Yesterday morning, I had the extreme pleasure of bringing my 7-year-old daughter back to in-person school after a 2-week COVID-enforced hiatus. Only, pleasure isn’t the right word for it. Privilege is.
I am privileged enough to be able to send my daughter to in-person school.
My little girl attends a very small private school. This wasn’t a decision made on my part this year purely to subvert public school shutdowns. Nor was it a decision I made lightly when first enrolling her in private kindergarten three years ago. I’m an ardent supporter of public schools, but choosing private felt like a necessity when that decision was made, based on my daughter’s physical health and special needs.
My daughter is on a chemo medication to treat an autoimmune condition she was diagnosed with at age four. Her immunocompromised status means I was concerned about keeping her environment small and as safe as possible long before there was ever a worldwide pandemic. Our current world events have only heightened that need.
But despite the extra challenge and fears that accompany my daughter’s condition, I still recognize how privileged we are to be able to send her to the amazing school she attends. I know not everyone has the same choices.
Public schools in our area have been closed all year. Kids in our neighborhood, just like millions of children across the country, have been trying to manage virtual schooling while their parents still have to work.
My daughter’s school has been in a position to go above and beyond in following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) school opening recommendations, while our local public schools weren’t even in a position to provide their teachers with PPE. Bars and restaurants have been allowed to remain open, and to accommodate in-person dining, while kids and families have been left flailing without the benefit of much-needed in-person schooling options.
None of it is fair or just. I know how privileged we are.
It’s a privilege I take so seriously, that it influences every other decision we make. Outside of school, we are essentially on lockdown—focused on protecting both our school community and our community at large.
We haven’t dined-in at a restaurant in eight months. I pick up all our groceries at the curb. We gave up my daughter’s dance classes, which she had begged for a year to attend, specifically because it was a want and not a need – and I’m not willing to take on risks for anything that isn’t a necessity right now. I’ve intentionally missed out on time with my own friends, even though I miss them desperately. Our annual Thanksgiving plans with the people we love have already been cancelled, and I suspect our Christmas plans will be as well. We have only one other family in our “bubble,” chosen because they are as locked down as we are, and because we both needed at least on resource to help with childcare and to give our only children a friend to be able to play with freely.
I’m not going to lie and say any of it is easy, but the truth is: I’ve learned I would sacrifice just about everything else in order to be able to have my young child attend in-person schooling.
I’m sure there are so many other families who feel the same way, but simply don’t have that option available to them.
That’s exactly why I take following COVID-19 health recommendations so seriously. Because I never want to be the reason my daughter’s school has to shut down and families are left scrambling, and I definitely don’t want to be responsible for helping COVID spread throughout our community, thus keeping public schools shut down for so many who need them now.
As a single mom, I tried to do it all during shutdowns last spring, and again over our recent two-week closure. The schooling, the care-taking, the still working full-time. It was impossible. At least, it was impossible to do it all well. My daughter needs to be in in-person schooling, for both her benefit and mine. And my heart breaks for families who have come to the same conclusion, but don’t have the same opportunities we do to send.
I suppose that’s why it is so difficult for me to see other families in the same privileged position we are, sending their kids to in-person schooling, refusing to make any sacrifices at all in the name of protecting their school communities, or their communities at large.
Families dining in at restaurants.
Holding gatherings with friends.
Grumbling about masks.
Throwing birthday parties for their kids.
Continuing with youth sports, even as schools remain closed.
And planning large, elaborate holiday celebrations, when intimate, immediate family meals would do.
I know this is hard. I know giving up on the things we enjoy feels unfair. I have been struggling through this year myself just as much as anyone else.
But it’s one year. And it’s about protecting lives and keeping each other safe so that we can have many more years to come.
So it’s hard for me to understand anyone not willing to follow public health recommendations. Especially when those people are privileged enough to be able to send their kids to in-person schooling, while so many others are not.
If your child is physically attending school right now: You. Are. Privileged. And you have a responsibility to follow ALL COVID-19 health recommendations, both so that your school community can stay safe and remain open for those who rely on it, and also so that your community at large can bring numbers down and start opening schools back up for those who need it most.
This isn’t a difficult conclusion to come to. But it does require sacrifice from those in the most privileged of positions.
And it pains me to realize how many privileged individuals are unwilling to do just that.