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Parents Hustling To Adapt After New York City Closes Schools In Some Areas Again

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

After a late start to the school year and just a couple of weeks in, some New York City schools are closing their doors again. Some zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens are in lockdown mode, and several others are being watched closely by health officials because of a spike in coronavirus cases. For many families there, it's just another head-spinning change-up in a year full of complications. Today, as part of our series Learning Curve, we're checking in with one family in Brooklyn. Jane Diina is a fashion buyer for Tommy Hilfiger. Husband Will is a firefighter with long nights and shifting work hours. They've got two little kids, a boy and a girl. And here's an audio diary of how their Friday unfolded.

JANE DIINA: We are starting the day. My name is Jane Diina, and my husband...

WILFREDO OLATAN: Will.

DIINA: Will - Wilfredo Olatan (ph) - and my 6-year-old daughter, who's a second-grader.

LUCY OLATAN: Lucy Olatan (ph).

DIINA: And our 4-year-old.

ACE OLATAN: Ace Olatan (ph).

DIINA: Ace Olatan. And we start virtual learning at 9:17, and that goes through about 2 p.m. Lucy, come on.

LUCY: I don't want to school.

DIINA: Why not? We got to...

OLATAN: Tomorrow no school.

DIINA: We have to do schoolwork, OK? Tomorrow's the weekend.

LUCY: No.

DIINA: Ace. Ace, get over here. Get over here. Come on. We've got to get you dressed.

ACE: (Unintelligible).

DIINA: All right. Lucy, you OK? Wait. What's - are you on? Wait. The link's not working? One second. Ace, hold on.

Will, I have to go get on a work call. Do you - are - you have Lucy right now?

OLATAN: Yeah.

DIINA: Did Ace get something to eat?

OLATAN: He's good.

DIINA: OK. What are you guys working on?

OLATAN: Writing.

LUCY: The dog runs into the park super fastly (ph).

OLATAN: Yeah, but (unintelligible).

LUCY: The dog named Annie (ph) runs in the park.

DIINA: We're going to learn some colors today.

ACE: I want to take a nap.

DIINA: You want to take a nap after you learn your colors or before?

(SOUNDBITE OF SNORING)

LUCY: Daddy's sleeping.

DIINA: That's Daddy sleeping. My husband's sleeping 'cause he's been doing remote teaching all morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There was some significant snoring there. I think every parent can absolutely relate to that. Jane Diina joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

DIINA: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I understand Lucy's school switched to all-remote, but Ace is still getting in-person instruction two days a week. Tell us why that's so important for him.

DIINA: So my son Ace has a rare genetic disorder. So he's technically special needs. Right now at his school, he is currently getting about nine different half-hour therapies a week. If he does go remote, like we were in the spring, this is something that we would have to do via Zoom that is just not the same.

Ultimately, we are not physical therapists. We are not occupational therapists. We're not speech therapists. And it meant, unfortunately, that we saw some regression in him over the spring. My husband and I have talked about this at depth. We are just terrified, if it does go back to lockdown and a hundred percent virtual, how we will be able to get him the services that he needs without any more regression.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about your daughter, Lucy. How's she been dealing with remote learning?

DIINA: She's been doing a great job, given the circumstances. She's confused and asking a lot of questions. I don't understand why Acey (ph), her little brother, can still go to school. Why can some of my other friends go to school who might be in private schools? As a parent trying to explain when not fully grasping what's going on in your own city yourself - that's something my husband and I have really struggled with. So it's really a day-by-day situation. We try to keep everything very light, very fun, creative, optimistic throughout the day as much as we can. As much as that's not how we're feeling inside, that's how we're starting every day.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How are you feeling inside?

DIINA: It's a loaded question. I'm sad. I'm sad for our children. I'm sad for the state of our country. I'm sad for how all the other children that are in a much less privileged place than my family - how their families are dealing with everything. I'm just sad. And that also leads to exhaustion, which I know that all parents are feeling right now trying to manage this all. And then I go to anger, which is a whole other issue. But anger - you need energy. And I'm struggling with that right now overall - so really sad and exhausted.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your husband is an essential worker. He's a firefighter. And both of you actually got COVID-19 back in March - right? - as schools were shutting down.

DIINA: Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That must have been really, really tough.

DIINA: It was very tough. Not only did myself and my husband had it, but we have an au pair. She also got it. So our whole household was on lockdown with all of us sick at the same time. It was hell going through that, and that's why it makes me so angry. This is where the anger comes in - when people are not thinking about other people. I have your typical quote-unquote "healthy young family." And I saw what - the effects that it did, at least on my husband and my au pair, and they were very sick. They were very sick, and they were out of commission for about two full weeks. I also had it. I tested positive. But thank God I just had a cough. I was fully functioning because if I wasn't, I don't know who would've cared for the children.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've been through so much. I'm wondering if you have any words of advice for parents who might be in a similar situation as you - for example, me - who are listening right now.

DIINA: Yeah. I mean, I think having - I mean, so many people have been through so much more, and I'm totally aware of that. And I think just being completely transparent and honest with your partner with your feelings or with - even if you don't have a partner, with a family member or someone you can talk to and not feel guilty about your feelings or what you're going through - because it's a lot. No one ever signed up to or planned to live through a global pandemic.

To be kind to yourself during this whole thing - that's what I've learned because I think as parents - I know that I've been feeling just extremely guilty at the end of every night, saying that I can't - I don't know what else to do for my children right now to make their days better, to make them happy, to make them socialized, to make sure that they're on top of their learning and on top of their therapies. But I also know at the end of the day, I'm giving a thousand percent to every aspect of my life, so I'm doing the best I can do right now. So I think it's important that we all remind ourselves of that at the end of every day.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed. That is very important advice. You are doing great. We are all doing great. Jane Diina from Brooklyn, N.Y., thank you very much.

DIINA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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