Laughter through Tears: Day One of Virtual Learning

Despite my propensity to strong emotional responses to SO many things in my life, I tend to “wait and see” during a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis. And as a result of this crisis, the start of the 2020-2021 academic year for my elementary aged children has been rocky. This rocky start has not been for lack of trying by our local educators. There are a lot of moving parts here. Many people are doing many good things. And, many people have made mistakes.

Either way, the hard work and long hours being put in has not gone unnoticed by our family.

As decisions have been made, I have taken deep breaths through uncertainty. And finally, after what felt like months of waiting, we couldn’t deny the start of the school year any longer. Despite choosing the hybrid option for our third grader, we were still facing a virtual start.

Fine. I set up a learning space for my daughter in our basement recreation room.

The board game table became a desk. I ordered inspirational posters from Amazon and hung them haphazardly between our other artwork. We bought school supplies at Target and I let her pick out more notebooks than she needed because she misses her friend so much and I just figured if her notebooks had flamingos and koalas on them it would make it somehow better (??).

Even as I pivoted and rolled with the punches, there was still a quiet yet firm anxiety dancing around in the back of my head. But when the first day finally came I felt a sort of, “Whatever, it’ll be fine” attitude.

However, by noon, after hours of sitting at the top of our basement stairs attempting to give my daughter space to be independent while also making sure she was navigating the technology correctly, I was on the verge of tears. She was trying hard but needed help so many times. I was feeling as if this was never going to work if my husband and I wanted to execute our full-time jobs successfully and help our daughter navigate third grade successfully.

I was also aching for those who did not have the privilege my husband and I have — those who were not able to take the day off work to get things going for their kids, or those who are a single-parent home with a job that does not allow for remote-work. Those who did not speak English as a first language and who were now navigating a plethora of technologies and apps in something other than their first language.

If this was stressful and hard for me, I knew it was possibly much harder for others.

As I lamented the morning to my husband, he gently reminded me that this was only day one. We would get through this. We just needed to give it time. I was feeling a bit better. We’ve done harder things. Our family has struggled through harder seasons.

We’d be okay. We could do this. She could do this.

Then the power went out. Then the delivery guys called to say our new appliance would be delivered in 20 minutes, literally moments before an important Zoom meeting scheduled with our daughter’s teacher and another school administrator.

Of course.

Once again, I rolled with it. We got our delivery and entered into our Zoom meeting. I was feeling good. We were going to get through this day!

Because my daughter wanted to use her Chromebook for the Zoom (by herself, thank you very much, because she IS eight years old and she IS an independent being), I was logging in from my own laptop in our living room. I joined the Zoom meeting. My daughter was already there chatting with everyone from her learning area in our basement.

And then I saw it.

Behind our daughter, in our recreation room (mostly decorated by my husband), was a beer sign in perfect view for any person in any Zoom meeting with her. The sign is probably 5 inches by 30 inches but it felt like a BILLBOARD. Beer. Beer BEER!

I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.

You can’t make this crap up.

It was in that moment that I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Steel Magnolias – Truvy says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

All I can hope is that this school year is a year for laughter through tears. Lots and lots of laughter through tears.

And now you’ll have to excuse me while I remove some art from the walls of our basement.


Linda is a Michigan native who moved to Iowa City in 2011 and hasn’t left yet. She and her husband of twelve years, Jacob, have two spunky kids – a kindergartner and a third grader. Linda works full time at the University of Iowa as the Administrative Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, Linda and her family enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (shhhh!), going on adventures both big and small, and playing board games (they have over 100 and will play with anyone they can talk into it). Linda is often told she has two volumes: on and off, and she will enthusiastically respond to any news you tell her. No matter the volume she uses, Linda is an “old soul” with a love for baking, embroidery, and old movies.


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