Back to School

Ready or not, here we are. Back to School. It’s the time of year I have been dreading since spring.

Do you know what is easy right now? Nothing. There are no easy decisions, no easy solutions; even things like procuring groceries are hard right now. Everywhere I turn, another opinion on what I should be doing to be a good parent is waiting for me. (Funny, before COVID, most of us parents thought we were pretty good at what we do already.)

Three brand new lunchboxes in the cabinet. Will they go to school?

My husband and I have been hyping up our oldest son to go to school for a year. Jack has been a little nervous about starting to pre-k, but gets more excited about being around other kids the longer he stays home with us. We have driven by his new school a million times and always pull in the parking lot to check out his new playground. He picked out a new lunchbox and has already decided what he wants me to pack in there every day.

Ellie, our daughter with Down syndrome, has been participating in teletherapy at home for months. Her school will officially kick off the new year in the middle of August, but she started back last week, just going in for a few hours to outpatient therapy sessions. Her doctors all agree, she needs to be back in school. A quick google search will find you many peer reviewed studies, articles and opinions on why, for kids with special needs, early intervention is important.

The 8-month-old, Gus, is scheduled for a twice a week Mother’s Day Out program this fall. The pre-pandemic plan was to send him to daycare to give me some time during the day to catch up on work, the house and life.

Today, in the first week of August, I still don’t really know what we are going to do.

The truth is, though, whatever we decide to do come that first day of school will be our best decision. My husband and I are good people and are better parents. We care about our kids. We only want the very best for them. We go above and beyond the basics of keeping the kids fed, watered and sheltered and we want to do it. We have been through hell and back with Ellie and would rush back in, for any of the kids, if it meant a chance for a happy, fulfilling life for them. I am sure we are not alone; so many other parents are walking the same miles in our same brand of shoes.

As we parents go into this new unchartered era of our lives – sending our kids to school during a pandemic, homeschooling during a pandemic, virtual learning during a pandemic, hiding in the kitchen and stress eating chocolate cookies while our kids destroy the house during a pandemic– know that we are all scared and angry. For one reason or another, we all feel we have no good choices.  

Doubt and guilt come with the territory. Our kids are our most precious, most prized possessions. Parents always wonder if they are doing the right thing or doing enough for their kids. Decisions are typically thoughtful, but right now, fear and stress are making them even harder.  

Everyone had high hopes for this school year. We all need a fresh start and schedule. This year, clean backpacks, fresh notebooks and pencils, ironed uniforms, decorated dorm rooms and new curriculum had even more meaning. The clean slate that we have all been hoping for and the normalcy that we all crave still does not exist. It was a pipe dream.

When emotions are high, people grab on to what makes them feel safe. We hurt each other because it is the quickest way to show our anger when we feel out of control. But we are not out of control. Human decency can take control.

If you are a friend, aunt, uncle, grandparent, sister, brother, neighbor, church member or even a stranger who isn’t on first to make a decision on whether or not to send a child back to school, be a peach and find someone who has children. Call that person on the phone, write them a note, post on their social media or send them a telegram that says: You are doing a good job.

For extra credit on this “How to be a Good Person and Turn this Ship Around” test, do the same for a teacher.

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