My kids’ school year starts in 41 days, and I have no idea and yet every idea what to expect . . . and I am already sad about it. I’m trying not to be pessimistic, but a quick glance around my state shows me that despite our state’s best efforts, things are still gonna be COVID-19 dicey in 41 days. Just this morning, before I even knew I’d be writing this, I had a few minutes of rare alone time with my rising high school junior, and I asked him to start emotionally preparing for learning at home quite a bit of the school year.

You see, I have no doubt that school will open as planned . . . 

But I also have no doubt that within a month or so, someone there will get COVID and the school will have to close for a while. And then reopen, and then close again. Rinse and repeat.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic, rather pragmatic. That insanely persistent virus is still VERY much with us, and with that many people in one place . . . it is pretty much a statistical certainty.

So, for my junior, for my 8th grader, and for my 4th grader, I’m kind of already grieving the certain uncertainty that will accompany this school year.

My youngest had a breakout year in 3rd grade. For the first time, he made good friends, he overcame some social delays, and he kicked butt academically. It was the first year with a totally positive parent-teacher conference, the first year I didn’t have serious anxiety opening up his “Friday Folder” . . . .and then it got cut off. And now, I doubt he will have the opportunity to really thrive in the classroom and socially like he needs to be able to do. He should be ready to embark on an amazing follow-up year, to solidify all the growth and positive changes last year brought. Will he just stay the same? Or will he go backward? In a non-COVID year, I’d be feeling carefree about his progress. Now, I feel the determination to keep on top of it. 

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My 8th grader should enjoy her year as being the top of the junior high, pursuing a lead in the fall play and all the choir solos she worked so hard at voice lessons (via Zoom, LOL) to earn. Will they even be able to have choir class (singing has been proven NOT safe) or a fall play? Those are questions it hurts my heart to ask because an educated guess tells me the likely answers. What’s my child to do with no outlet for her passions? 

For my junior, his first year as an upperclassman is already starting out bittersweet, as his best friend just moved five hours away. Of course, they were only able to see each other a couple of times in his last months here. And this fall, when it’s time for him to throw himself into activities to ensure his class beats the seniors for the Homecoming spirit stick—he usually helps write, edit and produce the class video sketch—will they even be in school Homecoming week? Will there be a Homecoming football game or dance? Will these rites of passage just . . . disappear, like prom last spring? 

How do I, as a parent, compensate for that, or at the very least, help him cope?

I’m not crazy: I know that in the grand scheme of things if my family has our health, we have everythingI know my children have two loving parents, a safe home, and enough food and clothing. I know that. They know that.

But they are children, and I can’t expect them to adopt an adult’s perspective. So how do I help them mourn their losses appropriately and appreciate the enormity of what they still have? 

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Pandemic parenting, man. This may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I did not see it coming.

But I can see this weird school year coming, and it hurts. So I’m grieving it, yet with a thankful heart. Because I know we have it good, but the truth remains: even when things could be worse, it doesn’t mean they aren’t hard. 

Jenny Rapson

Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.