Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Different Kind of First Day (8.18)

Today Will starts eighth grade. EIGHTH GRADE. And Hallie - my BABY - starts sixth grade. Holy smokes...they DO grow up so fast. Time DOES go by so quickly.

This is without a doubt the strangest start to a school year the four Ferri have ever experienced, and that's staying something, given that we were heading back to school 15 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit and then three years ago during Hurricane Harvey. Both Will and Hallie will start the year virtually, though Will's model is a bit more of a hybrid given that he will attend cross country practice before school, first period athletics, and seventh period orchestra in person. 

We chose virtual learning - at least for the first six-week grading period - for two primary reasons. The first reason, of course, was safety. Tom and Will are both at slightly higher risk for adverse outcomes from infection, and we don't feel comfortable with the kids going back to school in person until we see 1) how well our district's safety protocols actually work and 2) how the influx of 50,000 college students impacts community spread. The second reason is that I - we - truly believe that choosing this route for our family makes school a safer place for families who can't make the same choice for theirs: families with a single parent, families with two parents who must both work full-time, families with parents who work for the school district, kids for whom home is not a safe or healthy place to be, and kids who rely on school for food and/or resources not otherwise available. 

Both Will and Hallie LOVE and miss in-person school. They both love and miss their larger friend groups. (Thankfully we were able to create small friend bubbles for both of them during the summer months, and we plan to continue spending time with these people this fall.) But they understand and support the decision we made as and for our family. They understand our family's risk "bank account", and how because we need to spend some of those funds on Tom's work and want to spend some of those funds on soccer and dance, we are choosing not to deplete the rest of our account on in-person school. They also understand how our choice to stay home benefits others, and I'm proud of them for letting us take that into account. 

To be clear, I'm not criticizing those who have chosen to send kids back to school. There are MANY factors to consider here, and parents have to make the decision that is right for them, their children, and their extended families. 

I'm generally a "glass half full" kind of person. Some days I'm even a "thankful to have a glass at all" kind of person. And I've worked incredibly hard throughout all of this to find the silver linings rather than focus on what we've missed, what we've lost, and what has changed. 

If comparison is the thief of joy, let me not compare my life today to my life of six months ago. Let me find joy in THIS life, and in THIS day, and to know it is enough. 

(I accidentally closed the site where I originally found this quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber, so I don't think I have it exactly right. You get the idea though.)

I have held fast and tight to this mantra, as if it were a life-preserver keeping me safely afloat as the tides of this pandemic ebb and flow. But today, I feel the waves swelling and my grip weakening. Today, on the first day of school, I just feel sad. 

Part of my anguish stems from acknowledging that this is Will's last year of middle school and high school looms just around the corner. I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I say that Will went into quarantine a boy and came out a man: his voice changed, he grew multiple inches, and he now has both an Adam's apple and a girlfriend. I only have four summers left with Will before he graduates from high school, and four is a shockingly small number when counting down. 

I'm also heartbroken - as we all are - about what our kids missed last year and will inevitably miss this year, and I think I just need to sit in that sadness for a day or two. 

But tomorrow, or Thursday, or Friday, I'll wake up and feel differently. I'll recite my mantra, and be able to find the joy. I'll be thankful for my glass and that it's half full. And I'll find all of those silver linings.

For those of you starting school this week, good luck. This first day of school might look different than every other first day of school we've experienced previously, but we can make it through. 

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