My 4-year-old son, Kj, loves school.
It’s good that he loves school so much, considering how important something like school is to his social development as an only child.
Kj only experienced one “year” of school, from September 2018 to June 2019, but it’s still a daily subject of conversation for him.
Unfortunately, he did not continue at the same preschool, because in the summer of 2019, our family unexpectedly had to move. By the time we settled into a new town, all the preschools in the area were either full for the fall, or required completed potty-training, or both. As a result, this hyperactive only-child went months without school, asking constantly when he would get to go to school again.
We struggled through months of not being able to take him to school while trying to potty train him.
It took forever. (I guess it didn’t literally take forever, but it felt like it.)
During that time that he was missing out on school, we supplemented the experience as much as we could.
We took trips to the library for story time.
We went to the book store for special occasions.
We attended group activities at church.
We went to the playground.
We went rock-climbing.
We went to the zoo.
At least once a week, there was some out-and-about experience for Kj, sometimes educational, usually in a crowded place.
The rest of the time, we kept him home, allowing him plenty of time to learn to use the bathroom instead of a diaper.
All the time spent at home had him bored, and acting aggressively out of boredom, and it was hard. I must have said a thousand times, “I can’t wait to finish this potty training so he can go to school again. He needs it.”
Kj is still not completely done potty training, but he has it down well enough that he could probably stay dry at school. (He’s gotten to the point where he stays dry during daylight hours 90% of the time… However, he still has yet to develop the ability to wake up at night and go to the bathroom instead of going while sleeping.)
In late January and early February, we began sending inquiries to local preschools–with preference to the year-round schools, so we could enroll ASAP.
In February, we went on a few school tours. My school-loving boy was ecstatic because he knew he would finally get to attend school again!
We found a school with an affordable tuition rate and an immediate opening.
We visited the school.
We met the teachers.
We allowed Kj to meet the other students.
We asked Kj if he liked the school. (He did, of course.)
We brought home enrollment papers.
Our happy little boy couldn’t wait to go back.
In case you missed this part, I’ll say again:
This getting-excited-about-school thing, after months already of looking forward to it,
was happening in February, 2020.
You can probably guess what happened next.
At the beginning of 2020, from the perspective of mid-land America, the coronavirus didn’t look serious. In fact, it was not really on my radar at all.
Wayyy back then (four months ago), the only person I knew in real life who had even mentioned it was our landlord, and only because of his relatives in China. When he called to warn us, to tell us to be prepared for a lockdown and stay safe, that level of hype was easily dismissed as paranoid conspiracy theory.
(In my defense, part of the conversation was that the virus was manufactured as a weapon. It sounds far-fetched.)
COVID-19 was not even a consideration when we were preparing Kj to go back to school.
Why would it be?
Until the number of cases in the United States grew, and other people we knew in real life started to worry, and avoid crowds.
That brought a fleeting thought of: “I hope it’s safe to send Kj to preschool right now.”
Then there were cases reported in our state.
That started the conversation of: “Should we reconsider? Is now a good time to send Kj back to preschool?”
Then there were cases reported in our county.
“Let’s wait a bit. Kj is really excited to go back to school, but a few more weeks as a precaution can’t hurt.”
In March, schools in our state started to close. By the end of the month, they were all closed by order of the governor. Just closed for one week.
That one week was extended to two weeks.
Then a month.
The decision was made for us.
“We’ll enroll him when schools open back up.”
Then the state-wide school closure was extended to September.
Our son was feeling the time drag by agonizingly slowly.
“When do I get to go to school?” he’s asked multiple times.
He was asking before, but now that we’d gotten his hopes up, he started asking much more frequently.
And the question hits differently during the shutdown of non-essential businesses. All those educational and/or social outings I mentioned before? The park, the library, the rock-climbing gym, church, the zoo, etc? We don’t have any of that now. All those places are closed, and now Kj is feeling the loss of school harder than ever.
The behavior he was exhibiting in response to boredom and loneliness have been amplified to nearly unbearable levels, and it’s hard to blame him.
He thought he would get to go to school, but now instead, he doesn’t get to go anywhere.
We don’t know how to explain this situation to him.
And we don’t know when it will end.
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