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.
Parents have always joked about chauffeuring their kids around town to various after-school activities, but now I feel like a chauffeur who’s been demoted.
Now that our son’s taekwondo classes and our daughter’s dance classes have started up again, I’m doing more driving than ever — except parents aren’t allowed to watch anything (or even go inside) because of COVID-19 precautions.
I don’t see what they kids are working on. I don’t get to chat with the other parents. I don’t get sneak peeks of any new skills or routines. I’m just an Uber driver, except no one tips me … or pays me at all.
I’m spending a lot of time driving around town, especially since I will often drop somebody off, drive home, wait around, drive back to get them and drive us all back home. It’s pretty strange, since I have done practically no driving at all since March.
But if I’m being totally honest, being restricted to driving — not watching — hasn’t been that bad …
As much as our family was looking forward to the new school year — after six long, uncertain months stuck at home — I still wasn’t sure how it would go.
I knew there would be a lot of changes, especially for our son (who was starting at a new school and entering junior high at a younger age than we’d ever expected). I wondered if they’d adjust to this very different school year, with its many regulations. I remained optimistic, but I was still curious as to how it would all play out.