The Best Worst Choice: Sending our Daughter Back to School

The Best Worst Choice: Sending our Daughter Back to School

We all make the best decisions we can for our children.  COVID taught us that what is right for one family isn’t right for another.

After the Longest Spring Break in History, we were so excited about the idea of Big going back to school.  We opted for an online format for the first semester as we have some high-risk members of our extended family we want to protect.  After the derecho, having to move to a rental, and finally beginning school in September, my fourth-grader was so excited to have some sense of normalcy, even if school was online.

September 21st came and Big was up early as she usually is on the first day of school.  She dressed, had me curl her hair, and logged on.

Then the tears began.

We were working off a hotspot (we didn’t have internet in our rental yet) and her connection was interrupted.  In one moment she went from excited to devastated.  I thought that she likely was so full of emotion and expectation and well….stuff happens.  It would be better tomorrow.

But it wasn’t.

Neither was the next day.  Or the day after that.  For four long months, Big cried nearly every day because she hated her online setup.  Now, dad had built her a desk and all sorts of stuff to support her learning.  Her teacher was experienced but struggled with the online setting and tended to yell.  Big had every support and resource in the world at her disposal. Even her best friends were online learners!

But she was still miserable.  My husband and I sat across from each other with this bewildered, four-month-long-traumatized kid and realized the actual right choice for her and what we thought was the right choice for her were two very different things.

We discussed with her online teacher, her principal, her guidance counselor, and Big her need to return to school in person after winter break.  We knew the risks; we knew it was not the most popular choice in our circle, but we had to do what was best for her.

We prepared her for wearing a mask all day long, for social distancing, a “boy teacher”, and for the changes to the school she had attended for the past 6 years.

Then the actual day arrived.

We prayed before she got out of the car; she was nervous but excited.  I was a general wreck the whole day, not knowing if she would get in the car in tears or with satisfaction.  I watched for her outside school.  I spied her in the crosswalk.  She got into the van and answered the question I had asked her every day since she was in preschool: “How was your day?”

I held my breath.

“Mama.  It was awesome.”  I immediately let out a squeal, a big sigh, and a few tears.  I saw a light in Big’s eyes that I hadn’t seen in 10 long months.  She told me all the things just as fast as they could leave her little mouth. She was herself again, like a cloak of sadness had fallen off of her and her bright personality shone once more.  It was obvious that we had made the right choice for our girl.  With each passing day, more and more of Big’s personality returned, she enjoyed school and she flourished.  She made up her Covid learning loss in a matter of weeks.

She was my girl again.

Now, her best friend is thriving in all-virtual learning.  Her family made the best decision for her and it works for them.  I love that we are acknowledging that, especially in the time of COVID, there are no right choices– just the least-wrong ones.  What may work for one child at one time, may not work for another.  This was an important lesson for me to learn as a mom.

For now, we are enjoying having our girl back to her old self.  We are relishing in how she is flourishing once again.

And we are still reminding her to brush her dang teeth.  🙂

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