As the mid-way point of summer creeps up on us, I find myself floating between a mix of emotions. As a kid, I loved getting ready for a new school year. I loved organizing my backpack and picking out what to wear for the first day back. I was anxious, but I was excited.
When my own kids started school, I discovered that excitement all over again. But this year, a big part of me wants to forget about back-to-school all together.
Five months without school is a long time. I know my kids are excited to see their friends, but as a parent, my intuition is all over the place. They ask questions that I can't answer, and that's tough. But, even the people making the big decisions and directing our kids back to school have a hard time answering those questions.
Last week, I interviewed our local MLA regarding the province's back-to-school plan. Before the interview, I reviewed the announcement, and then I went to my in-house expert for a little advice - my nine-year-old son.
Kids are amazing and they absorb a lot. As parents, we don't shield our kids from major topics that affect them. Our kids want to know what's happening in the world. So, I asked my soon-to-be fifth grader what question he would ask someone about returning to school in September. He looked up at me from whatever YouTube video he was watching and said, "How big will my class be?"
It's an obvious question. Since March, we've been talking about how people can't gather in large groups. We've had to explain to our kids why they can't go to a movie theatre, and why they can't play the sports they love in the way they normally do. Sure, we've loosened up our grip this summer and have let them see friends. We've made trips to the beach. We've taken time to visit with family.
But, when our provincial government can't answer a basic question, yet has directed parents to get their kids ready for a return to class in a month, I have my hesitations. And yes, I did ask our MLA about class sizes. It's an important consideration since my older son's class had about 30 kids last year - double the recommended 15-person group that has been preached about for indoors spaces. Unfortunately, I didn't get a clear answer.
Over the last few months, while there have been growing pains, my kids have adjusted well to fewer trips to the city, and a lot more time at home. But, they do it for a simple reason - because they love their dad. Growing up with a parent that has health issues offers a unique perspective, and although it's tough, it has built a unique sense of empathy in my kids.
My kids aren't worried about getting sick. They're worried about making their dad sick because as someone who has a weakened immune system, he may have a harder time fighting it off.
While I still don't know how I feel about sending my kids back to school, I do think our provincial government missed the mark during last week's announcement. We are all learning how to live with the threat of COVID-19, and these decisions aren't easy. A clear plan isn't going to be easy. But, our kids - and our families - deserve something more.