My kids always hang their backpacks in our mudroom. The backpacks get prime position, with coats interspersed around them. By the end of this week, I realized that there was no practical reason to keep the backpacks hanging front and center.
The kids won’t be needing them for a long time, and I know this. But I don’t want to admit that it’s true. So I keep them on the hooks for now.
Two weeks ago, none of us could have imagined how dramatically different our lives would look today. It doesn’t matter who you are – everyone has been impacted by this health emergency that is without precedent in our lifetimes.
Our first concern is for those most immediately and severely impacted – our health care workers who are being called to a war without armor, and those who are already gravely ill or have lost loved ones.
And then there are all of the people who have already lost their jobs, or whose jobs are in immediate jeopardy any day now. My family and many families around me are facing the threat of job loss that nobody knows the duration of.
Everybody is scared.
And a lot of us are also sad for our kids.
Kansas has cancelled school for the rest of the year. We are in Massachusetts, and I fully expect to be following suit.
I just don’t think it’s at all likely the kids are going back to school this year. The way things are going, I’m concerned about them even being able to start up school again next year.
And despite the fact that there are bigger concerns in the world right now, I still feel really bad for the kids.
My 3-year-old and 6-year-old are at ages where their primary developmental tasks revolve around learning how to socialize, and building relationships outside of our family.
Friendships and close relationships with other adults (teachers!) count for a lot. There is no way these things can be truly replicated with “distance learning” and FaceTime play dates.
But suddenly here we are – alongside the rest of the country and other parts of the world – realizing like a bad dream that our children’s social relationships, as well as ours, will be cut off for what looks to be an extended amount of time.
So what happens to the friendships they’ve made, if they can’t play with other kids for months, or a year, or more? And what happens to all those kids who rely on school for not just academics, but for services ranging from counseling to hot lunches to mentoring from a beloved coach?
We don’t know yet.
Alongside being a health and economic crisis, we are also looking at the recipe for a mental health crisis at a large scale.
People are scared about big things right now – survival physically and economically at the top of the list. And people are grieving the loss of lots of smaller things, that aren’t really small at all in the life of an individual person.
Young couples are cancelling weddings. People who are trying to start a family are being told fertility treatments are on hold indefinitely. Hard working families who have saved up for vacation are being forced to cancel what may have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Small business owners who have built something from scratch are watching their dream slip away. Elderly people who rely on visits from the grandkids for much needed morale are being told they need to stay isolated for their own safety.
The list goes on and on and on. Everybody has something in their life that is now altered, and it’s ok to feel sad about that loss, whatever it is.
In my own family of three young children, I feel sad mostly for my little Kindergartener. This was his first year of real school, and he has loved it so much. He comes home excited every day, and he adores his teacher and classmates.
He doesn’t fully comprehend what’s going on, or grasp that he probably isn’t going back to that class that he loves so much again.
I believe he will be ok. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a sense of grief for what he is missing.
I’m worried for my friend whose daughter hated school until this year – things finally “clicked” for her and it’s been a huge turnaround. And now? Well who knows now.
My other friend has a little boy who’s been working hard at reading and math; he already feels behind and insecure in his abilities at school. Will he be able to keep up next year, if he misses these next few months of class time? And if not, how will that impact him emotionally? In Florida there’s talk of promoting all the kids to the next grade, and letting parents decide if their child repeats the year. What if his best friend moves ahead, and he stays behind? That’s a big deal to a kid, and to a family.
I feel especially badly for the high school and college seniors. For those kids that won’t get to go to their prom, and won’t get to finish out their school career in any sort of celebratory way with the kids that they’ve grown up with.
Those milestones are huge, and the kids are getting robbed of something special.
None of these are the main issues of the world right now.
Our hospitals are being overrun and our economy is getting turned upside down, and those are clearly the priority. I fully understand that those things are rightly the focus, and I support any smaller sacrifices the rest of us can make to help out in this much larger-than-ourselves battle.
But for us as parents, I think it’s also ok to let ourselves feel sad for what our kids are losing.
And for everyone who has something that they care about, or that they’ve worked hard for, disappear overnight – I think it’s ok to grieve that too.
Big and small, everyone is taking a hit right now. It’s human to feel sad about it.
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