A letter to my kids
My dearest boys,
So excited! School is about to start! Admit it: it will be nice, won’t it, to have a bit more structure to your day? I know, I know, we don’t even know yet if classes will be in person or will be more distance learning, but getting back to it, getting into the learning mode, it’ll be a good thing.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the corner: COVID. Last year, you had so few weeks actually in the classroom, with your peers, with people other than your family. School via the laptop and distance learning is sufficient, sure, but it is NOT what I wish for you. School is for learning, yes, but it is also a place for you to develop your social skills, figure out what sports you like, practice talking to different adults and peers and just hang out and be kids away from your big people. It’s a place where you are developing your people skills and perfecting how to be YOU out there in the world. Social development is a very important part of school interactions; interactions are not at all the same across a screen. I want face-to-face so much for you; I really really hope that we’ll get you back in that classroom from Day 1. Last year, you all made it work. You got engaged, you met kids, you made friends. You learned, you worked hard, you struggled … I know you did your best. Distance learning just isn’t good enough, though. I hope it isn’t what we have this year.
And if you do go face-to-face from Day 1, it won’t be ‘school as usual’, and I’m guessing things will change between then and the end of the year as this country – probably all countries – struggle to beat back the beast that is COVID and its myriad of variants. I don’t know, this virus, this pandemic is bringing even the most diligent and careful to their knees, and it just doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. I can promise you this: when and if I get information, I will share it with you. Promise me this: if you have a question, please come to me first so I can make sure you have the information you need. We can never be 100% sure we are not going to be sick, and sometimes we have to take small risks to do important things. School is an important thing.
If you do get to go face-to-face, let’s be real: it will involve a lot of additional measures to make sure everyone stays safe. Masks, hand-washing and hand sanitizers, sanitizing books and surfaces and chairs, open windows and maybe classes held outside. I know, masks are tiresome. Take breaks when you can, if there is a moment when risks are lower. All of these measures may seem redundant or over-kill, but these attempts to minimize your exposure to the virus are for your benefit. Yes, they are bothersome, and yes, they take time, but the more care we can take, then the less chance of your being exposed to COVID. We made sure you three got your vaccines, but not all kids have been so fortunate. This is not the time to pass judgement on anyone on their decision to not vaccinate; we do what we can, and let others do what they feel they can too. Let’s do what we can to mitigate our own risk, and leave others to take care of themselves.
I so hope this year will include some sports. It’s been 18 long months since you three have been able to participate in team sports. Sure, we’ve had some epic family basketball matches, created an indoor handball court of sorts in the house, and are getting really good at spike ball, but it just isn’t the same. I firmly believe there are huge benefits for you to participate in team sports, and I so wish that will happen this year. Wouldn’t it be great if you could be on the travel team? To go, represent our school at the international tournaments? Wouldn’t that be amazing if you could go together? Wouldn’t it be great to have that experience, further developing your team contribution skills and getting much-needed time for movement? I know time for schoolwork is important, and you’ll have even more homework this year, but with good time management (also an important skill to develop!), you will get it done.
Remember how lucky you are: regardless of where we land in this world, you have two people who will by your side no matter what. Plus, even with the very few days face-to-face last year, you made good friends. Not everyone is that lucky, right? It’s hard to start in a new school, not knowing anyone. Have compassion for those who don’t have your good fortune, for those who are not as lucky to have a circle of supportive friends. I know it can be so hard to leave the security and casual acceptance of your circle of friends and reach out to an unknown. You know what, though? That new child, they, too, have something to offer. They, too, want a circle of acceptance. Be brave and share yours. One can never have too many friends. Reach out to the new kid. We have been there, right? Let's make the first lonely day easier for someone. We know what it feels like to be the ones on the playground who know no one else. You might see a new kid, sitting alone, watching, in that one lonely seat. I know it can be hard, too, to be the one to approach the new faces on the playground. You never know: Are they going to be kind in return? Are they going to smile and reciprocate? Are they going to accept? You can’t know without trying, but that first step can take so much courage. If we are not face-to-face, and you only see the new kids on the screen, it takes minimal effort to engage them in a chat. Help them feel included, make that connection. Take that first step, reach out a hand.
Three words to remember, my boys. 1. Kindness. 2. Compassion. 3. Bravery. Embrace these qualities, my boys, and be the force that embraces rather than rejects. Use those big hearts of yours, be aware, and don’t let bullying happen. Be watchful for those who are not as compassionate; reach out to those who might be ill-treated. Sadly, on every playground, on every school yard, there will be one or another who pulls others down. Don’t let that happen on your watch. Be brave, and stand up for what you know to be the higher path. Use peer pressure to bring about positive change. It takes a lot of bravery to stand up against one of your peers and call them out for negative behavior. Positive peer pressure can make a difference; don’t stand by and let negative words wreak havoc. Boys, another suggestion, if I may. Be the example kid in class. Be the one that your classmates go home and tell their mom and dad about at the dinner table because they admire you so. Be the kid that other kids want to be. And be that kid not because you are the smartest or the coolest, and not because you are the fastest or the funniest. Be that kid because you are the kindest. And because you reach out and you include. To be known as someone who is kind is one of the greatest compliments a person can garner.
One more thing: know that what works for our family doesn’t always work for others, and visa versa. I know you wish we embraced phones and screens as much as other families might. Our opinion, though, is that it is ever so much better to connect with the people around you, face-to-face, and not those on the other side of those screens. Think about last year and all of our extended lockdowns, and how we all felt cut off; humans are social creatures. We do best when we are amongst our kind.
Learn, sure. Learn and grow and flourish. And reach out. Lessons come from more than just books and the classroom. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and you never know from whom you will gain knowledge. Your teachers? Absolutely an invaluable resource. Your friends? Yes, them too. Those you haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting? You just never know, so reach out and include.
We are on the brink of a new education experience – university – and right now, we are actively searching for the best sources of information about this vast unknown. How getting into and going to university has become such a complicated process, I’ll never know, but here we are and this too we can figure out. Forms, and tests, and tours … oh my! Having completed our first frenzied summer college tour circuit, I think we can wrestle the rest of this beast (a.k.a. the college admission process) into submission.
My boys, this school year that is about to open? So many adventures await you. Embrace them. I can’t wait to hear about each and every one of them. May you wake up every day, enthused for another day of learning, of being amazing boys, and of making the most of the opportunities you are lucky enough to enjoy every single day.
I love you all, with all of my heart, and more than you will ever know.