Has there ever been a more fraught back to school season than this one? I can’t recall a single one. Parenting during a pandemic has thrown all of us some curve balls. Child care issues, meal planning, bedtime shenanigans … nothing seems as simple as it used to be.
Each August as we prepare to go back to school, I have typical mom worries. Will my kindergartner who never went to preschool be prepared enough? Will my daughter make friends? Will my wild and wonderful youngest be able to abide by the expectations of sitting still and being a good listener?
This year, as we head back to school, I’m trying to step back and let my kids lead. I made the decision – and really, as a working parent there really wasn’t much of a choice – to send my kids back into the classroom. As it currently stands, the plan is to be hybrid for a month, with two days in the classroom and three at home, learning virtually. The hope is that we can go back to five days in a classroom by the end of September.
I asked my children, who are heading into 5th, 3rd, and 2nd grade, what they thought about returning back to school. Across the board, they are excited and counting down the days. They can’t wait to see friends, wave at their teachers, and most of all, get some time away from each other. All of the togetherness is hard!
I asked them if they are nervous about anything, and all of their worries are the usual ones. Will I like my teacher? Will my friends from last year be in my class this year (granted this one is a little more complicated with some families choosing virtual or home school, and the different cohorts)? Will I be able to do the work?
And all of their enthusiasm is rubbing off on me. Of course, most parents in a non-pandemic year are excited for school to start. Kid-free trips to Target! Working without interruption! And I thought, maybe, after five months at home, pretty much running wild, that my children might be loathe to give up that freedom. I know they will still groan when bedtime is moved earlier, and that alarm goes off in the morning.
But I’m letting their excitement for the fresh start inform how I talk about the new school year and its challenges.
And there will be challenges. Wearing masks at all, let alone a good part of the day, no matter how much we practice at home, is a challenge. Facilitating their learning on virtual days is one of the biggest obstacles to my unbridled excitement about the new year. Will they need to log on simultaneously? How much help will they need from me? Will they all need me at the same time? What if the internet goes out? What happens if they get Zoom fatigue and just don’t want to do anything?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but I do want you to know you aren’t alone if you are asking yourselves the same things. Now that we know our concerns are shared, maybe we can take a deep breath.
Parents, I’m not going to tell you not to worry. That ship has sailed. In all reality, the worry ship lifted anchor the moment we knew we were going to become parents.
But I do want to let you know it’s okay to be excited. If you are enthusiastic, and your child is not, eventually that enthusiasm becomes shared. If your child is eager to return to school, and your concern is overwhelming you, I want to invite you to mirror that eagerness the way you might feign interest in Minecraft building or the dozen slime variations that your child knows every ingredient and why each is important.
The more we as parents can do to help our children look forward to the challenges ahead, and prepare them for the changes they might see, the easier this school year will be for all of us.