The nation’s children have set an example we could learn from

From little ones to teenagers, they have accepted the changes and just got on with it

For lots of children school, at the moment, is all they have left. Photograph: iStock

For lots of children school, at the moment, is all they have left. Photograph: iStock

 

We did it. We made it to midterm and the relief is palpable, albeit for a very different reason to before. Typically, by this stage of the school year the novelty of back to school has well and truly worn off.

Usually, I’ve had my fill of making lunches, my fill of labelling a new set of twistables fortnightly in the naive hope that this time they won’t disappear never to be seen again, and my fill of homework.

But this year I daren’t grumble about any of it – well except for homework, because I like to be consistent and the homework anarchist in me remains alive and roaring. But I have a new gratitude for the need to prepare school lunches, while the new coronavirus school rule which sees them leaving their pencil cases in class means they’re either not losing their crayons quite as much, or I’m just unaware of it. Ignorance may well be bliss.

I’m relieved, this year, that we’ve got this far. The ever-changing news, and the constant feeling of dread every time the numbers are released or news breaks that the Taoiseach is planning to address the nation again means that I, like many other parents, live in fear that the schools will close again. There is little comfort in assurances when the goalposts have so frequently moved before.

Consequences

“Do you think the schools will stay open?” a fellow school parent asked me when our eyes met above our masks and across the cheese aisle in the local supermarket. It’s a constant topic of conversation, to the fore of every parent’s mind. Nobody really knows the answer, but most of us fear the consequences of the unpalatable thought.

But it’s not just the parents who fear their closure. The children themselves, mine and those of the many parents I’ve spoken to about this, are nervous at the prospect. The memory of March never far from their young minds, accompanies the newfound appreciation many have uncovered for school, their teachers and their friends. 2020 has been a difficult year for us all, but adults can often demand to be heard. Children typically less so.

All were not affected equally first time around and the same shall be the case if schools close again. Remote learning touted as a solution needs a consistent approach across the schooling system, which not only presents its own challenges but also forgets that school is about so much more than education.

The children realise this. Perhaps it’s time more adults realised it too.

Already many of their activities are gone. The things they do outside of school for all manner of reasons – for fun, to make friends, for mental health benefits, for social skill development, to improve motor or planning skills or to find a tribe they perhaps couldn’t find elsewhere – cancelled for the foreseeable. For lots of children school, at the moment, is all they have left.

I am indebted to my own children’s teachers and principals for the continued huge work and efforts they have made to get the children back to school as safely as possible. They are thrilled to be back, to have some semblance of normality in the most abnormal of times. Their delight clearly evident in their everyday demeanour.

Doom and gloom

Appreciating, insofar as they can understand, the times we live in, children have accepted the changes and continued to play their role as asked. From small children waving across a red line in the school playground to a friend in another class that they can’t play with because bubbles can’t mix, to teenagers masking-up for a full school day and getting on with it, the nation’s children have largely set an example we could learn from.

“The schools won’t close again Mum if we go to higher restrictions, will they?” asked the one whose eyes have sparkled since the return.

“Hopefully not,” I replied in a tone which sounded much more positive than I necessarily felt.

It’s difficult to keep the spirits up when the news is filled with doom and gloom. Even more so when the typical tools we used to escape the stresses of life are curtailed by Covid-time restrictions.

But that’s my job as their mum, to be honest but to offer reassurance. To protect but to be realistic. If only I knew myself what to expect.

Still on we go into a Halloween midterm like no other. There will no trick or treating at the end of the week but there will be fun, laughter and games. And there will be a break from homework.

We will take all the wins and hope no ghoulish surprises upset our return in November.

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