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Today, I was hit with the news, full virtual school for our school district. Prior to today, we had the option to send our kids in person, two days a week. While that is certainly not ideal, it was better than the other option, full virtual school for my incoming kindergartner and preschool child.
As an incoming kindergarten mom, I have had all the feels as this year approached. If I’m going to be honest, I’ve been thinking, praying and preparing for my first born’s kindergarten start date since I found out I was pregnant. A culturally important date when our kids officially take the first step out of our nest. Since he was born, I’ve been preparing him to fly, my goal as a mother is that he fly my nest and become his own self, ready to accomplish great things in this world. And then, a pandemic hit and my preparing for this day got turned upside down.
Like most things during this pandemic, I’ve experienced every single emotion humanly possible in the span of 24 hours. At first, it didn’t seem too bad, thinking seemingly positive thoughts like:
“Yay, I get to keep him safe under my roof with us me”
“Yay, he won’t hear bad words on the bus”
“Yay, he won’t experience being left out or made fun of”
“Yay, he won’t experience the childhood illnesses that are common for children who haven’t been exposed to tons of germs”
But to be honest, I don’t want any of those things for him, because it’s not what is best for him. What’s best for my son is that he take his first step out in the world, that I have been slowly, and developmentally appropriately preparing him for. Leaving him with family, safe babysitters and friends, so that he knows I always come back, no matter what. Prepping him by helping him identify his emotions so he can learn to regulate his own self when situations arise. Praying for his body, feeding him well so he can develop a tough immune system.
But now, you’re telling me “you’re keeping him safe” by not letting him experience this.
I have spent most of my adult life fighting fear. As a child, I grew up with anxiety, having fears and phobias since I was a young age. Luckily, I had parents who knew that having fear and phobias was not allowing me to live my best life and got me help. As an adult, when my fears, anxiety and phobias were impacting my ability to live my best life, I got help for myself. Learning to do hard things. Learning that even though I’m scared, I can still push through. Carefully learning to calculate my fear and anxiety to make sure that I’m making safe choices, but not allowing fear to control me. This doesn’t mean that I run my car directly in the path of a tornado. But it does mean, that I take the tornado warning seriously and if there is an actual tornado in my path, I do everything I can to protect myself and others. But I can’t hide in my basement, worried that every severe thunderstorm and every tornado is going to knock over my house and kill me. If my anxiety and brain fail me in this area, I also have data, science, statistics to back up the fact that me dying from a tornado, while possible, is not as likely as other risks. Again, doesn’t mean I drive into the tornado, but I take the precautions seriously and live my life.
COVID-19 is a REAL threat. I have seen it with my own eyes, as I am a front line health care worker. But it’s also a virus. As a germaphobe, I have been TERRIFIED of germs for a LONG time. I have had to work hard to NOT allow that to effect my life and the life of my children. My preference is that we don’t go out during cold and flu season as I’m terrified of viruses. So I do recognize my unique perspective in the fact that I have had to learn to live with scary viruses around me for a long time, and this is no different. I’m scared, I don’t know what the long term effects of this virus will be. I don’t know what it will look like when/if we get it. But I do have some disturbing data about the things we DO know.
We have extensive data that supports screen time leads to higher rates of obesity, poor emotional intelligence, sleep problems, mental health problems, increase in violence, educational problems and social problems, to name a few. So please stop saying “you’re keeping my child safe” while handing him a Chromebook.
I write this from the comfort of my 3,000 sq.ft Midwest suburban home. Privileged with the ability to stay at home and raise my kids. Privileged to have family, friends and a supportive network. I live comfortably, sheltered from a lot of pain the rest of the country, and the world feel. School provides a safe place for many children to go.
With 12% of Americans facing poverty, we are looking at 15 million, 15 MILLION, I’ll repeat for those in the back, 15 MILLION CHILDREN, children, will go hungry! HUNGRY! My mind is blown and my heart is broken thinking that 15 million children could go hungry. These children rely on school to get healthy, balanced meals so they do not go hungry. So please stop saying “you’re keeping our kids safe”
We also know that schools provide activity for our children. Our children are being feed more and more processed foods and getting less exercise than ever before. 18.5 million children face obesity! These children are faced with life long health issues including heart disease (still the #1 cause of death in America), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone problems and diabetes. All, which also, correlate with many risk factors for COVID_19. With virtual school, our children are being forced to learn in front of a screen and not getting the exercise they need. So please stop saying “you’re keeping our kids safe”.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in CHILDREN 5-14. Before COVID-19 our nation was facing a Our schools provide counseling services, caring teachers and staff, a place to monitor our kids daily by trained teachers and staff. Outside of school, we are met with barriers to help. With lack of access to the resources we need, we are putting our children at risk With kids out of school, parental pressure mounting, fear and anxiety, financial strain, social isolation, loss of community, are all risk factors for suicide and with kids not able to go to a safe place to process these feelings, we are putting our vulnerable at increased risk. So please stop saying “you’re keeping our kids safe”.
Abuse and neglect is on the rise in homes around the country. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network is reporting that 50% of the victims receiving help from it’s hotline, are minors, our children, who are under 18. That organization is stating that the number of children being abused is not going up, but the frequency is. With 34% of abuse happening in homes, our children are put in a more vulnerable position when they are not in school and people are not at work. In addition, our kids are put at risk for abuse outside the homes, with more unsupervised time at home, kids are at increased risk for exploitation online. There were more than 2 million reports made the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in March 2020 which is more than double the number of reports made the previous March. So please stop saying “you’re keeping our kids safe”.
While you in fact attempting to keep our kids safe from COVID-19 by sheltering them from the virus, you are putting them at risk in other dangerous areas, so please stop saying “you’re keeping our kids safe”.