islandparent Parenting Education Back @ School: Yes…

Back @ School: Yes…

Did you send your kids back to school? That’s the question we asked four Island Parent writers. Here are their answers and how they reached their decision on whether or not to send their kids back to school.

Throughout the summer, every time I chatted with one of my girlfriends, the same question kept popping up: Are you sending your kids back to school?

We couldn’t escape the discussion—it was all over social media and the news. Yet despite all the exposure, no clear answer emerged. It seemed like you were “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

No matter what your decision, I commend your parenting and your choice. I chose to send my children back to school and here’s why.

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1. Much of the research says this pandemic is not going away any time soon. If we are waiting for a vaccine, it may be a very long wait. So instead of wishing for the way things were, we need to learn how to function with the way things are.

Truthfully, there are so many reasons to keep our children home from school: they could be hurt, they could be bullied, they could be accosted by a stranger while walking to school, there could be an earthquake, there could be lice, measles, runny noses… The list goes on and on.

As parents, our natural instincts tell us to protect our babies at all cost. Despite this, we cannot live fully, being afraid. And I don’t want to make decisions based in fear.

Yes, I am scared that my children may become ill. I am also afraid of all the other items on my list, yet I choose to push through my anxiety so that my children can see what it looks like to be brave, refusing to let fear hold us back from experiencing a full life.

2. I was a teacher for 15 years and I know that school staff is doing everything to keep our children safe. Teachers love our children and will protect them to the best of their ability. They will diligently remind them to wash their hands, keep their distance, and wear their face masks. I trust our teachers. I also know that they, too, are afraid. They feel pressure. Some feel unsupported. Some feel criticized for decisions over which they have had no control. They, truly, are in this with our children, for better or for worse.

3. I trust my children. Granted, at 11 and 14 years old, they are able to understand the expectations and the reasons behind all of the precautions. I have taught them how to wash their hands properly and supplied them with hand sanitizer and face masks. I need to let go of control and allow my children the space to take care of themselves. They will make mistakes, of this I am sure. I make mistakes! There have been moments when I have left my facemask at home or forgotten to wash my hands. No one is perfect.

My children may succumb to peer pressure, noticing that not all their friends are taking precautions. I choose to view this as a test run, an exercise in doing the right thing and making responsible choices. Very soon, they will be faced with more difficult decisions regarding sex, drugs and drinking. Considering this, I am grateful they have an opportunity to develop their sense of self and integrity before the big stuff hits.

I acknowledge that being able to choose whether or not to send my children back to school is a privilege. I can consider this because we are all healthy and strong. No one in my family is ill. No one is immuno-compromised. We are blessed and I am not oblivious to the fact that, for some, this situation is exponentially more difficult. Even so, it was not an easy choice for me to make.

After sharing my decision with my parents who are in their mid-60s, they wondered if they should continue to see my family once we return to school. Our safety bubbles are about to explode. With one child in elementary school and one in high school, their learning cohorts will, collectively, reach over 100 students and staff.

We are also a blended family, which includes a step-son on my side and two step-sisters on my ex-husband’s side. With all of our children returning to school, our safety bubbles are now over 400. I don’t think we can consider it a safety bubble any longer.

While I understand and support my parents’ hesitation, it still breaks my heart. This will be difficult for all of us, but we need to move forward in our lives. Whatever choice you make, there will be a cost to pay.

No matter what you decide to do with your own children, I know that you have given it copious thought and you are doing what you believe is right. I don’t judge you. I hope you don’t judge me. This is a difficult situation and we need each other’s respect and support.

Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve
Kelly Cleeve is a best-selling author and an educator. More importantly, she is the proud parent of 2 amazing sons.