Children are pieces of our hearts outside of us. Take care of them. Take care of us.

Parents, this is hard.

Second in a series. The first: Teachers–we ask the impossible. The third: School administrators, we apologize in advance.

It’s a stressful time isn’t it?

Parents are challenged to do right by their kids during this return to school during the fall of the 2020 during COVID-19.

None of us have ever sent our kids to a school in the midst of an active pandemic, as the schools scramble to adhere to public health guidelines that seem impossible to maintain.

Blessed are the parents…

Out of a desire to keep us informed, our school has sent us multiple emails of how school will go. We have received pages of detail meant to give us peace of mind, to assure us that the school is taking care of our children as best they can. It’s overwhelming, and I’m not sure how it can all be accomplished.

I believe, to my core, that the school cares about my child; that they care for all of their students. I do.

The schools are trying hard.

I also believe that all of what they are doing won’t actually consistently achieve what the public health guidelines suggest.

Because, well, kids will be kids. Normal children are mischievous, push limits, and are whimsical by nature. By nature, many children can’t comply because remembering the physical distancing and all the rest won’t remain top of mind.

Being a parent is the most important thing I will ever do. Raising my children well is my highest priority. Providing for their emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual well being has been the primary purpose of my life since I became a mother. And now, we move forward during a stressful time.

Think about it. We are asking parents to:

Parents, you are in a very difficult spot. We care. You matter.
  • make the right decision about school when what we know about the virus this month will pale in comparison to what we will know in a year. And yet, we make decisions now, with incomplete information.
  • balance the needs of our children and their school/daycare with our need to attend to jobs both in and out of the home. School/daycare is how many of us are able to go to work. We work so as to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of our children. Bosses and supervisors are expecting things to get back to normal–but it is SO. NOT. NORMAL.
  • help support kids to adhere to guidelines with masks and distancing and hand washing at school. Reminds me of when my son was 3 and he had a compression fracture in his vertebrae. The doctor told me “no running or jumping for 2 weeks”. He may as well have told me to have him stop breathing. Impossible. Kids are kids.
  • leave our children at the door to the school the first day, and everyday after that. All of them–even the anxious ones. Not see their classroom, not introduce them to the teacher. I peeled my son out of my arms in Grade 1 while the teacher held him, sobbing, as he adjusted to going to school. Who will hold the little one who sobs this year?
  • make wise choices in the cacophony of varying opposing views, divisive rhetoric and conspiracy theories. Some predict doom if school starts, others predict doom if it doesn’t. And our kids–our precious kids–are in the middle of partisan debate.
  • send wriggly, squiggly, jiggly children to sit in the same desk all day, facing the student in front of them, eating lunch at that desk. They won’t sit beside each other in reading circle, or get a pat of support from their teacher. The huggy ones won’t be able to embrace their teacher. They won’t share pencils or games. School will expect the ones who can’t sit still to actually do just that. It breaks a parent’s heart to know the expectations aren’t realistic for the children who thrive on movement and close proximity to others.
  • be ready to pivot as pandemic numbers change…full time school, part time school, maybe even no school? If a child tests positive, it seems that child’s class will not attend school for a time.
  • be ready to pick up a child with the mildest of sniffles immediately from school, and get a negative test before return. We all know how frequently children become ill at the onset of school
  • manage their own nervous systems in a world of racial divide, political divisiveness, and a pandemic–and managing the nervous systems of our little ones who look to us to know how scared they should be
  • send their kids back to school after not having been in school since mid-March. For some, it means giving up home learning that launched a child into new confidence and competence. For many, home-schooling was utter failure–and now there is shame that the lack of learning will be discovered.
  • send our kids to school during a pandemic when it may compromise elderly grandparents or ill siblings–except we see how them staying home deprived them of life-giving friendships with peers, and an adored mentor in a teacher. Your child needs what school offers, even though there is risk in the process.

This is hard, parents.

drawing of masked mom looking eye to eye with masked daughter with backpack. Parents, this is hard.
This is hard.

I invite you to give yourself grace. Parenting is hard, has always been hard. Parents before us had to figure out whether to keep their children or send them abroad during World War 2, and figure out how to raise children and make these same decisions during the polio pandemic.

Those parents made it through. So will we.

Smile with your eyes at the other parents who show up at school with their children on the first day. Be gentle with others who make decisions that are different than yours. Let the teacher know you care and are supportive of them as they are also in an equally impossible situation.

This will be hard. We will make it through. Parents can do hard things.

I had opportunity to chat with my buddy, Dahlia Kurtz, on her radio show, The Goods, about the unique challenges of return to school in 2020:

For further processing of your pandemic experience, check out Carolyn Klassen’s book for the pandemic. Short vignettes with creative prompts to explore your own experience:

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