My oldest started preschool this year, and I have been preparing myself for this phase of life since we did our preschool tours last winter. Then Covid came, so I unprepared myself for him going to school. Come August I prepared myself again for him going when things slowed down in our county and the school had a good plan in place for the safety of the kids. My brain was fully engulfed in the to send or not to send dilemma for 3 weeks straight, and to say I was mentally exhausted is an understatement. It overshadowed the typical feelings of sending your child to school for the first time. I know a lot of you parents out there are with me. This blog post is not about me justifying our decision to send him, and I would never ask for an explanation from any of you. It’s really about a mom sending her child to school for the first time which happens to be during a global pandemic.
I thought that my biggest questions going into the school year would be “do I need to provide a snack or will the school do that?” and “what level of independence does my child need for using the bathroom?”. Instead my e-mails to the school consisted of “are you planning to stagger drop-off times so the classroom isn’t overly crowded?” and “what’s the protocol for health screenings each day?”. Pressing send on those e-mails was really a reality check on how different my son’s school experience was going to be this year.
On the first day of school, we put on his little polo, slid on his “school only” shoes (because of germs, you know), and picked out which mask he wanted to wear. I never imagined a mask would be a part of my child’s school wardrobe for his very first day, but there we were, having a conversation about wearing it over his nose at all times. We practiced putting it on and taking it off. Strange, and hopefully eventually useless life skills and lessons were learned.
Of course, on our way to school I was having all of my “I’m leaving my baby” mom moments, and it didn’t help that my son told me, “I want you to leave mommy” as we were walking up the steps to school. I appreciated the independence, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a small dagger in my heart. We walked in, sanitized our hands, double checked his mask, and I gave him a big hug. Huge tears filled my eyes, not only because I was leaving him, but I had a moment of feeling like leaving him in this classroom was irresponsible. How did I know that someone in there didn’t have Covid? How do I know that all the families are socially distancing and wearing masks as much as we are? I don’t. I still don’t three weeks later, and it’s scary, but he’s learning and growing. We are diligently monitoring Covid numbers in our county, we have daily discussions about the importance of personal space and wearing a mask at school, and it has become our normal for better or for worse.
Here we are three weeks into school, and my anxiety hasn’t changed, but I have learned that communication helps. When I have had concerns about R not wearing his mask when I pick him up, I bring it up with the teacher ASAP. If I have a question about sanitization, I get clarification right away, and I donate extra bottles of hand sanitizer to the school. There are no perfect solutions this year, and I’ve come to terms with never reaching a complete sigh of relief with anything in the year 2020, but we are making the best of it while staying educated and informed. I wish all of you the best of luck on the hard decisions you are facing this year, and I give you a big virtual hug for all of the uncertainty you feel.