If you were anything like me, a few months ago I was agonizing about what choice I would make when it came to sending my son to preschool or not. Both my husband and I work, so while we could balance who is home when, we knew our son wouldn’t get the attention he needed, the friend interactions he desired, and the outdoor experiences he craved. I know there are many of you out there who are doing so many versions of home school, virtual school, or even a hybrid of in person and virtual, and I want to tell you, you are doing wonderfully.
Life is never easy. It was never pre COVID and it is not post COVID, but life is beautiful and amazing...and confusing. While most of us agonized over the choice, we all made one. We are in the thick of it and I’m sure there is a happy medium of it going perfectly and terribly. I am sure some days it feels amazing and you are so happy for your choice, and other days you question why you made the choice you did. The thing is, no matter what choice you made, you made it with love.
Love is all you need
As parents, love is the best thing we can give to our children and to ourselves. We are quick to forgive our kids, friends, family and spouses when they have made a choice that may not have been the best. Yet we tend to be extremely hard on ourselves if our choice did not go the way we intended it to. I am here to remind you, and to remind me, it’s going to be ok. Your choice, no matter what it was, no matter how it is going, was a good one and you can make the best of it.
Why we love in person school
For us, school is the best choice we ever made for our son. He is enrolled in a Nature Preschool where they teach him and his classmates about being kind, safe, and respectful to all things and all people. They learn about bugs, the life cycle, mindfulness, and yoga. They learn to listen to their bodies and each other. They are given the freedom to just be and there is little agenda or schedules to follow. They are given the gift of hours of free play in nature. They have not come inside for shelter yet this year. They are learning that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. They are learning to dress and undress themselves and they are integrated in ages from 3-6yo in one class. And I love it.
Why I fear in person school
And yet, I do not work in an outdoor school myself, and most of my friends kids and my nieces and nephews are not outdoors either. They are indoors, wearing masks, and separated from their peers. They don't have PE and they are not eating lunch together. And I am scared. I am fearful every day because the masks and the social distancing are not COVID proof. Because I see my students getting COVID, their families getting it, and some family members are ending up in the hospital. No matter how perfectly we follow the guidelines, when we are indoors all day long, or even part days, and the cases are as high as they are, we are putting ourselves at risk. There have been COVID cases daily in nearly all schools I work in. Schools look different. There are no hugs or high fives. Teachers and students sit in front of computer screens because half of there class is attending virtually. There are few opportunities for true social interactions. Teacher and directors are doing their best, but schools are different. It is hard. And yet, sometimes it is still the best place for students to be. It is where they are still thriving and where they are learning and seeing their friends. It is not perfect, it is scary, and it can still be the best choice for you.
We can do hard things
There are days my son begs to stay home, to not put on his Oaki suit, or to just stay inside. If I am honest with myself, there are days I would want the same things he does and it is hard not to cave and take the day off to stay with him in the warmth and comfort of our home. To protect him from COVID. Yet at the same time, I know how wonderful this experience is for him. Especially on the hard days. He is learning resiliency and what it is like to do hard things with difficult emotions, and he is loved through them all. He is jumping in muddy puddles, chasing frogs, and getting dirty. At home he'd alone, inside most of the day, and life would look very different for him.
We can reframe how we think and what we do
Life is not easy, but would we want it to be? Would we be who we are today if we never faced challenges? Hard situations? Sad situations? And if we were never shown love through them? Who would we be if we couldn’t even face the choices in front of us and just crumbled to the ground instead? We are human. We are beautiful. We are strong and we are constantly learning every single day. If your choice isn’t going how you want it to, what is one thing you can do to make a change? What is one re-frame you can tell yourself? Can you say “I can do hard things” instead of “I can’t do this.” Can you stop to breathe before reacting next time your child needs your help in the middle of a Zoom call? Can you ask the person on the other line if you can call them back in one minute so you can help your child in a challenging moment feel your embrace and know that there will always be love in your home and your heart?
We have not lost all control
Eight months at home, socially distanced from those we love, away from co-workers and friends and family, and money spent on masks instead of nights out on the town, has been much longer than the original 2 week estimate. And yet one month at a school where COVID cases are confirmed daily can feel even worse and scarier than time spent at home when you know you have to keep sending your child to school through it all. There are no signs of school closures amidst the sky high COVID cases, and that is a scary reality in itself.
As my son says “nature is free and always open.” If you are feeling overwhelmed, dress yourself in layers and go for a walk or jump in the leaves. Lie in the leaves or in the grass, close your eyes and breathe. Smell the fresh air, feel the sun on your face and your little one’s embrace. Life is still beautiful and we can still control so many parts of it. Getting outside has calmed our son’s sensory intolerances, and I believe it can help improve the mental health of any child or adult. Nature has the perfect balance of sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations. Sure it would be amazing to spend hours outside each day like it has been recommended, but if you can’t get hours, can you get minutes? If you can go for a 5 minute walk after dinner, take those minutes to experience all of your senses. Feel the ground beneath your feet, the wind on your face. Smell the leaves the fresh air. Look at the trees and all of the colors this fall is bringing us. Listen to the leaves rustling as the wind blows.
You got this, we got this. Stay safe, stay healthy and remember to breathe. You made the right choice and you have not lost control.
Kathryn Kraft, MPT
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