Why I'm Okay With My High School Senior Missing Out This Year

by Erika Hanson
Originally Published: 
Why I'm Okay With My High School Senior Missing Out This Year
Courtesy of @lindseyherbertphotography

This is a 1st day of kindergarten photo from 12 years ago. Which means that this year, we have our first senior.

Courtesy of Erika Hanson

I’m going to say something pretty unpopular as a parent of a high schooler in Fargo, North Dakota: I’m glad that stopping the spread of the coronavirus is a priority for her school and our community.

Distance learning: Do I want my kids sitting at home on their phones? No. Do I want my kids doing virtual learning from their beds? No. Do I think this is good for their social skills? No. Do I think they will learn as much virtually? No. Is distance learning good for their mental health? No. Will the state of my house after four teens/tweens are in it each and every day bring me to tears at times? Yes.

This year sucks for my senior. No homecoming dances. Spirit week is a shell of half participation with only half of the school present at a time. They won’t be able to take a big, class picture. They aren’t gathering at their lockers. Sporting events are socially distanced, with very few fans. Bands and choirs can’t get near each other. Theater performances are cancelled. Many students missed out on a season of sports last year, and more will likely miss out this year.

It’s not ideal. I’m sad for what my daughter’s senior class is missing. I’m sad for what I’m missing as a parent to a senior. I waited 12 years!?!?! But I am grateful for any part of it that she’s able to participate in.

Courtesy of @lindseyherbertphotography

I don’t want my senior to get the coronavirus. I’m sure she’d be fine. Likely, our entire family would be fine. We’re healthy. We don’t have comorbidities. Why didn’t we just sign up for the virtual academy if I don’t want my senior to get the coronavirus? I also don’t want my senior’s mental health to suffer. Just like I don’t want the mental health of my neighbor’s kid, who is being raised by his grandparents, to suffer. Just like I don’t want the mental health to suffer of my friend’s three sons, whose dad is receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer and suffers from a compromised immune system. The mental health of my friend’s two oldest children matters, even though her youngest has special needs, with a fragile immune and pulmonary system. Those kids’ mental health matters too. They should get to go to in-person school when able as well. And if we let the coronavirus spread like it’s a cold, then only my senior of those I just referenced will get to go to in-person school.

We need to balance the mental and physical health implications for all students, not just those of us who would likely be unaffected by our own children contracting the virus.

Courtesy of @lindseyherbertphotography

I imagine sometimes how terrifying it would have been to be a parent back in the polio epidemic. Children were becoming paralyzed and dying. We are lucky as moms that the coronavirus isn’t attacking our children like polio. Pools and movie theaters and schools were closed. Polio sounds terrifying, does it not? However, 90-95% of all cases of polio were asymptomatic. Most of those with symptoms had only mild, flu/cold like symptoms of a sore throat, fever, headache or nausea that resolved within 2-5 days. Only <1% of those infected had permanent paralysis. However, for those that made a full recovery, 25-40% suffered from post-polio syndrome, 15-40 years later.

We don’t know what the long term effect of having this novel coronavirus will be. Maybe it will be nothing. I had chicken pox; I’m guessing so did many of you? We’re fine. The same will likely be true for the majority of those who had the coronavirus. But now we know that getting the vaccine for chicken pox is safer than getting the actual chicken pox, and so we vaccinate our kids. We don’t just let them get it. We also know that getting the vaccine for chicken pox decreases the risk of getting shingles later in life.

Courtesy of @lindseyherbertphotography

What, if anything, will be coronavirus’ shingles or post-polio syndrome? Or perhaps coronavirus’ lasting impacts will be mainly on our mental health? We need to weigh the physical and mental costs for all students. Distance learning transitioning to hybrid learning transitioning to full, in-person classes, etc., is a wonderful way to attempt to balance the physical and mental well-being of every student.

This senior year for my daughter is 1-2% of her entire (hopefully long) life. This pandemic is not the worst thing that could happen for her. Thank you to the schools for protecting her physical health and thinking ahead to the long-term, unknown health implications. Thank you for allowing her to come participate in in-person learning at school when physically safe to protect her mental health. Thank you for attempting to stop the spread of the virus and caring about EVERYONE in our community.

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