For the Record, I Don’t Want to Do This

My son was supposed to start First grade today.  July 22nd.  It felt a little early to me so I really didn’t mind when they pushed it back to Aug. 5.

And then in person got pushed back to Aug. 17 so the district decided to have everyone start online on Aug. 5 with two options- start online and start in person as soon as they can open or go fully online with the option to change back to in person on a quarter by quarter basis.

Initially my plan was to for sure send him to school in person ASAP- we’re all going crazy here.  I’ll put on a mask on him, but please, take my kid for several hours a day.  We’re new here, and I’m eager for him to start making friends.  I have never ever had a desire to homeschool.  I even taught for an online school, and never had a desire to have my kids do school that way.  I’ve sacrificed and grieved a lot of plans during this pandemic, and I’m certainly ready to get back to normal!!

But as the day to make the selection came closer and we looked at the numbers for Arizona, I became less sure.  I joked a few times that I was going back and forth on my decision multiple times an hour- that really wasn’t much of an exaggeration.

I had a huge mental pros and cons list going on that I was constantly discussing with God:

He needs the socialization and I need my sanity.

But is social distancing actually feasible?  Will he keep a mask on?  What will the discipline be like for messing with your mask?

But it’s gonna fine.  Kids are very unlikely to have complications.

But complications aren’t out of the question for kids. How will his surgery earlier this year to remove his adenoids and tonsils play in the odds of complications- maybe it makes it better, maybe it makes it worse?  What about the baby?  What about me with my asthma?  I am considered medically obese at this point- another risk factor.

But my kid and I butt heads bad when I try to teach him things.

But…but….but

So many unanswered questions for our family and for the teachers.  I’m a former teacher and I wouldn’t want to be doing what teachers are being asked to do- would it be hypocritical of me to ask them to do it?

I’m a stay at home mom so I don’t need my kids out of the house so that I can work so should I take one for the team?  But just because I don’t work outside the home doesn’t mean that I don’t have projects for the home and for myself that I want to work on.

And where does this end?

And then we watched the numbers get worse, and looked into the hospital capacity so close to full, and the crisis triage plan that would be enacted if we go beyond capacity, and them ordering refrigerated trucks because the morgues are reaching capacity.  And my heart sank.

I became less certain that we would be able to open up on Aug. 17th without pushing into that beyond capacity triage zone.  Will they just continuously string us along 2 weeks at a time until hospital capacity is stable enough to handle what will certainly be an influx of new patients related to the schools reopening.

If they do open on the 17th and we have a spike will they just close down again?  Hopefully they are better equipped for that than they were in March, but here’s the thing for our family:

Last year my son started Kindergarten at a charter school that just wasn’t a good fit for him, our family situation, or my educational philosophy.  So I did something I never I thought I would do, and I switched him to a different school at the beginning of October.  I was newly pregnant and in the morning sickness zone.  It was around this time that we also started to realize he was dealing with more than just allergies with a constant cough, sleeping problems, and frequent ear infections.  Also my husband got a new job which increased his commute substantially so he wasn’t home as much.

January hit and we all just took turns getting sick with this and that over and over and over again.  In the first 6 weeks of the year we had been to the doctor 5 times.  We scheduled his adenoid and tonsil surgery for the day before spring break started to minimize time out of school but with how often he was getting sick we had already gotten the nasty gram from the district about missing too many days and I wondered if we should have scheduled it earlier since he was missing days anyway.

I went in to the school a few days before his surgery to give them documentation and discuss the plan for coming back to school in case he would need to miss beyond spring break and the accommodations he would need when he returned.  Arizona had just discovered community spread, we had gotten a few emails about figuring out childcare just in case in the very unlikely event that they maybe had to consider closing the schools.  While talking to the principal about the options after spring break I made a little quip about “if” they even opened up after spring break.  She said she was sure they were reopening- no worries on that.

That was Wednesday, Friday morning he had his surgery, and by Friday afternoon they announced that schools would be closed for two weeks.  I was kind of grateful at first because now we didn’t need to worry about what to do if he needed more time to heal.  But we all know what that two weeks turned into.

So here’s the thing.  I planned my pregnancy around the school year because I knew I would need the break allotted by having my older kids out of the house at least a few hours a day.  So for them to suddenly not have school was rough.  I was still hopeful for our plans when they pushed back to the beginning of April but quickly started losing hope.

If they pushed back any more, would it really be worth going back?  Would I want him to go back when I was about to have a baby?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

On top of that we were planning to move right after the school year ended.  As we watched things unfold and realized school was unlikely to start we made the difficult decision to move in with family almost 2 months earlier than originally planned.  But not wanting to over stay our welcome anywhere, we decided to split that time between our families.

So after changing schools mid year, then having surgery, then not going back to school, having a pregnant and barely functional mother, we moved, moved again, had a baby, and moved again.

This poor kid has had ZERO consistency in his life for about a year now.  And it breaks my heart.  So then to risk putting him into school and pulling him back out sounded cruel and potentially even more traumatizing than what I’m sure he’s already feeling.

The night before we had to submit our decision my husband and I sat down to talk about it.  I thought we’d have this long debate or something, but we just quietly looked at each other and realized we both knew that we needed to do online for the first quarter.  We needed to pull ourselves out of this devil’s arithmetic.

I sighed and said, “Ok, I know it’s what we need to do but can I just complain for a minute.”

I don’t want to do this.

I feel like I’m taking one for the team of society and it doesn’t feel fair.

I’m scared for my mental health which is miraculously holding on by string- but that string is getting pulled tight.

I’m sad that with no school and no primary that there’s not opportunities to make friends in our new neighborhood.

I’m hurt that this wasn’t handled correctly or swiftly by leadership and by the community so that we’re here in this position.

I’m mad that years of neglect of the education system has created an impossible scenario.

I’m confused why they didn’t start figuring this out in March.

It feels like, “I volunteer as tribute!”

And for the record, I don’t want to do this.

 

Now I by no means want to suggest that this is what everyone should do.  Your family situations are your own and chances are your kindergartner didn’t changes schools, have surgery, move three times, ANNNND get a new sibling.  But you had your own craziness to deal with.  And you might look at the same data and interpret it differently.  And your mental health might not be holding on by a thread- your thread might have already broken been tied back together, broken again, been taped sloppily back together just to fall apart again.

I can’t tell you what’s best for you, and what’s best might be different even from kid to kid in the same family.  I can only tell you the questions we considered and how we came to this very complicated decisions.

When discussing this topic recently a friend said that we should assume competence, I agreed and suggested that we also need to assume complexity.

No one’s decision is as simple as we might want to make it.

When someone decides to send their kid to school don’t simplify their struggle down to them not caring about teachers or not caring about the spread of Covid.

Likewise I don’t appreciate the assumption or insinuation that my choice to keep my kid at home is living my life in fear.  It’s not that simple.

I would definitely appreciate if we could band together and do our part to contain this.

Good luck everyone!  Long distance hugs and prayers and large tubs of ice cream all around as we all figure out what we’re gonna do.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.