I'm Sending My Kids Back To Class, And I'm Done Panicking About It

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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My kids start school in less than a week. Normally, I’d be quite frantic right now. Like many parents, I would be scouring store shelves for last minute and hard-to-find school supplies, filling my planner with reminders, and relentlessly checking my inbox for the latest information. This year is quite different. Even though we’re in the midst of pandemic and school plans change almost daily, I’m getting more and more chill about back-to-school with each day.

Part of my newly calm attitude is because I’m savoring our last days of summer. Despite being quarantined at home with my family for almost five months straight, the summer flew by. There weren’t the traditional hallmarks, like going to my in-laws’ house for the 4th of July or taking our kids on our annual family staycation in St. Louis. We didn’t have weekend out-of-town visitors over for barbecue and swimming. Instead, summer was chill and predictable.

Though every summer has its challenges, such as too much together time, this one was particularly calm. Camps were canceled. Almost all our appointments and meetings happened via video. We filled our gas tanks about three times over the past months. We lived in pajamas and swimsuits. My husband was mandated to work from home, and I always work from home. Every day was the same.

Initially, I ignored the schools’ emails, simply because I wasn’t ready to process what back-to-school during a pandemic might look like. The sudden spring remote-learning was beyond stressful with my four kids. I was far from eager to go back into that world, where my inbox was flooded, technology failed half the time (at least), and I spent my waking hours running room to room helping my kids learn (I say “learn” lightly) while my coffee grew colder.

Worrying about back-to-school will change absolutely nothing. I haven’t buried my head in the proverbial sand. I know the virus is serious. We’ve taken all the precautions. However, I’ve stayed far away from the horrifying statistics and most press conferences. As a person with anxiety, these stress me out and haunt me for days. I truly cannot deal. So we just do what we can. Wash our hands, wear a mask, practice distancing, and go day by day.

When we received the kids’ school supply lists, I reused most of what we had from last year, ordering online what we didn’t already have. The supplies sit in my closet, unpackaged and unlabeled. Some of my kids are due for required medical exams, and we’re slowly chipping away at those. Usually I’d have them checked off my to-do list months in advance. Not this year.

Maybe I’m in denial? Or perhaps I’m in self-preservation mode? I don’t know how to define what I’m feeling, but my overall back-to-school attitude at this point is one of what-will-be-will-be. I know, I sound like a life coach or a yoga teacher. Namaste, friends.

Perhaps I’m trying put up boundaries and control the impending chaos proactively. Life at home with four kids (and nowhere to go) can be sheer madness at times. The last thing I want in my life is any unpredictability, change, or uncertainty. Ignorance, even temporarily, is bliss.

We’ve made our decisions. Two of my kids are learning from home, and two are attending school in-person. I’ve had panic moments where I wonder if I’m doing the right thing for each child, and for our family as a whole. I’ve caught glimpses of news stories of schools that have reopened and then closed in a matter of days, and yes, they freak me out. However, my usual attitude is one of pick-and-stick. I decide what’s best for each of my kids and see what happens. That’s what I’m doing this time, too. None of us have a crystal ball, so we just have to do what we think is ideal and move forward. Otherwise, we go back and forth, endlessly, creating more stress in an already stressful situation.

I also realized that during the times I would hyperfocus on back-to-school, which is definitely what I did for a season, my kids’ anxiety would go up alongside mine. They would overhear conversations or catch a glimpse of my laptop screen opened to a school email, and their questions would turn into an all-out interrogation. Another kid would overhear and join in. All the sudden, my stress — and theirs — was snowballing. It was doing none of us any good to worry and wonder, playing the what-if game. Plus, then everyone was in a really bad mood, killing our summer happiness vibe. So instead of enjoying swimming, playing, and lounging (sleeping in also being a major perk), we were grumbling, arguing, and melting down. No, just no.

My answer to almost everything thing these days is cliché. It’s truly one day at a time, plus a lot of wait-and-see. My husband will ask me something school-related, and my reply is honest. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. Despite almost everything being up in the air right now, I’m going to adhere to my chill attitude. The alternative is to drown in fear. No, thanks. I’m also going to cheer for fellow parents, no matter what they decide. Complainers are so 2019. Everyone needs a lot of patience, support, and go-with-the-flow right now, not more drama.

However your child is getting educated this fall, you are making the best choice you can. Half of this pandemic battle is our parental attitudes toward the situation. I won’t tell you attitude is everything, because there’s a lot that goes into back-to-school. But I’m certain that part of our worries will begin to fade when we make the decision to do our best and move forward.

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