Last night, I attended a virtual town hall hosted by my city councilmember, superintendent and several officials from the Department of Education. The purported subject was discussing plans for back-to-school, which has been announced as a hybrid model in my district. But almost immediately, the conversation (and sidebar chat) devolved: Why had the city wasted so many months not planning for this? Should teachers really be expected to go back into a classroom? What was a remote day for a first-grader actually supposed to look like? And how on earth could parents begin to organize their lives and prepare their children when the plan was such a moving target?
This high-pitched Zoom cacophony felt like the inside of my brain these past few weeks, as the back-to-school conversation has taken center stage, and we parents are left feeling like every decision is a terrible one: Sending kids back poses serious risks for teachers and communities; Keeping kids at home deprives them of crucial social and educational opportunities (and sometimes even food); Form a learning “pod” outside of school to make room in classrooms for the kids (of essential workers) who really need to be there; Forming learning pods disproportionally benefits white students and will perpetuate the education gap.
Needless to say, I left the meeting feeling like a train wreck. After all, I’m a planner. I’m a worrier. I’m the type of person who will call a neighbor and ask her to come over to make sure I didn’t leave the flat iron on. And I do not like feeling like my children’s lives are in limbo.
But as I lay in bed, restlessly tweaking and feverishly Googling “can you send a 5-year-old to daycare?” my husband reminded me of something: Nearly every parent in America is feeling what I’m feeling. Now, clearly it is far more difficult for BIPOC families and those with fewer means (my racial and economic privilege puts me at an absurd advantage), but I do think that most parents are feeling lost right now and like there are no good choices. We want to have answers for our children. We want to tell them what their world will look like in five weeks (or five years)…and we just can’t.
So, what can we do? We can band together. (I just joined a WhatsApp group for incoming kindergarten parents.) We can vow to serve our communities and teachers and not just our own children. We can vent, lament and brainstorm. We can heed the science (face masks for all, thanks!) while exhibiting flexibility. We can remind ourselves that—breathe in—we are—breathe out—not alone in this
Will I cure this anxiety today? No. But, for today, I can stop obsessively refreshing my feed and do something with my kids to make the most of the rest of this strange summer. I heard there’s this great three-ingredient ice cream that even stress ball moms find easy.