I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.

We were ready to go back to school: a new bookbag, a new lunchbox, and a brand new accessory, a mask. Things were going to be different, but we were going to make the best of the situation.

No, this year, I am not going to cry.

On the way to school, we went over things to remember: your manners, kindness, patience, and social distancing. I wouldn’t be walking them to the door this year, but that is okay because they were big girls.

It’s not a big deal. I am not going to cry.

A hug and kiss in the car and you went off to stand in a line six feet apart, waiting for your temperature to be checked by a person in masks and gloves. This year there are no warm hugs, no inviting smiles, no friendly high-fives.

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And as I drove away, I cried.

I cried for the loss of community school once fostered.

I cried for the loss of connection children desperately crave.

I cried for the loss of teamwork and togetherness.

I cried for friendships restricted by physical distance.

I cried for teachers and students who need stability but will experience constant change.

I cried because the “new normal” doesn’t feel normal at all.

And that makes me sad, and it’s OK to cry.

Of course, I understand why school looks different, but theory is different from real-life. We practiced smiling with our eyes. We educated our children on the new rules and their benefits. We promoted returning to school with the understanding there would be significant adjustments.

I cheerfully packed lunches to be eaten in the classroom. I eagerly filled pockets with hand-sanitizer and gladly arranged my schedule to accommodate delayed starts and alternating instruction days. But, while preparing my children for school, I neglected to prepare myself for school’s reality this year.

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So momma, if the first few days, perhaps weeks, you find yourself saddened by the current school situation, you are not alone. Praying for families everywhere as school begins, whatever your circumstance, give yourself grace and patience, and remember: it’s OK to cry.

Laura Bailey

Laura Bailey is a wife and mom of three young girls. You can find her drinking cold coffee, playing barbies, and trying to figure out a way for the laundry to fold itself. She writes with honesty and humor on her blog, www.LauraRBailey.com