Mourning May :: The Loss of Closure at the End of a School Year

What a crazy, unexpected and unprecedented few weeks this has been. If you had told any of us that we’d be homeschooling kids through the end of the school year just a few short months ago, I think most of us would have laughed. Maybe we would have cried and then laughed, but we certainly wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here we are. Half the time I find myself wondering, am I in a dream? Is this real?

I think I knew deep down on March 13th that it would be the last time my kids were physically at school during the 2019-2020 school year. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want it to be real. I very much love our teachers and schools, and truth be told, I have no desire to be personally leading, planning and orchestrating school over here. Back in March I simply couldn’t fathom that a school year would POOF! end abruptly with little warning. While a lot of us were outwardly hopeful about school re-opening in the beginning of quarantine, the moment that Louisiana announced its closure until April 30, the end of the school year as we knew it seemed inevitable.

Some of us were still in denial, many of us were praying, and even more of us were fa la la-ing, “I can’t hear you,” with wine in the backyard enjoying the glorious weather. If there has been one gift amidst the pandemic it has been the weather. We didn’t want to talk about not going back to school, and we certainly didn’t want to accept it. How in the world would we “work,” prepare 3 meals a day, not go broke buying snacks and sidewalk chalk, suddenly function as competent teachers and live to tell the tale? We just couldn’t believe that a school year would vaporize into the ether like that.

But it did.

While it may be necessary, it is still hard. It is still sad. It is still the loss of something really big. Even though it has yet to arrive, I am already mourning May. In years past, moms – myself included – moaned collectively about the calendar being jam-packed throughout May. We shared memes about May and its insanity and said “please make it end!” We raced from one event to the next, flowers and camera in tow, wondering how we could possibly squeeze one more event into the month of May. It was crazy, it was exhausting, and I think we are all guilty of complaining about it. But with its insanity, May also brought a celebratory time full of milestones and closure.

Mourning May means…

High school seniors who will not get their “lasts” at school. The loss of prom and ring dances and senior skip day. The very likely loss of a physical graduation at all.

Bright-eyed kindergartners, largely oblivious to the world’s problems, who will not walk across a stage for their paper diploma after singing a few songs off-tune.

Tiny ballerinas who will not dance in their first recital. Big ballerinas who will not dance in their last.

The loss of swim parties and kids jumping gleefully into a pool to rinse off the popsicle juice.

Empty auditoriums, empty gyms, empty sports fields, empty Churches.

Cancelled ceremonies for academic awards, cancelled recitals and cancelled school plays. The loss of proper recognition for students who worked hard all year.

First time preschool moms who will not get to enjoy muffins with Mom. Last time preschool moms who will not get to enjoy muffins with Mom.

Interrupted sports seasons and athletes who will never wear that jersey again.

Teachers who will not get a bouquet of flowers, handmade card and hug on the last day of school.

Delayed or very modified First Communions.

Educators dismantling bulletin boards where calendar math and the weather is stuck on March 13.

No trophies for tee-ball’s little sluggers. No late nights at the ballpark blowing off homework “because it’s May anyway.”

The complete loss of closure in any form.

Mourning May is really about mourning closure. Any success my own children have had in “homeschool” is 100% a direct result and reflection of their teachers. It is their teachers and coaches that have shaped them to this point, given them the foundation they need and set them up for success academically in this new normal. I am genuinely sad that we won’t have the chance to celebrate that in person this year.

So whatever May milestone you are mourning right now, know that you are not alone. It is not silly to be sad about your preschooler not getting a paper graduation hat. The loss of a sports season is indeed devastating. You are allowed to feel upset that your daughter’s piano recital won’t happen or that your son will not walk across the same stage as his father to commemorate the end of high school. The posed graduation pictures can be cheesy, but gosh darnit we wanted them, am I right?

It’s hard to look forward to summer when there is no official ceremony telling us it’s arrived.

It turns out that May is more than just a month on the calendar. It is a season of celebrating milestones and the transition from one grade to the next. It is a time to honor teachers, coaches and the places that are like second homes to our families. Whether your children are 4 or 14, May matters for so many reasons.

I, for one, promise never to complain about May again. Friends, hold me to it.

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Ashley is the Co-Owner of New Orleans Mom, Red Stick Mom and Lafayette Mom, now the largest network of parenting websites in South Louisiana. Proud graduates of the University of Virginia, she and her husband Blaise spent time in Tampa and Scottsdale prior to settling down back home in New Orleans, something they both said "would never happen." An avid runner, she'll try any workout at least once and is always up for sweating with friends. When she’s not shuttling her 3 very active kids to school, gymnastics or baseball, you can find her cheering for the Saints, trying new restaurants or spending time with family and friends. She's also not afraid to return mediocre books to the library before finishing them because life is too short for bad books. A native New Orleanian, Ashley loves exploring and discovering the beauty of South Louisiana through her growing children's eyes.

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