In spite of all the challenges of parenting during a pandemic while schools are closed, I was feeling hopeful about the future during my last post. However, the past week has been extraordinarily difficult. As wildfires rage throughout Oregon, including one only about 25 miles east of Eugene, my community has been experiencing some of the most dangerous air quality in the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, my 90-year-old grandmother, who has dementia and short-term memory loss, told me over Facetime that “the air outside is poisoned,” and now her words are accurate.
Where I live, in Eugene, our air quality has been literally off the charts at above a 300 rating for the past week. It has been unsafe to go outdoors since Labor Day. This situation was manageable for a few days. We did Cosmic Kids yoga. Spencer spent hours playing Monopoly with Marie. We watched some fun Disney movies, like The Sword in the Stone, and the live action versions of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
But now, as the National Weather Service keeps prolonging our air quality emergency, it’s difficult to maintain a hopeful attitude. This morning, Paul started wheezing during a tantrum, and I worried that poor air quality inside our house might be impacting him.
In addition to the poisoned air we’re trying not to breathe, we’re all deeply saddened by the impact of the wildfires on those who have been evacuated or lost homes — which includes people all around the state. It seems as though everyone knows someone who had to evacuate their home, and my mom had conversations with multiple friends and relatives around the state who were under an evacuation preparation warning. The wildfire situation in our state is an unprecedented emergency, and coupled with the COVID pandemic it just feels like its too much to bear. The McKenzie Fire near Springfield isn’t expected to be contained until late October, so it’s possible that air quality may continue to be poor for some time.
Oh, and school was expected to start this week — ahem, “school,” because online school is not quite the same thing. But it’s been delayed another week. As I’ve been learning more about the expectations around online school, I’ve been feeling discouraged by the amount of things that families are required to keep track of. For example, Paul will have a 15-minute Zoom meeting with a small group three days a week. He will also have weekly home visits with a teacher. On another day, he will have a weekly phone check-in with his teacher. There are also two additional Zoom tutorials that parents are required to participate in. This is all in addition to any schoolwork that he is expected to do. And this is just for my kindergartener — last spring I spent hours with Marie every day trying to get her to complete assignments for her second grade class.
So, what can we do expect muddle through this mess, and try to hold our breath until this is over. Because in 2020, we all can’t breathe.