Today marks one year since the last time my children attended school in person. One year since they have sat in their desks. One year since they have comfied up on the classroom futon. One year, since they circled around the carpet to hear the their teachers voices share the stories from their favorite chapter book. One year since they have been surrounded by friends and classmates. One year since they have felt the warmth and love and encouragement of their teachers right by their side. One year is a really, really, really long time in the life of a 6 and 9 year old who are now 7 and 10. A long time.
They didn’t know. They couldn’t know. What lay in front of them. That when they took that last fateful step from the comfort of their classroom’s carpet, that they would not step foot on it ever again. Did they say goodbye to their amazing teacher? They couldn’t know that that would be the last chance for them to say goodbye in person to her smiling face (at least as their teacher). Did they look back at the door, seeing a glimpse of the classroom getting smaller and smaller as they walked away? They couldn’t know that as the view of their happy haven of a classroom grew smaller, that it would be the last time they ever saw it. Did they yell BYE! to their friends as they all went their separate ways to exit the school. They couldn’t know that today was the last day they would see their friends for months.
The image is still seared in my memory…My then 6.5 year old kindergarten daughter skipping out of the building, chanting “3 weeks off of school! 3 weeks off of school!” meaning their chess club teacher had spilled the beans. Both children filled the car with their excitement. “Our Spring break is going to be 3 weeks!!” I tried to match their enthusiasm, but I knew the bitter truth. It would be so much longer than that. And the happiness they carried today would soon fade.
And fade it did. A few weeks later, when we had to tell them that the school would be closed until the end of April, my daughter’s once exuberant reaction turned to sorrowful sobbing. Wailing in my arms, “I miss my friends and my teacher! I want to go to school!” It about broke me. I had no experience in this kind of parenting. None of us did. But here we were, doing it anyway.
For the 2 months of Spring remote learning, we soldiered on as best we could. Their amazing teachers who once greeted them each and every morning, now only popped up on their zoom screens once a week for a quick social chat with the rest of the class. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t even in the same world as “same.” I tried my best to keep us on a light schedule and complete the tasks their teachers sent us. I was actually proud to hear that my adhd 4th grader was one of the only ones completely all his work each week. To hear his teacher tell me this personally filled me with pride for myself having gotten him to do it and pride for my son who worked so hard.
When the word came that school was canceled for the rest of the school year, the kids took it a little easier. By then, unfortunately, it had become somewhat normal. To not be in school. To do assignments with mom. To sign in to “hang out” with friends on zoom for a little while.
My poor little one still had many days filled with tears and depression over the loss of something so big. Connection. Connection with friends. Connection with family. Connection with her teacher. Connection with her school. Connection With PEOPLE. As parents, we struggled and stumbled through her feelings and got her as much help as we could. But there’s no real help when the world has come to a halt and has shut down.
In case you’re worried about her, warmer weather came and we began meeting friends for outdoor playdates. This helped her mood tremendously. As did the new school year starting and now “seeing” all of her friends everyday, for hours, on zoom, rather than just once a week for a few minutes.
None of us feel put back together completely, but we’re heading there at least. We’re hoping to, after over a year off, send them back to in person school on April 7th.