For many of us, 2020 has been a year we’d prefer to fast forward through. From losing Kobe and Gianna Bryant in late January to the onset of the coronavirus that has brought much of our normal lives to a halt, most of us in this country (and across the globe) have had to make significant life changes. Most of us have curtailed our outdoor excursions and limited trips, even for the basic necessities of daily living. Going out in public wearing masks threatens to become a new norm, at least for a while. Everybody is adjusting.
One such group that has had to make a tremendous adjustment is kids. Schools in the Washington, D.C. area (and nearly all of the country) have been shutdown since the middle of March, largely remaining closed for the remainder of the school year. While we’re all (parents and students alike) hoping for a normal beginning to the school year, even that doesn’t seem guaranteed. Parents have had to become de facto teachers, giving a whole new level of appreciation for teachers; this week is currently Teacher Appreciation Week in America. We’ve all discovered the truest truism in life: Every teacher we know more than likely deserves at least a bottle of the good stuff (or some of the finest coffees or waters if they’re not drinkers).
We’ve had these conversations about life inside the house with kids and how schools closing months before the regular summer break has impacted our households, but are the kids going to be alright? It has to be hard going from a structured environment (and one that in many cases provided food security) with friends to one where they largely see their friends only through phones and occasion drop-bys for birthdays, etc. I know it’s not easy, especially for their own sanity, and because we all have lives we’ve had to adjust, it can be easy to forget just how big of a change it’s been for kids. So I decided to ask my 11-year-old daughter, who is a rising sixth grader, about what it’s been like.
Full disclosure: While my daughter’s school shut down in March, she’s been out of school since January 30, 2020. We discovered a medical issue that my daughter was having; she was hospitalized for the first two weeks of February. After being released, she was required to stay home in order to rehab as we waited for clearance from her doctors for her to return to school. Before that clearance could come, the world changed and schools were shut down, eventually permanently. She, like kids across the country, has spent the latter half of her fifth grade year at home, and that’s been tough. Also, my daughter’s mother and I co-parent; my daughter has been at her mother’s home for the entirety of this shut-in time, though I see her frequently.
Below is a conversation I had with my daughter about being shut-in for so long. It is edited for brevity and clarity. My questions are in bold, her responses follow each bold question.
It’s been very frustrating to not be able to see my friends and teachers. It has also made me realize how important school is because without it I feel like there’s nothing to do. But the one good thing is I get to spend lots of time with my family.
The hardest part has been both not being able to be around some of my family members and being stuck around the other ones. I miss the other side of my family so much and it can be difficult to be constantly around your family. Even though you love them, usually you’re not in the house for weeks at a time with them so you can find out that the littlest things can get on your nerves. But at the end of the day, you’re so glad to be with family.
The easiest part has been not going anywhere. Even though I love my activities and going out on weekends it is nice to not have anywhere you have to go.
What I miss the most is my school. It’s really hard to not be there because next year I go to middle school. This year I was really looking forward to all my lasts: my last Grandparent’s Day, my last day of school, my last trip to the playground and a lot of other things.
While I’ve been at home I’ve been making a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of art and music, because both are my creative outlets.
By spending time with my family and remembering that it will all be over eventually.
Getting to be with the other half of my family again and going out on weekends.