The last time my children stepped inside of a classroom strictly for academic purposes was back on Friday, March 6, 2020. We were geared up for an exciting but restful Spring Break for my nearly teen boys. By the end of the week, the country was in a type of chaos my generation has never known.
“This year of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught our family resilience that we didn’t know we had.”
Spring Break was over and we were thrown into this new environment of virtual learning. A predictable and harried life of getting up and going to school and work gave way to questions like, “What’s the password and log-in code for class?” My diligence and hard work to organize and guide my children into a new way of learning, though difficult, turned out to be one of the easier points to navigate through all this uncertainty.
The most formidable challenge has been watching my oldest son struggle with loneliness during this time. He has always been the kind of child who likes to be in the middle of the action. Even in elementary school, he was the kid who joined every club and organization available to a fourth grader.
When it became clear we all had to shelter-in-place, things were easy for him at first. He had lots of communication with friends through email and texts. As an exuberant child, transitioning into a world of isolation from peers became challenging for him much more than it did for my youngest, introverted son.
The late spring and summer approached and restrictions were eased, yet we still were not around who we knew as our tribe. We attended church virtually and school was no longer in session. With masks in tow, we had limited visits to their grandparents that took place in the driveway. Though there was much uncertainty about what school would look like in the Fall, our school district proposed multiple learning options for families in the new school year. As people made decisions, it became clear that most of my children’s friends would return to school.
Mental & Physical Health
Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to continue virtual learning mainly due to chronic health issues that I and others we would come in contact with experience. We felt that keeping our children home was the best course of action.
“These changes left my oldest son feeling even more isolated because he no longer saw friends every day.”
The learning option we chose allowed our kids to do academic work from home but also gave them the ability to go to campus for Percussion class. My boys were very happy with daily interaction with peers when they went to class for Band. They saw people they had not seen since March 6th. Things were going well from a social perspective for them.
This ideal situation for our family changed drastically after the first quarter. Parents had to choose between attending school virtually or going back to campus for the second quarter. Many chose to do so; we did not. With an influx of in-person students returning to campus, my boys were assigned to new teachers. The most jolting change for them came when daily attendance in Percussion class was slashed from five days a week down to two.
These changes left my oldest son feeling even more isolated because he no longer saw friends every day. During the second quarter, he became more distracted and spent time emailing friends during class time when he should have been doing school work. It became an unwelcome parenting battle. It also became clear very quickly that he was missing social interaction with friends.
My husband and I started second-guessing if we made the right decision. We didn’t want our child hurting mentally even though we thought we were protecting him and ourselves physically. We knew we had to take action. We had conversations with him about how to fill the void of missed social interaction. We stressed the temporary nature of this school year and emphasized the hope for improvement for the next year. Even at his young age, he understood and appreciated this counsel. It was still not easy. We increased family activity and made sure to spend time outdoors in the fresh air which seemed to help.
A Year of Resilience
Ironically, the thing that was torn from him and made him feel alone is now his salvation. When the 3rd quarter of school arrived, the percussion director announced participation in several weekend competitions throughout the area. Participation was not mandatory but was highly encouraged.
“WE DIDN’T WANT OUR CHILD HURTING MENTALLY EVEN THOUGH WE THOUGHT WE WERE PROTECTING HIM AND OURSELVES PHYSICALLY.”
We were at a crossroads again. Do we skip participation due to concerns regarding COVID, or do we let them go to give them the social connection they have longed to gain? We decided based on many assurances that we would proceed.
At this time, we are preparing to wrap up with the final performance for the season. Their participation has breathed life into our home and more importantly, it has given my son a spark and a sense of pride that I cannot explain each time competition is complete. I could not be happier that we made this decision.
In retrospect, I cannot say that we would have chosen a different path. This year of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught our family resilience that we didn’t know we had. When my son finally reunites with his friends and to the world-at-large, I have no doubt he will have an appreciation for them that he didn’t know he should. I am thankful for the opportunity to help guide him to that realization.
Kendra Furlough is a freelance writer and avid gluten-free foodie. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of two sons entering the teen years. She loves celebrating holidays and joyously feeds her obsession with buying handcrafted soaps from Whole Foods and farmer’s markets.★