walks” every day in the same ole backyard we’ve had for the last two years. They’re making up games and other fun ways to pass the time. We’re even rediscovering our love of multi-day Monopoly games.

Faith and Hope.  

I get it.  It is hard to wrap your brain around what’s happening. “Can our world really be going through this because of a virus?” We so desperately want to believe that this cannot be happening with all the resources, technology and modern medicine in today’s day and age!  

I think about all these things too. Three weeks ago, there is no WAY you would have convinced me that this is where we would be today…. that the country I’m living in is looking at a death-rate of over 1000 in a mere two days. I truly believed with all my heart that school officials would just disinfect the classrooms when the school’s shut down. The kids would have two weeks at home to let the virus run its course and then they’d be back to school. Here we are, 5 weeks later. I would have never predicted this would happen…. EVER. 

But now I see the love of humanity shining through. Italians go out on their balconies at night and play music or sing opera. If one lady in our small community is going to the grocery store, she puts out a message to all asking, “what do you need?”, and will shop for others. My faith in humanity is being restored. Each kind act I see during all this has shown me that the self-centered and self-absorbed words and actions we’ve been seeing in our world is abating…and kindness is stepping back into the spotlight. Stripping down to the essentials again is allowing us to learn what it means to be a community again. 

In Italy, we’re about 10-14 days behind China and they’re already recovering. The United States is about two weeks behind us. For the U.S., the worst may be yet to come. But we’ll get through this. I have faith and hope. Not that the virus will pass…we know it will. No, my faith and hope is that when all said and done, we will be better for it. Humanity will be stronger, more compassionate, and more understanding of what’s actually important.

Be strong and safe my friends.

This post was written by Army spouse Tiffany Boyce, currently stationed at US Army Garrison Italy.