Judy Garland’s version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has never been so accurate:
“Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight …
“Next year, all our troubles will be miles away …
“… Someday soon, we all will be together / If the fates allow / Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow …”
Our whole lives, we’ve been told the holidays aren’t about presents – they’re about spending time with the people you love. Now, families and friends are exactly what’s going to be taken away for many.
It’s hard not to be a little (or a lot) depressed, especially during a season where you’re supposed to feel merry and bright.
As cases creep up in Nova Scotia, so does my sense of dread.
I know it isn’t reasonable to expect zero COVID-19 cases across the province, but the announcement of each new case feels like a single nail in the boards threatening to seal our front doors shut.
“Let’s just get through Christmas,” some say, as if a province-wide shutdown in January is all but guaranteed. I want to scream when people tell me they’re not only expecting another shutdown but actually — get this — looking forward to one!
My husband and I spent weeks anticipating drastic layoffs in our hard-hit industries, and we both went through temporary layoffs — all while keeping the kids from finding out. Our finances took a hit since my freelance income evaporated overnight. Homeschooling was ugly across the board, especially when trying to do my own work at the same time. Someone called the police on our children for playing in their own yard with our next-door neighbours “not a full six feet apart.” My anxiety was through the roof. It was a miserable season for all of us.
It all stemmed from school recess — and since everything in our lives has been affected by COVID-19, it’s no surprise that even childhood friendships have been shaken up.
Our daughter attends a large elementary school with hundreds of students. In previous years, they spent their recesses and lunch hours roaming around the school grounds with at least two entire grades. The only limitation was that they had to choose if they were going “out front” (playground, basketball court, pavement area, etc.) or “out back” (larger playground, field, sliding hill, etc.)
Now, in the times of COVID-19, outdoor play is very different. The kids must stay in their class cohorts, and each cohort is assigned a different “zone.” They can’t leave their zone or mix with other classes. Our son has even described a “class bin” of outdoor balls, so they can play without getting contaminated by another class’s germs. It’s smart, and it’s working.
Neither of my kids mind the change, thankfully. They each have friends in their class, and they don’t seem to care that they’re told where to play. They each have a favourite outdoor zone, and that’s it — end of story.
The problem is that it’s not working for everybody.
Having a very limited number of children in a zone — just the students in their own class — means not everyone has a good chance of scoring a playmate for their outdoor time.
Sometimes, kids don’t have their good friends in their class. They might spot them across the soccer field, but they can’t go to them because they’re not in the same cohort.
Sometimes, kids are struggling with their fellow classmates. They’ve just spent hours with them, and now they can’t even escape them on their “break.” (Imagine taking every coffee break with a colleague who bugged you!)
Sometimes, kids are shy, and it takes a lot of nerve for them to ask a classmate if they can join them. If they get shot down, they’re often hurt and too embarrassed to ask anyone else. They can’t go find a friend in another class, and they can’t even run off to another part of the playground. They’re stuck.