Recently in the UK, all students went back to school, and US students have also been making their way back. We as parents had been waiting far too long for this to happen, sending giddy messages to friends, overjoyed that our kids were finally going back into the classroom. I still can hardly believe that I am writing this from a quiet home where no one needs to be fed soon. The return to school was anticipated to be a celebratory and relieving event for all, including our kids.
Quite frankly, my family‘s 'real-entry' experience has surprised me.
It started with the hours leading up to dropping them off at school on their first day back. After months of trying to find some physical and mental space, when I thought I would be feeling a bit too excited for the big drop off day, I was suddenly feeling separation anxiety. My head filled with regrets like why couldn’t I have had a bit more patience, why didn’t I insist on a few more hug breaks or why didn’t I feel less bitter about having to make yet another family lunch. I dropped them off at school and felt just ‘meh’. Endless hours of uninterrupted peace should have made me a bit more cheery, but somehow it didn’t.
Then I picked my kids up from school, expecting them to be incredibly excited about their days, which might include exuberance from seeing their friends in person, relief from getting away from a computer screen and freedom to be away from their parents. No offense taken. It was quite the contrary, where both of my kids came home that first day in foul moods, having had just an ok day themselves, both adamant about their preference of online school to being in school. I think they even missed me! Now after a couple of weeks, being in the actual school building hasn't been quite as thrilling as I had thought it would be for them. For me, I don't feel the same separation anxiety as I did that first day, and am more productive now, but our home really does feel empty.
Perhaps we did enjoy the endless family meals that turned into movie-watching sessions so that we didn’t have to talk with each other. We might have even enjoyed those countless family walks where I had to practically drag them out by the hair to get them out, only to be harassed the entire time with ‘Are we almost done?’. Maybe through endless months of togetherness we grew to appreciate each other even more. Or maybe we are just so used to being with each other that we don’t know how to be any other way!
So here we are, facing a new beginning with new possibilities. This past year has thrown us off balance in ways we don’t even know yet, and I am just grateful to pick up the pieces and move on with increasing hope. Each household has faced their own challenges, but we got each other through, and we would be kidding ourselves to say we haven’t bonded more over this experience. We are beginning this next phase a bit more apart physically, but unquestionably more together.