An Impossible Position for Parents

Exactly a week ago, I wrote about the impossible position our schools are in. How no matter what their decision will be, there will be a lot of people pissed at them. Now, it’s time to talk about the impossible position we as parents are in right now.

As parents, it’s our number 1 priority to ensure the safety of our kids. We are responsible for making hard decisions every day about what’s best for them. We plan out where to live to make sure they are in the best schools we can provide them. We carefully pick out a pediatrician so that they get the best care we can provide them. We make every decision to do what we think is best for our kids. The minute a decision is made that isn’t in the best interest of our kids, that’s a failure on our part. We’re not perfect as parents; we’re just trying to make it through the day without anyone dead, if possible, and with as much of our sanity intact that we can salvage.

This pandemic has divided parents as much as other hot topics such as vaccines, breastfeeding, babywearing, and staying home/going to work. The thing is that at our core, every parent has their own ideological beliefs that drive them. Some parents think that school is so important to kids that they are willing to just risk it. It’s no worse than the flu anyways, right? Some parents don’t have the option because the world is fundamentally stacked against the working people, so they have to send their kids to school out of financial necessity whether they believe it’s safe or not. Some parents are so stuck on the idea of remote learning because of fear of the virus entering into their carefully crafted bubble or just because they believe that masks are deadlier to kids than the coronavirus is.

Then, there are parents like me that are torn. Sort of. My oldest, as long as if there are sports and he can participate in them, will likely do remote learning either way. I just don’t understand how they expect to keep high schoolers maintained enough for proper contact tracing if a virus outbreak in the school happens. I just have too many questions that I feel aren’t addressed. Does he get in a cohort with kids who have the same exact courses as he has? Does he have to sacrifice classes, like his AP classes, because he’s in a cohort that doesn’t offer those classes? Sure, it’s been 18 years since I’ve been in high school, but high schoolers like mischief. They like rebellion. They probably won’t wear masks, or they’ll pull that super awesomely effective move where they wear the mask under their nose. They’ll huddle around each other and the schools won’t properly monitor that. They’ll pull down their mask and cough on someone screaming “Corona!!!” thinking it’s hilarious. Plus, he’s on an already overly crowded bus. Even in cohorts, how are they going to manage the safety of the kids on the bus? There are too many questions and I personally enjoy having a child who is alive and being alive myself that I just can’t risk it.

The issue is then my youngest child. He receives services in school. He’ll be 8 when school starts. He has anxiety attacks and a sensory disorder that they said he would’ve grown out of by now, but hasn’t. He requires movement breaks and his noise-cancelling headset when he gets anxious or the class is too loud. How is that going to work in the new COVID classroom? How can we expect that these kids are going to keep their distance or even keep their mask on? How can we expect that they will wash their hands regularly? What about when they eat together? They need their mask off to eat, so how does that happen safely with kids? But, he’s at an age where school is so important for his social and emotional development, an area where he does need help in.

I understand that sending him to school is a preferable choice. Even at the beginning, I mentioned that my plan was to go hybrid for my youngest and remote learning for my oldest. But after last week’s school council meeting, I don’t trust that they really have a viable plan to keep my kids safe. Even if they have a plan, I’m not sure I trust the higher ups to follow through with their end of the bargain. This puts us parents who have to make this choice in a really hard spot. What are we supposed to do? The default for me as a parent is to err on the side of caution, suck it up, and do my best. That means both will be in remote learning, even though I’m risking the mental health of my child (and myself, the way last year went). But that’s our difficult decision.

Parents always find their way when making these impossible choices. It’s not for us to judge others for their choice. This isn’t a time where you call the remote learning families “scared wusses that fall for media scare tactics and propaganda”. This isn’t a time to put down those pushing remote learning as “bored, stay at home mom keyboard warriors and what about us parents who actually work”. We’re all trying to do the best we can in a situation that we’ve never had to face. There’s no parenting book on how to raise a child during the pandemic. Even if they were, how useful are parenting books anyways? They just make you feel bad about yourself because nothing works for you. We are forging our own paths here and a little more support and a little less judgement is the right play here.

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