OPINION: Chance to get back in school routine outweighs parental Covid-19 worries
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September means a return to school and a slight worry for all mums and dads, says parenting writer Ruth Davies
The end of the longest summer holiday ever (seven weeks instead of six – so 2020) is in sight and after a staggering 24 weeks off school for kids it’s back to the classroom they go.
Am I happy? Hmm, yes and no.
I love them being off school, live for the holidays and very often weep when they return but this time it’s a little bit different.
I’ll still miss them and feel a sense of bereft at the thought of them not being with me but in the same breath, this time, I’m happy and relieved that they get to see their friends and, more importantly, have some proper teaching!
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You’d think with a teacher daddy my children might have received a better standard of home schooling than most but, contrary to popular belief, teachers worked hard during lockdown and as our teacher in the family was still training he had little time to actually sit at the table and help me to help them.
They mostly learned mummy can shout in a way they never thought possible. They learned that mummy doesn’t know half as much as them when it comes to maths. They also learned exactly how to push my buttons and make me lose the plot. I know it’s preferable to have children who behave for other people saving the monkey for home rather than the other way around but in these moments it was no solace knowing their teachers think they’re little angels while I got to meet the devil himself, sat under the table, shouting “I’m not doing it and you can’t make me!”
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The schooling, the being in a proper educational environment… Oh wow, I’m so happy they get to have that again and for my middle son in particular being with his friends is quite literally going to change his life. He’s been desperate to see them – so much so I can feel the excitement bubbling inside him and can’t help but feel that energy and want it for him too.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s spent lockdown living his best life, but at the age of eight he was never able to communicate with friends in the same way his big sister could. She’s nearly 11, has a phone and they text, WhatsApp, follow each other on TikTok and, now that measures are more relaxed, she has been able to meet her best friend at the park in our village without an adult to supervise her. For Jimmy this isn’t possible. Not only is he completely irresponsible and couldn’t be trusted with a phone – he’d leave it somewhere - but he looks at the sky most of the time when we walk about. He follows me and has no idea where we’re going while he searches his surrounds for birds and cloud formations and chats about Star Wars, Fortnite or Minecraft. He doesn’t take in roads or pay attention and though our park is a mere five minute walk from home he would struggle to know which way to go to get there.
Letting him meet friends alone has been out of the question as it would be for any eight year old but because of this he has missed out. We have allowed him a heavily monitored Fortnite account and gifted him more VBucks to spend on it than is seemly just to keep him in touch but it’s not been enough. He needs to see real people and thank goodness here it comes!
So with “Back to school” for my big two there’s all this to look forward to while the littlest member of our gang also gets to go back to clubs, play groups and Gymboree – beyond exciting not just for him but for me too yet at the same time I’m frightened of what the new normal will bring.
Will they be safe? This is my question and in a country where we live such a privileged existence I’ve never had to consider this when sending them to school before.
Will they be more open to picking up not just coronavirus but all the other germs they’ve been protected from for six months? I wonder are we looking down the barrel of a winter full of sick bugs and colds as well as the dreaded virus - we might not be so lucky to avoid it this time and I just don’t want my mum to get it because she is over 70.
It’s all a worry, a big thing and can be totally consuming. Then, isn’t this worrying simply parenting in general? I guess the key is to be pragmatic, not take unnecessary risks and be as careful as we know how to be. Us mums and dads are built to protect and find solutions - we are used to this being our default mode so that, at least, is going to bring normality to the situation – come on guys, we can do this, it’s in the parenting job description.
Ruth has a parenting blog www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk