I was listening to the radio the other day as I was driving away from dropping off my first grader (he’s 6) and my third grader (he’s 8) and there was a news report about how parents believe kiddos are missing out on some essential experiences at school in light of the pandemic and safety measures. Many of you know that we live in Miami-Dade county in Florida, where the school board has directly defied the governor’s executive order and faces the possibility of sanctions. Our mask mandate only allows a parent to opt out with a doctor’s note and I’m not aware of anyone who has such a note.
Anyway, in light of the fact that we’ve been in the midst of a surge of positive covid cases likely due to the delta variant and I’ve been immunocompromised for over four (4) years, we’re being super careful. We’ve had to take a step back in the last two months or so with activity outside our home and small bubble. Our household has many and varied risk factors in addition to my lack of an immune system and we take as many precautions as possible.
But back to the kiddos. When I heard the news report that included comments from parents about kiddos missing something essential due to the safety measures under discussion right now, it made me pause. I think it is good to always be evaluating decisions or positions and to listen to those with another point of view. My husband and I both try to make decisions logically and based on facts rather than emotion, which can be difficult in our emotionally charged times.
It seems to me that most of the arguments/positions against masking and social distancing at school has to do with affirming parental decision-making and ensuring access to social interaction for children. There do seem to be some academic concerns, but I know that we won’t know the impact academically for some time. Academically, my kiddos aren’t suffering any significant deficits and I don’t anticipate any, although we have sought out supplemental aids like tutoring to ensure that our 1st grader is where he should be. Socially, though, things are different from where they were pre-pandemic. Play dates in person, for example, are just not a reasonable possibility for my boys. They aren’t playing on any teams right now or involved with any clubs outside of school.
So, are they missing something? Will we look back on this time and be sad about what they’ve missed? Will we see damage that kiddos won’t recover from? But are these even fair questions?
As many of you know, I was homeschooled until I entered public high school at thirteen (13). Because I didn’t have the same public school experiences in elementary and middle school, a lot of the arguments or laments about what hasn’t happened for kiddos in lower schools during the pandemic don’t resonate with me as much since I didn’t have those experiences to begin with and haven’t suffered for the lack. Elliot was educated outside of the US until the end of middle school and his experiences are also different from what our children are experiencing. We often look at each other quite bemused over what our children experience.
I wonder …
How much will it really matter for most of our kids if they are wearing masks?
How much will it really matter for most of our kids if they need to be limited in how close they are to other people?
How much will it really matter for most of our kids if they need to have structured times of washing their hands or helping to sanitize the world around them?
How much will it really matter for most of our kids if they don’t play group sports for a bit?
I’m not being facetious here, I’m really wondering how much these temporary measures really will cause lasting damage or impact on most of the kiddos. I’m not talking about those special needs kiddos who need routine to thrive or those who suffer from asthma and need different accommodations, I’m talking about the vast majority of children who are resilient, who adjust to so much with ease, who don’t struggle for long with things that change, even dramatic changes.
I’m the last person to argue that we should simply blindly follow rules and anyone who interferes with my ability to make decisions for my children are met with some pretty stubborn resistance since that’s my responsibility. But when I’m asked to change my behavior or the behavior of my family for the public good that isn’t so onerous that it causes issues or difficulty, then I see the value in that because that’s the price of living in community with others. I see the value in teaching my kiddos that we do make adjustments for the good of others; we wear masks to protect our friends is the message that our children received in school last year.
My kids assimilated this message.
They haven’t struggled with the concept that we wear masks and we wash our hands and we stand back from people because that protects others. This message was reinforced at home and at school last year. Despite the fact that we’re in Florida (it’s pretty darn hot all the time) and my kids are full of energy and the sweat is often dripping down their faces, they wear their masks.
And so, I’m still left with this question — what issues will they really face after this season of social distancing and masking and limiting activities that put them and others in danger? I just think we have no idea and to blindly assert that anyone knows the outcome (good, bad or indifferent) is a premature assumption.
What do you think?