After being home for 2 months and some (you know, COVID), finally, the last day of school came for both my kids (first grader and kindergarten). We were in some sort of “routine” and as any other year, we were all getting ready to get a break from school.
Up until now, we had had a few meltdowns from my little girl because she missed her friends and teacher, but from my son (he is more of a homebody) not much more than a few cranky days here and there. It was more about boredom and lack of outside stimulus, or so we thought.
The last day my son got his video call with one of his teachers, she was saying her goodbyes and, after a quick exchange, I asked (as a formality) if he was ready to move on to Second Grade. She cheerfully said yes! And that is when hell broke loose.
He started crying inconsolably and run away to look for comfort with his dad. I could not really understand what was happening until he came back and BEGGED me to keep him in first grade for a little longer. “I need more time with my teacher, in my classroom, please let me stay a little longer.”
He cried on and off for days. He would be watching TV and suddenly break down to cry. He had not done much grieving up until now, and it hit him like a bag of bricks. His time with his teachers and classmates was cut short with no chance for goodbyes.
A week later, I started noticing that he would get very anxious if he was not close to me or my husband, especially outside the house. He would casually just ask to be with me or just hang out at ear distance if we’re at someone else’s house.
Later that week, our sitter came to help keep them busy for a few hours while my husband and I worked, and when the time for a bike ride came, he lost it. He cried and begged me not to take him away from me and that he did not need to go out without us. What was that?!
We signed up for Summer Camp a few months before this pandemic, and even though I decided to wait a couple of weeks before starting, I was still reluctant of sending them off. I was bouncing back and forth with the fear of exposing them and the fear of becoming paranoid and not letting them go out ever again.
After speaking with a former teacher of his, she helped me realize that this sudden change in our lives took a toll on him (on everyone’s, really). Think about it, one day they come back from school and are told no more school, no more friends, not even trips to the store. From now on, the four of us stay together all day, every day.
A New Normal?
Once this becomes a new routine in which they know that mom and dad are protecting them, they are told “go, it’s fiiiine! be around other people and enjoy” hmm? I can imagine their brains going, “wait! Is this safe? can we do this? I thought we were not supposed to be/see other people? how do I know it is safe if my parents are not there?”
Needless to say, we decided we needed camp for their mental health. You can imagine the disaster it was the first couple of days. We started them on half days to help with the transition, but it was the first days of dropping them off at daycare all over again… remember? They cry, you cry…
I am happy to report that after the third day the crying went away mostly, and even though you can tell he is anxious, he knows it is fine and even enjoys it. He started to talk about it with a smile and kind of looks forward to it.
I could see in my son all the feelings we all experienced but in a raw and unfiltered way. I saw him mourn and be afraid and anxious and confused and it broke my heart to not be able to make it better for him. I wish I could tell him that this is over, but none of us knows what the next school year will look like.
I hope you and your little ones are doing well and learning to navigate this together.