I have been equally excited and nervous about my girl’s first day of kindergarten since basically the moment she arrived on scene. Would she be scared? Excited? Some wonderful 5-year-old combination of both? Would I buy her the right supplies? Would I forget to pack her lunch on the first day, thereby emotionally scarring her for life? (Speaking from personal experience on that one.) As a mom, there are so many thoughts that become your stream of consciousness as your first baby approaches real “big girl” school. I always knew I would be nervous, but I could never have imagined it would be because of a pandemic and the ways that our world has changed over the last several months, rather than the normal first-kid-starting-school reasons I was expecting.
For starters, I am so mad that my daughter is getting shortchanged on the back-to-school shopping experience. I remember this being such a big deal as a kid. My mom would take us to get new clothes, and my dad would take us for school supplies. It was something that we looked forward to at the end of each summer. It was like saying, “I know you’re sad that summer is over, but this Lisa Frank notebook will make you feel better.” And it did. I so badly wanted to take my girl shopping and watch her get excited over choosing what pencils she wanted, but instead I picked up all of her school supplies in the Target drive-through. Somehow it just wasn’t the same.
I was so nervous about my daughter not knowing anyone in her new class. She has spent the last five years with the same kids, how would she adjust? How would she do with making new friends? Now, on top of those legitimate fears, there is an extra layer of “How will she make new friends when they’re not allowed to play like 5-year olds?” How can you tell a child to stay six feet away when they want to play and imagine and run on the playground? I am sick at the thought that this “stay away” mentality will be permanently etched into their formative little brains. How will this mess them up as adults? The, “We’re in this together, but stay away,” mentality just doesn’t work for me, and I don’t want it to work for my daughter either. We need hugs, we need handshakes, we need human connection. I am so afraid that those things will never come back.
My daughter is so smart and yet I still worry about explaining to her that some kids will go to school in school, and some kids will go to school at home. Will she understand? Will she understand our choice for her of the “brick and mortar” option? Will she understand that she has to wear a mask? Will she ever know what it’s like to see someone’s face and be able to read lips — and more importantly, emotions — as most of us have been able to do our whole lives? I want her to start out her school life with no obstructions, no boundaries, no hindrances. There is enough their little minds have to wrap around, and while I know she will take it all in stride because she hasn’t known it any other way, I am sad for the normalcy that I know she is missing.
Note to self: Don’t forget to pack her lunch.