If I could write this face-down, it would be symbolic. That’s because I am so far beyond cutesy stories about ways to have a magical summer and plan special activities for your kids.
That’s not what this column is – this is me, digging down deep, throwing you a couple of random life preservers in the hopes that we’ll all get through the next four-ish weeks.
I am exhausted. Truly. We are in parental damage control mode, where it’s all about just surviving the next month and getting to the finish line that is Sept. 8 – the first day of school.
It’s been almost five months straight of temporary layoffs and then getting rehired (both me and my husband rode that super fun roller coaster, luckily not at the same time), struggling to work from home full-time without any childcare, financial worries, bored and depressed children, agoraphobia, oh, and crippling anxiety about the virus that’s killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Forgive me if I’m not in the mood to invent a five-minute craft or round up my top 10 places to go for family fun. But I do have some ideas for you, I swear – a few suggestions for getting through these last long, nervous weeks until school starts.
I ate my anxiety nachos and sighed with relief as Nova Scotia’s Department of Education announced the plan for schools reopening in September.
One of the first things we heard from Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill was, blessedly, that “the best place for children is in the classroom”, and the plan is to return them there full-time, at least to start.
According to the province’s new back-to-school page, the plan for September includes in-class instruction, enhanced cleaning measures, greater emphasis on handwashing/sanitizing and physical distancing.
In some situations, mask use will be required for some grade levels and staff. School bus riders and drivers will be required to wear masks. School meals will be delivered to classrooms to prevent a crowd from gathering in the cafeteria, and no one will be using lockers.
Everything sounded perfectly reasonable to me. You want my eight-year-old to wear a mask on the bus? Sure! What kind? Should I send extras? Do you want me to sew a class set?
Sure, my 10-year-old son will be disappointed he won’t get to decorate a locker for the very first time, but he’ll deal with it.
Charge me triple for school supply fees. Ask me to buy hazmat suits for the class. Enlist me to be a volunteer bus monitor to make sure kids keep their masks on. Anything. Seriously, I will accommodate literally any request, as long as my kids can return to school and have a mostly normal life again.
“What time can we start screens in the morning?”
“What time do we have to get off screens?”
“If I get dressed, can I go back on screens?”
“We’re so bored. Can we have screens?”
“Alexa, make an announcement . . . ‘TIME TO GET OFF SCREENS!’”
I get especially twitchy when I feel our son and daughter are spending too much time on screens because “screen time” today is very different now than it was when they were younger.
Back in the day, they’d eat their Goldfish crackers together at their child-sized table and chairs, watching episodes of Bubble Guppies up on the living room TV. They were mostly zoned out, of course, but at least they were together – and my husband or I was nearby, half-listening. It felt OK.
But now they’re miles apart from each other even when they’re in the same room. They each have headphones clamped on their ears, connected to their own devices. Our 10-year-old son is either on his computer or his Nintendo Switch, and our eight-year-old daughter is either on the Chromebook or the tablet.