Was it as good for you as it was for me? Yep, go ahead and admit it! It was, wasn’t it? In the moment that it was confirmed that my child would be able to return to school in person, my eyes lit up and my heart skipped a beat at the very idea that my child’s world and mine may return to some sense of normalcy.
The light at the end of the tunnel was finally brighter and stronger. That light represents the end of a crisis which has had our lives in its grip and on hold well into a year. Its brightness was now symbolic of the light that could return to the eyes of our children if they could just return to school, their education, their friends, their teachers, and their playtime.
Never before has there been a time where we truly understood and appreciated the role that school plays in the lives of our children. But the reality of it was like taking part in the ice bucket challenge. It was chilling and shocking to realize how much we really depend on schools and all of the resources that they provide to care for our children, socially, emotionally, and academically on a daily basis. The pandemic has been a revelation.
For some of our children, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise and virtual learning from home was a success. My oldest son was this child. Virtual learning for him was a joy. He is inherently an introvert, and virtual learning actually saved him from the distractions of the school setting. He enjoyed his pandemic life of virtual learning from home and performed better academically and socially because of it. Yes, he missed seeing his friends and spending outside school time with them, but virtual school just worked for him and over the pandemic months of school shut-down, I saw him flourish.
My youngest son also enjoyed the pandemic shutdown of school, but more from a social and emotional aspect. He is always happy anywhere that Mom is and if shutting down the world means being able to hang out with Mom more, then so be it. Academically though, the pandemic was a challenge. My youngest is diagnosed autistic and ADHD, so for him that structured academic setting of school is so much better. Those resources that are available to him when attending in-person school are so much more effective than when he receives them virtually. But, because he was ok socially and emotionally, I felt that we would just do our very best to maintain and keep him on track for the next school year. And though this required an act of congress and the help of the entire family to check-in with him more often and more consistently, we have succeeded in keeping him academically afloat.
It was my middle child’s experience that was most responsible for my thrill at the re-opening of schools. It was middle child’s “heart” health that most concerned me over the period of school closing from the pandemic. What do I mean by “heart” health? He was up and on his classes on time, completing and submitting his assignments, and participating in his virtual class meets as expected. But, for him, his heart just wasn’t in it. He was only going through the motions and was in no way enjoying his milestone first year in middle school.
My middle child’s love and excitement for school had been gone for some time. He thrives on that in person interaction. Before the pandemic, he was the child who would prepare the night before for school for the next day. He would diligently lay out his clothes, pack his lunch, and be asleep so he could get up the next day and be ready for school on time. Before the pandemic, he was the child who begged to stay in the after-school program so that he could play and complete homework with his friends every day. He wanted to be at school as long as the lights in the building were on. But, the pandemic had taken all of this from him.
And so with the return to in-person last week and this week, I have begun to see a return of my middle child. He is becoming himself again. His face is beaming and his smile is bright. His backpack has reappeared at the garage door packed each night for the next day. When I open the fridge, his lunch is already there. When I would look up from working somewhere in the house on something, he is there, dancing, talking, and sharing how good he feels that he has retuned to his happy place: school. So yep, if you can relate to the feeling, I know it was as good for you as it was for me. It’s the very best feeling in the world to see your child simply happy, and when they are happy you are happy.