Parenting 101: Co-Parenting with COVID-19: The backlash of back-to-school | Parenting 101

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Having only one child who just turned 8 years old late last year, I’ve only had the pleasure (is that the right word?) of two back-to-school experiences. Kindergarten doesn’t count since that was a first-time deal, and all new from the get-to.  I am by no means a back-to-school expert.

But I have some thoughts, and bear with me through this, I promise it will circle back.

Truthfully, unlike most parents, sending my son back to school was never an emotional thing for me. Even on his first day of kindergarten, when I was offered a Kleenex while walking into the gymnasium I refused and wondered if I was the one in the wrong as I noticed mothers around me sniffling, teary-eyed as their littles made instant new friends and “grew up” before their eyes.

I loved watching my son grow every day at school. Loved his excitement when I dropped him off. Loved the stories he shared when he got home and the new facts he was desperate to share. Loved seeing him turn into the little person he’s become today.

All that stopped over 60 days ago.

My son’s last day of grade 2 was on March 12, 2020. His school took that Friday off to discuss plans on how to move forward with the pandemic looming overhead and COVID-19 only just beginning is tirade over Quebec. The irony that all this started on a Friday the 13th is not lost on me …

In those first few weeks my social media was flooded with parents suddenly trapped at home with their kids making the very best of a tough situation. Trying to work while also teach and entertain a child (or multiple children, which just makes me feel anxious).

And we did it.

I’ve seen normally career-driven mothers step up to at-home schooling, while putting work on the back burner. Fathers who had never stepped into the kitchen before take on the task of learning how to bake with their children, and siblings normally at each other’s throats help each other learn how to Zoom their classmates or teach a new skill in the backyard. Families are spending more time together not only because they have to, but also because they want to and now they also have the time to. Bike rides and nature hikes, science experiments at home, and finally breaking out board games that have sat dusty on the shelves for years.

Honestly, parents are amazing (in case you’ve doubted yourself through any of this). We’ve all been incredible – to the best of our abilities. It makes me feel proud to know I can count myself amongst the parents who stepped up as best they could during a pandemic to ensure their children are happy, healthy, and stimulated.

A few weeks ago, we were told our off-island children (elementary level only) were going to be sent back to school.

Once again, my social media absolutely ignited with parental posts. And unlike the first time, it was less about lifting each other up and offering at-home craft ideas and dinner menus, and much more about judgement, criticisms and condescending comments.

School will not be the same, as we knew it. Not for the foreseeable future, and perhaps never again. Seating arrangements will be stricter to adhere to social distancing rules. Play times will be limited and strictly monitored. Interactions will be cut down and there will be many more rules to follow (for both students and teachers, as well as parents). And as parents, we are going to have to accept that. Our children need an education, and as much as we’d like to think we as parents have the ability to teach our children effectively, not all of us actually do.

So, hear me out for a second here.

Opening up the schools again is not a bad decision. And here’s why:

Consider the child at home with abusive parents. Consider the child at home with inattentive, perhaps addicted parents. Consider the child at home with the learning delay whose parents don’t understand his/her needs or deficits. Consider the child at home who lives in poverty and has no iPhone or laptop for FT calls to friends or family and who has been isolated for over two months from all other children. Consider the child at home whose parents have no extra money for teaching resources or even books. Consider the child whose parents are front-line workers. Consider the child whose parents need to go back to work or they’ll lose their home or be unable to put food on the table.

No parent should ever be judged for a decision they make for the betterment of their child. Ever. That should be a universal law. For every parent who says they are not sending their child back until September, another may say the opposite. And we have no right to judge that parent on why they may want to send their child back to school.

My son will not be returning to school until September. Here’s why:

We, the two households raising him, have the ability and the desire to make that decision for our son.

There should be no need to explain it further. Nor should anyone who says their child will be going back to school now have to explain further than that is their decision and it is best for their child.

I have every confidence that the school boards and government will not put our youth in danger. If they do, there will be a massive parental revolt, of that you can be sure. It might take a few weeks or even months to work out the kinks and get it all running smoothly, but all the teachers out there currently prepping to go back to school are going to have our children’s best interest and health in mind. Of that you can be sure, too.

Back-to-school may never be the same again, but my hope is that we as parents can once again come together to support one another instead of judging each other on perhaps one of the hardest decisions ever. We are in a new realm of pandemic living, and every day is a new day full of new facts and figures, and new decisions to be made.

I think we all forgot that not only are we to stay safe, but we’re also to be kind.

Miranda Lightstone has been a professional writer and editor for the past 15 years. Writing is, undoubtedly, her passion along with her son and of course her two cats, Biscuit and Hobbes and the resident rodent, Sir Hamsalot the hamster. Miranda lives in Vaudreuil with her menagerie, and a very patient and understanding boyfriend. 

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