Winnipeg comedian takes on new role as at-home teacher-mom

By | August 22, 2020

The most commonly asked question in my household these days is, “Mom, what day is it?”

I honestly don’t know. I have to check my phone for the answer.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter what day it is. I have lost all concept of time and realize that ol’ Albert Einstein was right, time is relative.

As an Indigenous person, I know that time was something entirely different pre-contact (before those pesky boats rolled on up to shore). I reflect on the beautiful harmony my ancestors had with time and the connection to earth. 

My deep thoughts are interrupted by YouTuber Jack Septic Eye’s loud Irish voice blaring in my living room. Oh yes, their favourite YouTuber is on, which means I go clean, something, anything to keep me occupied.

As we plod through this pandemic, we know one thing is true: Uncertainty is the new normal. 

I am raising two kids. Starting in September, they will be in grades 7 and 8. They are night and day, two entirely different beings with one thing in common: they are best friends. They are both Métis and have the most infectious laughs, which is music to my ears, because I am always testing my material on them.

At the start of the pandemic, the kids were so excited about distance learning because the thought of going to school while you lounge on the couch was so very appealing.

As the weeks crept on, the lustre was very much lacking and distance learning turned into frustration, Google searches and inevitably handing in anything that could pass as school work.


Before and after COVID: Our morning routine by Ron Kixen 

Ron Kixen, Issa’s son, drew pictures depicting his family’s typical morning before COVID-19 hit and after. 

Mornings at our house were always really busy before COVID. My dad always left early, before the rest of us. My brother liked to prepare himself mentally for the day. I did stretches for my 20-minute walk to school. My mom (with the moustache and glasses on the floor) is a drag king, comedian, and works with kids and teens giving workshops. My mom used to go through their bags every morning making sure they had everything they needed for the day. Mom would need their drag makeup, workshop materials, set list for their comedy and loads of other things. Mom was always checking their bag to make sure they had everything. Our mornings were rushed. I loved going to school. I was a school patrol and I started new groups and clubs and loved seeing my friends every day. (Ron Kixen)
After school was cancelled in March, our morning routine changed a lot. My dad still left for work early every day like he did before. We didn’t change our clothes as much because we didn’t leave the house as much. We relaxed a lot more. My brother liked to sleep. My mom took naps too. I loved playing my Switch. Our house was clean but sometimes glasses got left out and drinks got spilled more often. I love school. I miss school. I wish I could go back to school. (Ron Kixen)

As our government fumbles around and attempts to formulate a plan for our fast-approaching school year, parents and teachers wait with clenched jaws and crossed fingers.

So far, the plan is to send our children back to school with very little care put into the actual reality that kids can’t social distance. Let’s get real: Adults can barely do it. 

Here’s a neat little experiment to try at home: Ask your child to keep their mask on for an entire day; confine them to one room; toss them a bottle of hand sanitizer and snacks; then have them listen to someone speak to them with a mask on (legit just like Charlie Brown’s teacher) aaaand GO!

I bet you are filled with confidence since we all know how well children do with hygiene responsibilities. Yes, your child will follow all the protocols in a safe and responsible manner.

I hope you can hear that? That’s the sound of my eyes rolling so hard they disappear into another dimension. It’s a dimension where our government puts people before profit and our children’s health and safety is of utmost importance.

Wake up! Back to reality. 

And the reality is: I’m feeling so secure in the province’s plans to send our children back to school that I have spent a good chunk of my summer researching home-school options. 

Come September, I am officially a home-school mom.

I actually always wanted to home-school my kids, but ultimately, they both wanted to attend school. We enrolled them and I thought I’d never look back.

But here we are. My former dream is now a reality, which I am dreading and kind of excited about too.

I wonder though. Will I be a good teacher? How easily will I get suckered into playing Mario Kart on the Switch when we should all be hitting the books? 

I know and expect this will be a messy adventure, but we are all on-board and know ultimately, this is what’s best for our fam jam.

I am extremely lucky because I can work from home. 

I wear many hats (as most parents do). I am a working comedian, producer, drag king, theatre instructor and writer.

My situation is a bit complicated but I know other people face similar challenges.

I can’t safely return to work because I have Lupus and I work with children and young adults. I love my jobs and miss my students and their enthusiasm for theatre.

I can’t go back to work with kids in person but I was able to teach an improv course online via ZOOM. So change and adaptations are possible, we just need to be creative about how we look at our routines and work. 

My last day of in-person work was March 12. And it was terrifying. 

That day I was explaining the importance of committing to the moment when one of my six-year-old students needed to tell me something very important … immediately.

I crouched down to meet that small human eye-to-eye.

And then he sneezed directly into my eyes, nose, mouth — all the best portals to transfer disease and pestilence. 

“I like swimming,” he told me. 

Perfect! 

He was living his truth in that moment and I was covered in potential disease droplets. It left me dreading the inevitable reality that my immune system wouldn’t be able to fight off whatever disease that child had bestowed upon me. 

Anxiety gripped me. Panic set in and two urgent care visits later, I found out that I was COVID-19 free. Relief.

Sweet, temporary relief.

That one interaction months ago has stayed with me. As parents and students face the upcoming fall term in our new COVID reality, fears and uncertainty occupy many of my thoughts.

It’s not just me. 

On my Facebook feed, many posts are written by conflicted parents and teachers who don’t want children to miss out on education and socialization but above all want kids to be safe. 

Think back to early March. Remember how distance learning went? At first we were so enthusiastic about it.

At my house, we had a schedule and I even would take lunch breaks and recess. It went super well for that first month because we were all excited about not being at school or work. 

But as the days marched on, the blinders came off and that perfect schedule started to break down.

Distance learning morphed into, “Please just do some of your work and you can play video games; just one paragraph, please! One!”

In between the pleading and cajoling with our children to do their schoolwork, we parents downed our fifth cups of coffee whilst obsessively reading everything we could about this disease that has stopped the world.

No easy answers

So, as we watch the provincial government come up with a plan, then change the plan, then likely change the plan again, what are you going to do? Are you sending your kids back? Or keeping them home?

There are no easy answers. 

I am lucky, I can continue to work from home, which will allow me to safely make the decision to keep my kids home.

I spent the summer researching methods and carefully planned curriculum in hopes that I can provide a new normal for my kids. 

As we inch closer to that date, I am prepared to take on that role of parent and teacher, once again.

I will wear both those hats and I will inevitably go from their video-game buddy to enemy Number 1 (cue air horns).

But the peace of mind is very much worth the eye-rolls and loud, aggressive sighing — mine and theirs — that come with schooling at home. 

Those expressions of disdain will mean we are all safe and healthy and we will survive this moment in time. 

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