In many ways it seems like only yesterday I had a newborn on my chest, wondering what the hell I was doing. In fact, it’s actually been four years and – although I still wonder what the hell I’m doing – my first-born starts primary school next month.
Over the years, I’ve had a few thoughts about how his first day of education might be marked. Obviously the obligatory pic by the front door in the slightly-too-big uniform featured. I mused that we’d have a family outing to see him off; me, his dad and younger brother all walking him to the classroom. I’d probably have a few tears of pride, love, relief…
But I can’t say I ever imagined I would be waving him off amid an actual pandemic. Covid has really turned life on its head.
The unseen threat
Back in March when it all kicked off I was so anxious. Our youngest son had been admitted to a High Dependency Unit twice in 2019 with pneumonia and breathing difficulties, so to hear there was a highly contagious virus causing terrible respiratory disease was alarming to say the least.
I know people have struggled with the idea of sending their children back to school. And I can understand it’s difficult to comprehend how, just a few months ago, we were told to limit how often we left the house and weren’t allowed to see anyone yet now all children are expected in school.
It’s hard to reconcile how this is acceptable when we still have an active virus in the community that has no cure, no vaccine and isn’t truly understood yet. But I’m so relieved the schools are opening because my child is so ready for it and, frankly, I’m ready for a break too.
I’m confident with the measures the school has put in place and feel reassured that the teachers all genuinely care about the pupils and will do everything they can to keep everyone safe and happy.
Best laid plans…
However, preparing for that big first day has been different to how I imagined.
- The grand plans for outings and holidays to make the most of the free time before entering the bind of formal education have been scaled back.
- The trip to Clark’s for school shoes was done in as socially distant way as possible while wearing a mask and being sure to sanitise our hands regularly.
- The usual visit to the school to hear from the teachers and headmaster about what my little darling would be up to was cancelled and has been replaced with a doorstep visit from his teacher the day before he starts.
- Only one parent will be able to drop him off at the school gate and not go into the classroom to help him find his peg and hang up his bag.
I guess in many ways my son is lucky that he’s not going to know any different. I can’t begin to understand how difficult it must be for children going back to a school that is the same but different in so many ways.
We’re also fortunate that he attended the pre-school for six months before lockdown so is familiar with the school grounds. Especially as, once certain age groups were allowed back in June, the entire school was used to facilitate the learning bubbles but there are plenty of new starters who won’t have this advantage.
Into the unknown
I sympathise with parents who haven’t even been able to visit their child’s school. Sending your child off to school for the first time is a huge milestone in the parenting journey. Trusting your child with people you don’t know and watching them go off without you where they will be influenced by others is a big deal. My friend’s son hasn’t even been to the school. She has to hand him over at the gate to a teacher she hasn’t met who will take him to a building he’s never been in.
The situation makes me sad.
Clearly I know Covid has caused far greater upset to so many families and we are very fortunate not to have been sick or lost anyone but I can’t help feeling robbed of an experience. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.
But I do know that us mums are strong, and we adapt to any situation thrown our way. Our new starters will not know a different way of beginning school and we’ll wave them off cheerily giving them the confidence they need to tackle the next stage of their development.