The following is a personal essay by a contributor mom and opinions expressed are not necessarily reflective of the Truly Mama brand.
Here’s the deal: back in March, I was an optimist.
I had starry eyes. I believed we would all find safe solutions and COVID-19 would eventually go away. The world seemed like it was shifting, but only slightly off-kilter, like a wonky bicycle wheel. Surely, we would all be fine.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m not so optimistic.
My husband and I have been running on fumes. With two working parents and a half-dozen meetings between us a day, we’re zonked. Like many parents, I was holding on for August. The idea that school might be just around the corner. Socialization. Friends. Art classes complete with polka-dotted smocks.
But those hopes were shattered with a single email from the school. The options were slim: virtual learning or two days a week in-person (the other days virtual).
My daughter’s BFF’s mom calls me: “We’re doing virtual,” she says, and my stomach drops. Her choice means that if I choose the two-day in-person option, there is no chance of her daughter and mine being in the same class. She explains to me that she is choosing virtual because she also has another child about to enter kindergarten.
“I just can’t imagine sending my kindergartener in this climate,” she continues. “How will my kindergartener navigate this new COVID-19 world all on her own?”
The truth is, I totally get it. If I had a kindergartener, I’d bail too. How are they supposed to keep their masks on? How many times will they be berated for not following the rules? What if that was your first experience with school?
I can’t even imagine. I’m left holding the phone as she hangs up. I stare blankly at the wall, an imaginary dial tone ringing in my ear.
“What are we going to do?” I ask my husband.
We float ideas that sound absolutely ludicrous even as we verbalize them as options: maybe he can work all night, he says (even though he has meetings throughout the day). Maybe we can sell our house and go back to one income. Maybe virtual school with a babysitter is possible for a whole year.
There is no easy answer, but in the end, my decision is: I’m sending them.
I’m desperate to send my kids back to school. I would do almost anything to go back. I want to see my daughter’s glitter backpack swing out of the car again as she waves and I need my son to come home breathless with his latest art project in tow. I know it’ll be different. I know it won’t be the same.
I want to see my daughter’s glitter backpack swing out of the car again as she waves and I need my son to come home breathless with his latest art project in tow.
I love school. I love my children’s school. I’m placing my belief that small classroom sizes and the teachers we have come to know and love will somehow make an impossible situation possible. I have to hope that we can be safe with smaller class sizes and the fact that kids are less likely to catch the virus.
I’m even desperate to plop down cash for school supplies. Pencils and paper feel like that marker of normalcy I miss so desperately – like something from a simpler time. Remember? When we used to buy cherry and sky-colored Crayolas at 99 cents a pop? When just going to Target in July made you feel like colored leaves were just right around the corner, a bevy of kids running down the aisle in excitement? It’s all gone now. Or at least it feels that way. So, I’m going to fumble our way forward with masks and crayons and Clorox wipes on the school supply list, and wave goodbye to my masked-up children even if I’m scared.
I’m full-on “Team School,” for a number of other reasons: For one, the American Academy of Pediatrics has spoken out about schools being “fundamental to child and adolescent development.” They advocate for the goal of children being “physically present in school,” when possible, for social and emotional reasons.
But beyond that, you guys, they need it. Kids need other kids. They need other adults in their lives that care about them. Here at home, we have run out of activities to do. I’ve bought every entry-level sewing kit, seek-and-find book, and potholder-making kit there is. We’ve resorted to Minecraft for hours more often that I’d like to admit. I’m busy, and they’re lonely.
I don’t have all the answers. I feel for teachers. The limited choices we have right now feel as if they are closing in on us as we get closer and closer to fall 2020.
Also, I admit, I have luxuries of my own: I work from home, and so does my husband right now. So even the fact that we debate this issue, or consider my husband working at night, feels like an all-out lucky break.
I know this topic is rife for debate right now in the mom groups I follow. Everyone is taking a side. And there’s fear on all sides. No option feels ideal. But I’m firmly in the “Team School” camp as a working mom (who needs work to function and support my family), with a heck of a lot of respect for those who are choosing other options.
In the end, we’re all in this together, so if you see me in Target scrolling madly through the list of 1st and 3rd grade school supplies to find that random 1-inch binder we need, please know, I’m making the best possible decision I can right now. And that’s all we can do right now, whether you’re in camp “back to physical school” or camp virtual all the way.
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