Tomorrow was supposed to be Sunshine’s first day of second grade. Her school decided in July to push the school year back one week, starting the day after Labor Day instead. It reminds me of my own childhood, during which school always began the Tuesday after “the last weekend of summer.”
This decision is unlikely to permanent. The shift this year is due entirely to the pandemic. It allowed their faculty to better prepare for the upcoming year, one that will begin online.
We spent much of the summer in anxious anticipation for whatever decision the school would make. She attends a charter school, so when the primary sponsoring district made a decision, we wondered if her school would make the same one.
Sunshine and I take frequent walks together. I asked her, “What do you want to happen?”
She wondered about another school day at home and missing her friends. She said she wanted to know who her teacher was. She heard she was going to get a school-issued device. She was excited about that.
She never said she was upset about the possibility of staying home. She never railed against it.
She understood the strangeness of our situation.
Saint Daddy and I have told her repeatedly, “This isn’t something that happens. It’s never happened like this before. That’s why it’s so hard to decide what to do. No one’s ever had to decide what to do like this before.”
This is temporary. It is not ideal. It is temporary.
Sunshine, at seven-years-old, knows that.
So while I can sit here and explain, in detail, why I wish Sunshine would be starting school tomorrow in her teacher’s famous farm-themed classroom, there are so many reasons for why I am glad she is not.
Primarily, this pandemic thing is not being well-handled on a national level. Every one has different rules and no one is following them and the nation is not coming together with care for the community. Schools have opened in some states and, predictably, cases have risen drastically in many of them.
I do not want my beautiful Sunshine to be part of the great national experiment to see if kids are completely immune, simply carriers, or in danger of dying.
But beyond the notion of getting sick, there are other concerns.
Do I want Sunshine to be required to wear her pretty floral rainbow mask for nine hours a day? Do I want her to go to school for two weeks and then be forced to stay home for two while part of the building quarantines and her teachers scramble to figure out how to educate her the way that they valiantly did in the spring? Do I want her to not be able to whisper in a friend’s ear? Do I want her to not be allowed a hug if she needs it?
Do I want Sunshine’s teachers to be at risk? Do I want them to worry about their families? Do I want them to become front-line workers in a world where we said “if you can work from home, then you should”? Because they can and they should. Do I want them to have to plan to educate half of their students at home and half of them at school? Their jobs are hard enough. Do I want them to do more?
Are my reasons for why I want Sunshine at school enough for all of that?
I do not think they are.
Tomorrow, instead of her first day of school, I am taking Sunshine back to her school for the first time since March. We have an evening appointment to meet her teacher one-on-one so Sunshine knows who she will be. We will wear masks and there will be temperature checks. We are going to pick up her school-issued supplies and learn more about her schedule. We are going to hear the plan that the school has laid out to ensure that their students are receiving the best education they can given the circumstances.
She goes to a good school. I trust them to do the right thing for my daughter.
Then we will come home and I will use our new knowledge to spend part of the later days this week to set up her learning space, combining our supplies and the school’s supplies, plugging in her device, providing adequate light, and packaging up all of my hopes.
In the spring, Sunshine completed her school work on her tablet while sitting at a TV tray against the wall of my bedroom. She was three feet away from where I sat on my bed to do my own work.
It all felt so temporary, and that was enough.
But this is real. This might last. And she needs a real setup.
It will be hard. I will have to stay on my targets while keeping her on hers. Saint Daddy will take care of Sleepy and Grumpy. I will handle Sunshine. It will be hard.
It will be lonely and trying and difficult.
But there is value here. There is a beautiful resilience in children. Just think of how flexible our children will be. Just think of what they will gain.
Are there deficits? Of course! But what about the assets?
What about this experience will help our children grow and change in miraculously beautiful ways?
Maybe I am too hopeful.
Maybe if I lost hope, I would lose everything.
What I will always know is that, as Sunshine’s mother, I have the power to sway her thoughts to the positive or the negative.
I choose to focus on this adventure with fewer thoughts about why it might not work and more about what might make this a magical time for her and for Grumpy and Sleepy who have been surrounded by their entire family for the last six months.
They know nothing of pandemics. They have to wear a mask sometimes. But they have lost all sense of that not being a normal thing.
They have gained so much, though. From focused attention to more time to play with their sister. From consistency to laughter.
For them, it has been all positives.
That is where I will set my sights for Sunshine.
On the positive.