Kindergarten, Interrupted: Collateral Damage from Covid-19

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When I sent my Youth, Extra Small off to Kindergarten, I didn’t forsee it ending like this. Kindergarten, interrupted. A virus has come, and the list of collateral damage is long. Businesses have closed. Incomes are lost. And schools went on “extended spring break” before ultimately closing for the year.

One night last week, after I tucked my daughter in bed, I caught a glimpse of her backpack. Hanging on the back of the chair where she unpacked it one unsuspecting Friday afternoon, it waits, open and expectant. Ready to accept the green homework folder and a mid-morning snack that will surely be placed inside come Monday morning. Dirty from its faithful service the first three quarters of the school year, it has been relieved of duty until further notice. And that is such a strange feeling.

With the first school closure extention from the governor, I could feel our collective shoulders tighten. How serious? How long? The questions starting rolling through my mind just like they did as I ironed her uniform for the first day of school. The uncertainty was back, but this time it was dressed as empty grocery shelves, distance learning, and a mask shortage in hospitals.

I could feel myself starting to spin a little bit. I’m an information gatherer and a classic over analyzer. I can easily become fixated on numbers and trends and predictions. I needed to take every thought captive, because changing what I was taking in was going to be key for how well our family weathered the storm.  

kindergarten interruptedI responded by controlling the controllables. I limited myself to one news peek a day. I grocery shopped online, adjusted to having my husband working from home (an extra sanctifying feat for us introverts), and made the most of our bonus week of spring break. And, in those things I found some silver linings to be grateful for. Thankful that I could find a grocery delivery slot and someone could bring my order to me. Thankful my husband was working from home, not just at home. Thankful that we only took a pay cut, rather than a job loss. Thankful for slower mornings not rushing off to school.

But it’s not just about Kindergarten. In the grand scheme of things, there is definitely more significant suffering happening in the world. But this feels like a loss too. We’re grieving the small things. Remember that working-from-home hubby of mine? His conference was cancelled, and selfishly, I’m sad that my long-awaited date with the lazy river was cancelled as a result. This was going to be my year to soak in some solitude while my daughter was finally in school. It isn’t the crisis, it’s collateral damage from the crisis. This isn’t what we envisioned. Feels like our first school experience was cut short, that she was cheated out of the opportunity to complete her first school year. Moms of highschool seniors are likely grieving their end of school experience as well. If you’re feeling that strange duality too – rolling with the punches while thinking it wasn’t supposed to be this way – you’re not alone. We’re all in this together

Our distance learning officially begins this week. We are so thankful for teachers and school administrators who go the extra mile making the sweetest lemondade out of life’s lemons. We know that Kindergarten may not look how we hoped it would, but this is uncharted territory for all of us and we are doing the best we can.

I would love to hear from you in the comments. What perspective have you gained during this trial? What advice can you give to others who might be struggling with what should have been?

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  1. I have a kindergartner also and I, too, have been grieving the abrupt end to his first year. He’s my third child, so I’ve been through the kindergarten year before and know how formative it is – from the schedules and routines to the phonics and friendships. I’m concerned that he didn’t get enough of that in this year, that with the loss of two and a half months of classroom learning, he’s not fully ready for first grade. I’m worried about what four months off of classroom learning might mean for the start of his first grade year. There’s already so much pressure on teachers, and now this…

    But the good I see is that we’re all in this together. This wasn’t a case of my son falling ill and missing two months of school. This wasn’t his school unexpectedly shutting its doors for financial reasons or unexpected loss of a building. This is an “every traditionally taught kindergartener, all over the country” scenario. Every school, every district, every state.

    I have faith. I have faith that we will come together to figure out how to fill in the gaps and how to mend the broken timeline. When we do resume classroom learning, everyone’s purpose and mission will have greater clarity and those of us living intentionally will live from a place of deep gratitude.

    Until then, I’ll have wins and losses. Days when my kindergartener will do three days of learning in one because he’s rocking it, and other days when I can’t even get him to put a pencil in his hand. But I’ll also get to pay close attention to his learning and focus more on where he’s struggling, or where he needs more challenge – something he wouldn’t get as readily in a classroom setting. I suspect that he, too, will develop an appreciation for ‘brick and mortar’ school and be that much more ready to resume when life gets back to a new normal.

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