I remember the first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday instead of nearly 5000 days ago. My little girl, dressed in her white polo and khaki skort with black mary janes and a backpack almost too big for her, stood rocking back and forth while holding tightly onto my hand. We listened intently as the principal introduced us to the new school year. Soon it was time to hug my first born goodbye and head off to spend the day at work wondering and worrying about her. She cried when I tried to leave her with her teacher. She had met with the teacher the week before and toured the school, so the environment was not foreign to her. I think the amount of children combined with me leaving her sparked the tantrum.
As I dropped her off at the last first day of public school this past fall, no one could have foreseen how this school year would end. The start of my daughter’s senior year in high school also marked the start of my son’s high school journey. Now, seven months in, that journey has been cut short by a pandemic that is wreaking havoc in the lives of all earthly inhabitants. Some will say, but it’s just school and not that important. Those people are also the ones who made it through their senior milestones without impending doom lingering in the air. People have even gone so far as to label the class of 2020 as selfish and lacking perspective. I say to those people with all do respect…shut up. These children have worked all 13 years of public school. They have read, studied, played, learned, and earned the right to all that a traditional senior year has to offer. Instead of going to senior ball, they will be sheltering in place. Instead of the last games of spring sports, they will play video games online with friends. Instead of ending their senior year with the sunset ceremony, they will watch the sun go down on this school year from behind their masks. Instead of dawning a cap and gown to receive their diploma, they will check the mailbox to see if it came. Grad nite festivities in the Magic Kingdom have been reduced to high fives from family online. They have every right to be angry, depressed, and disappointed.
Everyday for the past month, I have watched my senior try to adjust to the new normal. She laughs a lot and attempts to ignore the reality of her situation. I can’t blame her. I would too. I keep waiting for that inner five year old in her to squeeze my hand, hide behind my back and cry.
I know I want to cry when I think about missing out on graduation parties and ceremonies. I want to cry for the uneventful way her public school experience ended. I want to cry when I think about how special this time of life is and the way it was yanked away from her.