Back to School Time

So we’ve been in quarantine now for, what, five and a half months? Granted, not the first few months-type quarantine where we all just watched Tiger King and upgraded our Zoom accounts and talked about how grateful we were to get this kind of quality time with our families. We’re in the “I don’t know how to talk to strangers or people I’ve known my whole life because I literally don’t do anything except half-work/half-parent and talk about being tired” stage of quarantine. Except now we’re also in the “I literally don’t know how to parent my child without risking their health or my job” stage of quarantine.

Meaning, it’s back to school time.

For those of us who are new to school (raises hand) and are dipping our toe into the deep end of Kindergarten via mom and dad’s kitchen in a few weeks, I have some feelings. Though, to be honest, when the plan for Hybrid Learning for our district came out, I actually found myself feeling calmer about the whole thing. Ok. So she’ll go to school in person with a mask every other week for half a day, four times a week, and the rest of the time she’s home with us. Ok. Now we’ve got a plan! I’m good with plans.

But then the reality of that schedule started to sink in. Not just the reality that I have no idea what you learn in kindergarten (though I’ve recently heard that READING is learned in kindergarten, so I’ve already fast-forwarded to when we’ve not successfully taught her how to do that by next summer and that she’ll still be totally fine and not illiterate for the rest of her life). But the reality that we will have a 3.5-year-old in full-time daycare, assuming it stays open, and a 5-year-old starting her school journey in elementary school, while 75% of the time she’ll be “taught” by us...is being felt now. Not to mention the every day worrying about their health and the health of their teachers and friends.

So, you know, we’re having some feelings. So. Many. Feelings.

Just like everyone else in America at the moment, apparently. Because whether you’ve decided to go all-virtual, hybrid, or full in-school, you cannot avoid the news that will tell you that your “choice” is the one that will not only ruin your children, either by getting Covid and risking the lives of their teachers and staff or by lack of socialization and normalcy and, you know, a full education by professionals. You are reminded nearly hourly that nobody can agree on what the right thing to do is, since apparently it is impossible to figure out a scenario where full-time working parents can also full or part-time parent and teach during a global pandemic. A friend of mine recently said, “We’re sending them to school because we have to work, not because we know that it’ll keep them safe.”

And that’s where we’re at.

Also? Please stop for just a moment next time you want to comment, whether on social media or right to their face, about the choices that parents are making and how it’s a terrible idea for (fill in the blank reason, of which there are many). Please stop and realize that none of us have chosen this. These false choices of safety or paying your mortgage are not, in fact, our choice. Please be kind to your fellow mamas in the trenches who are just trying to pay the rent, educate their kids, stay healthy and safe, and not be shamed by you, Karen. Because your shame doesn’t help me realize the errors of my ways. Your shame reminds me that I feel terrible about all of my options for various reasons and I’m doing the best that I can in my given situation.

We are a household with two full-time working people and two full-time kids with needs. We are a household that has personally battled Covid-19 and that has had one of us furloughed for the last 8 weeks. It is a household where we aren’t sure whether my husband getting his job back will actually even benefit our family, since he’d be forced back into the office, leaving me to full-time work and 75%-time teach our kindergartener. You guys – we are living in a scenario where my husband losing his job may have been a blessing so that we can actually function as a family in the Fall.

And we’re among the lucky ones.

I realize that everyone has a story about how things are worse somewhere else, for someone else. But if we’ve learned nothing else in the last few months of this blog, it’s that I don’t find comparative suffering useful and I hope you’ll get on board with me. Shit is bananas whichever way you slice it right now, mama, and I’ve yet to talk to one friend who is working with kids at any age who isn’t barely hanging on some days. You are not alone and you’re doing a good job. More than ever, we are in this together, mama.

I know that you’re worrying about your kids, your job, your partner and their job, everyone’s health, your aging parents, your friends (or you) who are essential workers, and what kind of impact – short or long term – this is having on your kids. I know, because I’m in those trenches with you right now and we are not supposed to be doing this alone. We are supposed to be doing this as a tribe. So whether you’re virtual-learning in a pod, in-person learning with masks, or somewhere in between, while trying to also do the dishes and get the groceries and stay awake past 8pm any night…you’re doing a good job, mama.

Shit is bananas right now and it’s hard. It’s hard even if you’re one of the lucky ones and it’s even harder if you can’t stop and help a fellow mama out by telling her that you, too, have your bad days and opt-out of life by locking yourself in the bathroom and texting with your tribe of moms who are also locked in the bathroom with a cocktail, their phone, and a book. Because, well, this is life in the time of a pandemic, mama, and you’re doing a good job.

And also? Find joy wherever it is...by letting them dress up like Dorothy, for example.

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