Back-to-school 2020 feels different from other school years. There are the obvious reasons why — like mask protocols, remote learning choices, hand sanitizer galore, new classroom setups, cafeteria restrictions … oh, and ever-changing developments in a global pandemic. There’s concern over whether masks and spaced out desks are enough to keep kids from spreading the virus and bringing it at home, how flu season will exacerbate the situation, whether contact tracing is feasible, whether we’ll be thrown back into remote learning soon or ever or never . . .
But back-to-school 2020 feels different for other reasons, too. We’re coming off of the unique experience of having been mostly home, together, for 6 months. Half a year. Together. And as exhausting, trying, isolating, and — wait, did I mention exhausting? — it was at times, I’d be lying if I said I’m not going to miss it. Coping in quarantine was hard, But for all of its difficulties and stress, it was heartwarming. It was cozy. It was comforting. It was like having my heart at home.
There are so many memes and jokes and strong opinions about why kids need to get back to school — not only for their well-being and learning but for the sanity of their parents as well. I get it. I laugh at them. I’ve created some of them. I agree with them.
But there’s that deeper part of me that loves what we created in the past six months and is actually sad to let it go.
Have I stumbled upon a new condition — maybe something like Adult Onset Separation Anxiety? Let’s call is AOSA. There, now it’s a thing. Are you experiencing AOSA as well? When I think through the silver linings of the last 6 months, here are the obvious causes for this new condition.
All of a sudden, my family of five was home. Working from home, learning at home, being at home. No running out to hockey practice or golf lessons or birthday parties. No scarfing down dinner on the way out the door. We were home. Sometimes we were bored. And that felt ok — good, even! We cooked a little more. We played a lot more. We slept a little later.
Of all the new traditions we started since March, I think the one I’ll miss the most is my morning walk with my boys. Some days, we’d just get up and go! Other days, we’d negotiate how many more minutes they’d get on Xbox before getting dressed and out the door, and still other days I simply made them go with me when they weren’t super-thrilled to do so, because I knew that once we were outside, everyone would feel great. We went from winter coats to sweatshirts to short-sleeves to no-shirts (my boys!!!). And just this past week, the crispness of September mornings in New England set in . . . the color of the sky looked like fall, and the sun’s rays seemed to be telling us to soak it all in because this routine was about to change.
They say “it takes a village.” I saw it firsthand during the past several months. The friends and family we sent happy mail back and forth with, to my neighborhood besties who delivered sangria from a local restaurant, to the video game chats and FaceTime calls my kids had with friends and cousins, and eventually to the outdoor, spaced out, sometimes masked playdates within the neighborhood — thank you for all being a part of my village. You know who you are. And I thank you for going through all this with my family and me.
Saying “I love you.”
I’ve always said it to my boys. A lot. How could I not? I love those little sillies! But with all the uncertainty about what tomorrow would bring, the news of rising case numbers and deaths, loved ones being directly impacted by the pandemic, and distancing — so much distancing — the door seemed open for more people, at least in my circle, to say it even more. The door was open to make sure people knew how much we care, how we’re all in this together, and how we’re here for each other even if it’s over a Zoom call. Technology sure didn’t replace hugs, but video calls and a verbal “I love you” sure did help.
As much as our routines had been turned upside down in March, we were able to get to some normalcy with regular activities. Countless times in my life as a parent, I have created morning checklists for my kids to help the days run smoother. They never really stuck. But over the past several months, we made progress! The boys know what’s on their morning to-do list. And they do them. (most days!*).
*OK, maybe not “most days,” but some days . . . and I know they at least know what’s on their lists now, so that’s progress.
How can we hold on while moving on?
As excited as I am for back-to-school 2020 so my kids can have structure, routine, learning, and friends by their sides, I feel like a little piece of my heart will be missing at home. I’m going to hang on to as many of the little silver linings from our quarantine months as I can — fit in the walks around the block when I can, enforce family movie nights at least once a month, saying I love you, supporting my village while they support me, and remembering to take time to be together.
How are you holding on while moving forward?