Everyone has big feelings about school starting in the fall. Kids. Parents. Teachers.
Should it start online? In person? A hybrid?
What about the spring? What about sports? What about after school activities? What about learning? What about socialization? What about parents? What about work? The “what about”s get flung all over the place, and almost to a person we are all feeling like the rug of life has been pulled out from under us. These are tough things, and we have to face and talk about tough things.
We can all agree on this though – kids have been out of everything for too long.
Every single one of us knows that this is the case.. There is a lot of anger and fear, but honest engagement about it is not easy to come by. The rational dialogue has gotten lost in the swirl of emotions. That’s something we understand – we are emotional too. Exploring and working it out, this is the way to stay grounded.
What is truly controversial is the question of who is responsible for getting our kids back on track now that they have been out of everything for too long. That’s a tough question with a very simple answer.
Let’s be blunt – school in the fall is not going to happen, at least not here in California, and it looks in most parts of the US neither. Not in any way that looks like any kind of school that we can imagine. It will be such a fundamental change in our culture that I know we cannot really imagine it. Whether it is online or in some hybrid form, it is going to be incredibly difficult.
When all of this started last spring, almost no one thought too far into the future. Most of us tacitly assumed that things would be back to normal in a few weeks, maybe in a couple of months, and for sure by fall. Maybe this was wishful thinking. Maybe this was survival mode. Maybe this was the total incomprehensibility of the situation.
Six months ago, it seemed impossible that the Olympics would not go on this summer. It’s the Olympics! They are a constant in our world, one of the immovable cycles that we can count on without fail. They should be starting now! Surreal is not an accurate word for it.
Now it seems almost impossible that school will start in a few weeks. Definitely not the way that we know school anyway. The cycle of the school year is not unlike the cycle of the Olympics, only it is much more personal. Kids need stability. They need those cycles. We have trained them to count on the turning of the seasons and the rise and fall of the school year. It’s more than tradition – it’s the rhythm of our lives.
The possibility of school not coming back in person in the autumn, well it’s a blow that none of us really knows how to process. We can see it in the clamoring of school teachers and the virulent words that are going around online. Over zoom calls and text messages, kitchen tables and through masks across sidewalks, people are trying to figure out what this will all mean for us and for our kids. Right now. In a year. In five years. Will this ever be over? The longer it goes, the harder it is to remember what normal was before. We cannot lose that though! Not the methods of our cycles, but the meaning behind them. The methods will necessarily be different. The core values underneath must be the same.
We are feeling the push of this time, the uncertainty that none of us could have ever imagined.
The world is going to keep on turning, and we are turning with it. The cycles are still going. They look different, but they are still there. It is so important that we recognize this, because it is the key to resilience in this situation. There can be stability in embracing the change. It’s up to us as parents to find it.
Self discipline minimizes risk
If schools go back in person, there will be risk. Real risk.
Anyone who has tried to wrangle a group full of teenagers or a house full of elementary aged kids at a birthday party knows that maintaining social distance through behavior is impossible in a large group of young people. The school environment is unwieldy on a larger scale. In a school with hundreds of kids, even at half or a third of capacity, when most of the kids don’t have a baseline of self discipline, it’s a recipe for risk.
Self discipline is one of the keys here. We see it everywhere right now in why this virus is seeming unstoppable. If adults are challenged to stay within structures, we can be absolutely certain that kids are having an even harder time. Sport as a whole is about learning to push yourself to conform to a set of rules in order to achieve a desired goal. It’s what we idealize about Olympians. We marvel at their ability to shape their natural talents.
Kids should still be active
Here’s another place we are going to be blunt – kids should still be active. Fencers should still be fencing.
While we as parents are stuck between the rock and the hard place, we do still have autonomy and options. We still can structure the lives of our kids in meaningful ways that will promote stability and move them forward. Not in the same ways that they would if there weren’t a pandemic, but we must hold on to the pieces of stability where we can. It makes things easier on everyone.
Sport and fencing are such activities that help the kids to keep some sort of normalcy. Though the big arcs of the cycles have changed, the routine of training is still valuable. In fact, it’s imperative right now. Staying active in sports now is a boost for when school does go back with the heavy online component that is going to be part of things in the fall everywhere.
Let’s be blunt again. The long lasting effects of this time will come through changed habits.
- Laziness vs. physical activity
- Social disconnection vs. social engagement
- Poor eating habits vs. healthy eating habits
- Apathetic vs enthusiastic
- Checking out of life vs. checking in
We can choose. Yes, it feels like we don’t have choices right now. Daily routines, that rhythm that we need, it’s all changed. We have to push back against that because it will only be harder later if we don’t do it now.
Make no mistake: it is the job of parents to keep our kids grounded in normalcy. It is not the job of the school to make this happen. There is a wider arc here than just the school, and it’s one that everyone plays a part in. We, parents, stopped them from meeting in person with their friends, from having group hangouts, sleepovers, birthday parties, games, playgrounds, sporting events, and forcing everything to move virtually. Now we are somehow going to expect them to be engaged with school work every day from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon. We all know that’s not realistic, nor is it fair to the kids. Though it may seem like they are occupied with someone else, during that school time they are now completely alone. It was once a core of social interaction for children, and now it’s only a reminder of the loss of that pivotal social support. The school has done their job, whatever the level of quality, by delivering some kind of curriculum to your kids. Now it is up to you to develop the other aspects of their growth.
- Healthy body
- Social/emotional health
Parents, you are the only people they likely see in the flesh. For many months it’s been this way, and it’s only going to continue into the foreseeable future. Most of us had built a village to raise our children without even realizing it. Now we are faced with having to strain and pull and yank that all together. It feels overwhelming and isolating, but we must do it.
If we allow life to stop altogether, it will be like climbing a mountain to get back into it. It is natural and understandable that things slowed or stopped when all of this started. A lot of us (in hindsight naively) assumed that it would pass in a few weeks and we’d be back to going to schools and in our case training in fencing clubs. Kids did keep going with online school and some fencers kept going with online training. People learned to make things work in any way they could. Some athletes who couldn’t train in their sport focused on cross training, building strength and cardio. We have to keep modifying, but now it is time for fencers and everyone to work back to our explicit passions. Whatever you did before, now is the time to dig in and get training. Online classes and carefully socially distanced lessons are our new normal. For those who train in sport, it is now not just about competition, it’s about sanity and preserving who you are in the world that has changed. The end goal is not to win a medal at the Olympics. The end goal is self improvement. That can happen with the kids at home, and you are not alone in getting there!
Whether it is totally online with a class or private lesson structure, continuing to develop those skills that live in the body is a bedrock for kids. Normalcy is our responsibility as parents. It is the bedrock of what we build our lives upon. It is real and important. In whatever capacity feels safe to you and for your children, engaging in those passions will help you to make this time easier. Kids being at home is the new normal for many of us. It’s a massive change. It’s a tough change. We have to face it, for what is likely to be a long time.
Image Credit: CCO Public Domain