The longest Spring Break of our life comes to a close Monday. On Thursday, March 12th, in Year of our Lord 2020, my Annie and every other kid in Muskogee Public Schools got out a day early and we thought we’d be home maybe an extra week or so after Spring Break. How precious we all were back then.
I was in elementary school back in the '80s toward the end of the Cold War. I very distinctly remember being afraid of getting bombed by the Soviet Union. In early elementary, we still did the duck and cover drills. The fact that we never got bombed and that I never saw it happen anywhere else made the threat seem far off. As I look back, even though those drills made an impression on me. It was less traumatic than it could have been had bombings been a regular occurrence in our world.
Fast forward a couple decades. My child and her peers face very real fears when they walk into school every day. Columbine happened my senior year of college, so by the time active shooter drills became the norm, I was already grown. But Annie has been doing them since she was little bitty. Meanwhile, she and all of us have seen history repeat itself time after time on the news. The threat of being gunned down in school is not far off like the atom bomb was to me. And now enters coronavirus.
The good news is I don’t have to worry about my child wearing a mask because her biggest fear with COVID-19 is not that she will get sick — it’s that she will give it to someone she loves. Like her grandparents. Or a teacher. Or her friends. She’s excited to go back to school, yet scared at the same time.
“I want to go back,” she told me. “But I want everyone to wear a mask.”
I suspect our children are much more adaptable than many of us adults. Let’s encourage them by being consistent ourselves even when it is difficult, uncomfortable, or we are frustrated by the whole situation. I am prayerful that our community will defy the statistics and keep our numbers down so that our kids can have some semblance of normalcy. But I think it’s time we let go of the fantasy that we can still do everything like in years past.
I believe the keyword for the ‘20-‘21 school year is grace. Grace for our teachers and administrators who are reinventing the wheel in real time. Grace for our parents who are pulling their hair out trying to juggle it all. Grace for our kids who, despite the fact that they were born with technology in their hands, will likely learn a new respect for the real world over the virtual.
We need to give our expectations some grace. Sports seasons may look different. Competitions may turn virtual or be postponed or canceled. Our school year may start out in-person and then morph into something else entirely. In the spirit of grace, remember that everyone is doing their best and all of us, everywhere, are staring down the same footlong Q-tip. We can’t fall behind because everyone is slogging through this at the same speed.
We all know the drill. Wash your hands, wear a mask, put some distance between your body and others, but keep the spirit of grace close. We’re all going to need it.