This time last year, I was writing about sending my baby girl off to kindergarten.
I was anxious and nervous about sending this piece of my heart out into the big world of public education all by herself without me to guide and protect her. She was excited and ready for the new adventure.
The year started off so smoothly. She had the best kindergarten teacher we ever could have hoped for. We went on her first field trip with her. I joined the PTA and volunteered at all the school parties and events. We watched her excel and grow and become her own person apart from us.
Then, COVID happened. Her picture-perfect first year of school was cut short, and we switched to a world full of Zoom calls and online learning. We learned words and phrases like quarantine and social distancing. We made masks and sang songs to remind us how long to wash our hands.
This is where we have been for almost five months. Safe and sound at home.
But now it is time to start making big decisions about sending this piece of my heart back out into the big world of public education…again. And it feels even scarier this year than last. As anxious as I thought I was last year, it is nothing compared to how I feel this year.
This year, I’m being inundated with statistics about rates of contagion and even death in children and teachers.
I’m calculating how many masks to send each day — one for when she arrives, another to put on in the afternoon since she will have to take the first one off to eat lunch and it will get contaminated if she sits it on the table, and a third just to have a spare in case she sneezes or drops one on the floor. I’m trying to figure out if she will be allowed to take her own hand sanitizer to keep at her desk and how much extra should I buy for her teacher.
I’m trying to prepare her for a school experience that will be completely different than the one she left behind in March. No school spirit assemblies, no field trips, no surprise lunch visits from Mom, no parties and special family nights, no hugging her friends and teachers.
There will be learning, and I am confident that the teachers will make it as fun as they can considering everyone will need to stay six feet away from each other.
But will it be safe? Will the risk of sending her to a building full of kids who routinely passed the flu and the common cold around to each other last year suddenly be safe against a virus that we are all still so unsure about? Will sending my tiny little human into a big building full of masked up teachers and kids sow emotional damage? She’s a hugger with an extremely empathetic heart — will the added layer of fear (I’m doing my best not to project my fears onto her) and enforced social distancing be harmful?
I don’t have any of the answers. Nothing is going to be tied up with a neat little bow in the final paragraph. All I know is that I’m trying my best. Just like everyone else out there right now. We are all trying our best to navigate this “new normal” (I hate that phrase) and making the best decisions for our children and family.
There will be mistakes. There will be decisions we regret and ones we wish we would have made. But we are trying. Give yourselves (and your friends) some grace as we continue to learn what it means to parent during a pandemic.