My youngest went back to in-person schooling on Monday, four days a week. Wednesdays are “asynchronous” days where kids are expected to do some homework, and it gives teachers time to work on lessons and strategies for doing the in-person/virtual combination. Most of the kids in our county are back in elementary school now, although my daughter said a few kids are still virtual through the end of the year. The older two will go back April 5.
Dropping my daughter off, I felt a crazy mix of emotions. I went through all the stages of grief between dropping her off and driving home. The renowned psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, first published the five stages of grief in 1969, and they still make sense. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That’s a lot of emotions for a fifteen minute drive.
The emotions started with a sense of denial that this was even real. In the car line, masked teachers opened car doors, sweet little kids popped out, wearing masks, marching into the building where they were going to use hand sanitizer before entering classrooms. Based on the communication from the school, the kids would be sitting apart, not sitting close to each other at lunch; they would be letting only one kid go through the lunch line at a time (which is why we are packing lunches), and everyone would be cleaning and hand sanitizing all day. It’s a scene I never, ever imagined would happen. It’s like the Twilight Zone.
After she went inside, and as I was staying out of the way of yellow buses, I briefly felt anger. I was just angry that COVID happened, that we’ve had to do school at home for a year, that the kids didn’t get a normal school year. That she wasn’t on a bus! (We decided that would be additional opportunity for exposure). But I didn’t stay angry for long because the tears came as I was rolling out of the school driveway.
The next stage is bargaining, which is somewhat like protesting or making promises to God if He could just change something. But bargaining can manifest as a feeling of helplessness. I felt like there was nothing I could do about any of this, and that’s an overwhelming feeling to have, especially when driving. This is the stage of loss where we dig up regrets and wonder if we should have acted differently with loved ones. I felt angst that even though we were together for a year of virtual schooling, I could have done better. We had talked about doing extra things, like making our own baking class and extra field trips, but we didn’t do it regularly. I should have read with her more. I should have been more patient with her (especially with her writing). I should have quizzed her more on math. I should have not started my nursing blog because that pulls me away from kids. All the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s slammed me like running into a school bus.
When the panic subsided, and I was driving passed cow farms, I just let myself feel sad and depressed, and I recognized that I missed her, but I knew she was getting back to where she needed to be, with friends, with teachers, and figuring life out without me around all the time.
By the time I was back home, I had accepted the new reality. I shifted to thinking about my hill workout and how I could pop into the grocery store afterward to pick up my corned beef and cabbage without too many people smelling me. Hey, it’s a valid concern.
The day flew by, and it wasn’t long before it was time to pick her up again. In the car, she animatedly talked about her school day, assuring me that everyone kept their masks on, informing me as to who she played with at recess, telling me about her art class, and about how hungry she was by lunchtime. And at that moment, I couldn’t stop smiling.