Remote learning or in-person learning? Suddenly NYC changed its policy: Whatever decision you made, you had to stick to it for the rest of the school year. No backsies. What made it even tougher was deciding whether to stay put at my in-law’s house in the middle of nowhere, or go home to the city.
Let’s just say Miles’ Dad and I did not see eye to eye on this issue. His anxiety was at an all-time high about exposing our child and family to COVID. The second wave was crashing in and that just put his nervous system over the edge.
I was more concerned about our child’s social isolation taking an emotional toll. And I was terribly homesick.
Plus, I had read so many articles with reassuring data that schools were not major spreaders of COVID. And it eased my mind to know so many of our friends in the city were doing in-person learning, and doing it safely and happily.
BUT to be fair, Miles already had the most amazing remote learning teachers for first grade, or “village” as they like to call themselves. They were completely engaged and ran their classrooms with an unrivaled sense of energy and humor.
In the beginning Miles was so shy, he wouldn’t even get on camera. After a couple of days, you couldn’t stop him from unmuting himself. I felt guilty about contemplating taking him outside of this new routine. Remote learning gave him a sense of normalcy. It worked for now.
In the last few months Miles’ public school had to be shut down a number of times due to the rise in COVID cases. Some parents said the on-and-off-again schedule was highly disruptive. Others were just happy to get any days of in-school learning in. Many schools nearby remained open due to the low COVID numbers at their school.
“It’s not like Miles will be missing out on starring in a full-on school production of the Pirates of Penzance!” his Dad debated.
I imagined the assembly room so empty you could hear the echoing school bell. It made me sad to think Miles would miss out on his first grade play.
“Yes, but at least he could play outside with his friends with his mask on! He doesn’t know a single child here,” I countered.
“But it’s getting so cold, how long will he be able to do that?” he said.
“It’s not like he’s going to be eating with his friends in the lunchroom,” his Dad added.
“But at least he’ll be close enough to his friends to tell funny jokes,” I said.
“And what about the fact that we both don’t have patience to master remote learning?” I countered.
It was tough not seeing eye to eye about your child’s education. But it wasn’t just happening to us. The pivotal question “remote learning or in-person learning?” put a strain on so many families and friends. So many listicles on the many pros and cons for each.
So many parents judging each other which made it even tougher to decide.
Yes, remote learning was breaking parents. Yes, schools kept opening and shutting down as COVID cases surged. Yes, many families depended on schools to remain open. Yes, many teachers did not feel they should have to risk their lives to teach our children. Plus, many of them had their own children. Yes, there was mounting data about schools not causing an increase in COVID. Yes, there were studies about the many effects of social isolation. Yes, many families were still afraid of the unknown.
We went back and forth. Back and forth. Week after week, we shared our conflicted feelings over what to do with our therapist. We tried not to invalidate each other’s anxieties and feelings. We tried not to always be right or have the last word. And most times, we failed miserably. But week after week, we tried. We shed our stubbornness. We ugly cried.
No family has perfect choices. And not every family agrees what to do with their child.
In the end, we chose to continue fully remote learning and stay at our in-law’s. That and agreeing to more social-distance play dates so Miles gets the much needed interaction he’s craving. That meant me going on local Mommy Facebook groups and making playdates. And for that I am beyond grateful.
And when I see the decisions other parents make, I think, I know you’re doing the best you can.
This post originally appeared in Mutha Magazine.