While the phrase “Improvise, adapt and overcome” has been used in almost every branch of the military, it has become one of the most well known unofficial slogans of the Marine Corps. Some people accredit it to being popularized by Clint Eastwood in the 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge, but the most pure origin story comes from the days when Marines, more often than not, had to rely mostly on hand-me-downs from the Army, and were expected to make the most out of what they had.
Navigating through the world during a pandemic has thrown a lot of curveballs into the lives and livelihoods of so many people across the globe, and our kids are no exception.This year kids of all ages are learning how important it is to be able to improvise, adapt and overcome.
I have never met a child more excited about going to school than my 5 (and three-quarters, he’ll have you know) year-old son, Malcolm. Up until this past fall, he had always been home with me, and as the days of him starting Kindergarten got closer, it was all he could talk about from the time he woke up until he went to bed. Even at such a young age, he’s a real people person, and we knew starting Kindergarten was really going to bridge the gap and give him that extra social and peer interaction he would never get being home with me and his two year-old brother.
Kindergarten went off without a hitch. He was loving every second of it, doing really well academically, and really embracing the whole school experience. Then in mid-March, like so many other parents, we got an email telling us they would be closing for a week, just to “clean, assess the situation and figure out how to proceed.” That, as we know, quickly turned into school closing their doors and switching over to remote learning for the remainder of the school year.
For Malcolm, that meant daily Zoom meetings with his class every morning, and a few hours of educational games, videos and written work we would have to take a picture of and send to his teacher. As it looks now, he’ll be going into 1st grade as a remote learner as well, and while he’s bummed about not being able to ride on the school bus, he took the news surprisingly well.
So many kids are missing out on milestone moments this year. Senior proms, graduations, birthday parties, college send-offs and more. While they can seem frivolous or inconsequential to some, all of these things have become really ingrained in us as rights of passage, and moments to celebrate. I have seen so many ways in which kids and their families have figured out safe ways to commemorate these events. Lawn signs to recognize graduates, drive-by caravans for proms and birthdays, some smaller schools were even able to pull off socially distanced graduation ceremonies. Through all of this one thing I have noticed is the overall positive attitude of the kids, and how well they are embracing this weird world we’re all living in.
This mentality of adapting goes beyond the classroom as well. Leaving the house to do pretty much anything looks a lot different than it did six months ago. Masks and social distancing have become the mainstays. Play dates, pool parties, amusement parks and so many other “summer staples” are by and large still off limits, or at the very least significantly modified. As hard as it is for parents who are trying to figure out working, childcare, finding ways to entertain everyone, etc., it’s just as hard for kids, in a completely different way.
Kids are biologically designed to be social, hands on learners. That means they learn and interpret the world around them through experiencing it headfirst for themselves, as well as with their friends. It goes against their nature to tell them that they can’t go to school, see their friends, play at the park, or even hug their grandparents. Amazingly, however, kids are also equipped with another admirable trait: the ability to make the best out of a bad situation.
It all comes down to really embracing the idea of letting them get creative. Kids can be pretty resourceful when it comes to finding out new ways to stay entertained, especially when they get the go ahead to really go all in on their creativity.
We’ve really tried to let go a little bit more and give our kids some extra creative leeway (which just yesterday meant a painting activity that turned into 2 hours of them painting the table, the chairs, themselves, the deck, one of our dogs and honestly who knows what else). But guess what they talked about for the rest of the day? All it really cost us was a few extra minutes of cleaning and a few more ounces of patience.
A few weeks ago, some of the older kids in our neighborhood spent the weekend doing a car wash, and had devised this really inventive Rube Goldberg-esque way of having people pay without needing to handle the money before they could sanitize it (way over the top, in the absolute best way possible). Kids have organized virtual proms and graduation parties, figured out ways to give back to the community by making masks or care packages for medical workers and first responders.
Even my youngest never ceases to impress me when he’ll put on his mask in the parking lot, and will wear it the entire time we’re at the grocery store without a second thought or an ounce of resistance (what really helped in the beginning was letting him pick out which kind of mask he wanted, which pattern, etc.).
All in all, kids have really been able to embody the idea of improvising, adapting and overcoming just as well if not better than some adults I know. There are parts of it they might not like (and they won’t be shy about letting you know) but when push comes to shove, I have seen so many kids show so much maturity, understanding and compassion to our current situation. When kids are armed with knowledge, support and opportunity, it is absolutely incredible what they can teach us.
For some easy to digest resources for younger kids to learn about taking care of themselves, and others, here are some really great kid-friendly videos:
- Ryan Interviews Health care Expert About Coronavirus. Let’s Learn How we can help each other.
- Why You should Wash your Hands for kids!! | Educational video with Ryan’s World
- Big Bird’s advice to kids during coronavirus pandemic
- Daniel the Germ-Fighting Superhero | Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood | PBS KIDS