Today, we went to do a school visit.
My heart is heavy. I need to return to work, and to do that I need childcare. And yet, I hate what I’m maybe about to do.
We can’t go inside—we can only play outside and meet with the head teacher. He is wonderful with the kids, flexible, gentle, and has a great understanding of children, and a real wish to help all of them pass this tricky transition under difficult circumstances.
Normally, there would have been a couple of months of teddy bears picnics and time to come and play with and without parents, for as many sessions as you needed to feel comfortable. This way, when September came, everyone would feel safe and happy to start their school journey.
But now, we get one visit to look at the outside, and two kids who have been shielded and barely left their house for four months will have to go into a building they have never been in, with adults they have never met, and children they don’t know, and they’re expected to get on with their day. This makes my heart heavy.
We believe in honesty in our home, so I have been open and honest about the virus (hard not to), when both children are clinically vulnerable, and now the message is unclear and mixed. The virus is still here, so you can’t go visit grandparents or play with your friends, but you can go to school. Is it safe? I don’t know.
Then why do we have to do this thing, this new start and transition, at a time when we feel unsafe and unsure. You can’t tell me it’s safe, and we can’t do the things we enjoy.
Basically, we have to do it so I can go to work, pay our rent, buy our food, and not lose my job, which seems to be a hard reason when so much is riding on this being a safe transition to make.
I haven’t ruled out not registering and homeschooling, but as a working single parent, that’s a hard decision to make—a huge one. How am I supposed to juggle that, along with hospital appointments and the cost of paying a nanny rather than free school. But the other option is to start our journey in education feeling off, traumatised, upset, and being forced to be somewhere that feels scary and unsafe, not just because of the virus, but because we don’t know anyone and have not had any time to adapt and get to know each other before making that leap.
I will be honest: I hate this state of affairs, both as a mother and a therapist. It does not feel okay. We need more flexible starts, more time to do the normal transition stuff, the getting to know you, and settling in.
We need clearer messages from the government that are supported by science, not flying in the face of it. We need the information so we can make that decision for ourselves and our families and feel we have done so with informed consent. Instead, I feel my consent is barely there and certainly not informed.
I’m a “hit me with all the gory details” kinda woman. I want to know the worst and the best case, and all the bits in between. I want as much information as possible, so that I, not someone else, can ultimately make the decisions that impact our lives.
Right now, I feel I’m flying blind in a direction I have not chosen, with copilots I don’t trust. It’s not a nice feeling, and ultimately my children will pay the price.
So for now, I do what I can. I breathe. We all practice calming strategies at home, we research together, and learn about how awesome our immune system is. We read books about starting school and talk about what would be good about it, as well as what worries us. We talk to other children via Zoom about what school has been like for them.
We do what we can whilst remaining open to all the possibilities, but being aware that fear has a negative impact on our immune system. So we do all we can to be both honest and aware of how strong and resilient we are as a family.
I remind my children of this every single day: you are strong, you are kind, you are able to change your mind and try new things. Your body is amazing—it can and will fight illness, and if it can’t, we will go to the hospital and get the help we need.
Will it be enough? Who knows. Right now, it feels like a horrible lottery with high stakes. But sometimes, our only option is to take each day at a time and deal with whatever comes up.