These Kids Are Going Back to School

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These Kids Are Going Back to School “I’m sending these kids back to school if I have to send them in a full plague doctor suit complete with mask,” I commented. An acquaintance from high school was polling people on the internet; are we sending the kids to in person school or no? And this had become my response du jour to anyone who brought up the 2020 school year.

These kids were going back to school.

When times got wholly unprecedented in March, we stayed in. We lived life in some otherworldly juxtaposition of 2020, the Second World War, and a Victorian novel. We streamed Disney+, planted a victory garden, cooked constantly, rationed store trips, and took leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. While I deeply enjoyed the slower pace, about eight weeks in, the novelty of so much togetherness began to wear thin. I felt certain that come August the world would be normal again and there would be no question that school would fall neatly into the boxes of “normal.”

These kids were going back to school.

In early June, while I was still largely quarantined with my three children, my father entered hospice care. Two weeks after turning 58, and two years after we were initially told he only had months to live, he died 19 minutes before I made it to his house. I sat across the living room, watching as a stranger in blue scrubs said all the appropriate pleasantries and cleaned his body in preparation for the mortuary to come. I was inhaling and exhaling so deeply to fight tears and panic (a trick I had long mastered growing up as his daughter), the corners of the room began to turn black, while I hugged my knees to my chest so tightly I thought I may just collapse into myself and disappear. A day and a half later, emotionally raw and mentally drained, I picked up my kids from their dads and was once again the sole parent in quarantine. Only a few more weeks to go. I would have a break. I could think whole thoughts.

These kids were going back to school.

As the summer wore on and my patience grew ever more threadbare, we took socially distant trips and began to resume a normal-ish pandemic life. Schools announced plans and took them back again. Mothers watched live feeds of town halls and district briefings with the intensity once reserved for Grey’s Anatomy season finales. And yet, through it all, my stance was firm.

These kids were going back to school.

One day I blinked and seemingly the world’s longest spring break had ended. As I tied shoelaces and mask strings, sent in Clorox wipes that I would have had the Pope bless could I have tracked him down, it was happening.

These kids were going back to school. Except.

These kids that once loved school looked at me every afternoon after pick-up with hollow eyes. These kids who once loved their classrooms and their friends and the rowdy times had by all at recess and at cafeteria tables began having recurring nightmares that they brought Covid home to their baby brother with asthma and killed him as asymptomatic carriers.

As days turned to weeks, it became abundantly clear to me…these kids are not going back to (in person) school.

The irony of The Great School Pivot of 2020 isn’t lost on me. How many times as mothers have we said we’d always or we’d never and then found ourselves squarely on the other side of that remark? For me, it’s been too many times to count. School this year was no different than the time I said I’d only feed my first born organic fruits and veggies, only to find him eating French fries out of the floorboard of the car one day when he was about three. Throughout every major historical event here we’ve been, mamas. Mostly at home, holding it all together, pivoting plans and dodging proverbial punches right and left, doing the best we can to do the best we can for our families. Sacrificing where we could and bending so hard, we feared breaking at any moment to do the next right thing for our children. Being a mother at any time, let alone weird pandemic times, means more quick changes and more plans on the fly than I think any of us imagined. Yet here we are, “holding it in the road,” as the saying goes, and flexing to meet whatever upheaval we are given.

In 2021, at the start of the spring semester, we will be given the option to stay virtual or to re-enroll as in person students. Maybe they’ll go back. Maybe they’ll write papers on the dining room table while the baby feeds spaghetti to the dogs and I step outside to get a moment’s peace and regroup.

Either way, we’ve got this ladies. Either way, these kids are going back to school.

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Ashley
I'm a single mama to Maddox, Walker, and Finn as well as our three dogs Charlotte, Ladybird, and Nick Carraway. The boys and I live in the Colonial Village area of South Knoxville where I run a furniture restoration business, teach voice lessons at a non- profit school, and blog for Dollywood on their Insider panel. I love summer, British period dramas, baths, cheese, Charleston SC, Biltmore, travel, wine, and books. I'm Beatles obsessed, I sleep with too many pillows, I've been known to burst into song on the regular, and I'll never pass a stray animal or abandoned piece of furniture in the road that I won't put into my car. My house is a wreck, I don't limit screen time, we eat way too much convenience food, and I'm a top contender for the World's Okayest Mom.

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