This morning Missy, Geri, and I watched Stella board the bus for her first day of Kindergarten.
Over the last week or so all four of us have shared our ambivalence, mixed up emotions, about Stella entering Westfield Washington Schools. We collectively shared our excitement, nervousness, elation, anxieties, enthusiasm, and fear about all the unknowns that are in store for all of us today as well as the days moving forward.
A new beginning in a way
Sadly, I realize today is the end of something pretty incredible for me. Being surrounded with only my daughters since their births has been an amazing way to go through the last 5-6 years.
The first day of school is a rite of passage for kids and parents a like. I will never admit to anxiety of any kind, especially separation, but there is no other explanation for those sad moments over these last few days when the thought of not sharing all these moments that make up our lives for more than 7 hours everyday was almost emotionally crippling. I knew Stella would and has left the nest. That is why I tried to seize each day and provide as much of a wholesome childhood experience as possible for both my daughters while I had them to myself. Now Stella is off to school and our roles in her life will change. I’m an optimist through and through but a realist at heart. I know this is the end of greatest time of my life. But that’s all part of the adventure of life.
Everything is fine.: ^ ) ~
As we began our walk to the bus stop I have no doubt that Stella is ready for elementary school. I know she already knows the curriculum. I know she knows how to follow directions. In fact, Stella gravitates toward routines, rules, and structure. An ideal candidate for the public school setting. She is 5 so she sometimes struggle with listening and retention but that’s normal, right?
As an educator I had been eagerly anticipating her entering an elementary setting. Then, Corona hit. As a parent job number one has always been providing a safe environment for my daughters. As a teacher job number one was always providing a safe environment for my students. Newly minted Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Paul Kaiser sent out his initial Shamrock Blast last week. In my opinion it was uninspiring and clunky, but the one take away was that he strongly recommended all students and staff to wear mask while in any building within the district.
At that point Missy and I decided to mask up Stella not just on the bus but in the classroom as well. It makes sense to us. All the kids in this K-4 building can not get vaccinated and therefore are at the highest risk to be infected and transmit the spread of Covid 19, or whatever strains might follow the Delta variant and keep us in this state of limbo longer.
Providing a safe environment
Last year we decided to keep our girls out of another year of preschool. It was an easy decision. First, it was only preschool and with all the unknowns around the virus there was no reason to put Stella or Geri in a potentially unsafe environment. Plus, we didn’t want them to wear a mask all day.
What a difference a year makes. This year I’m hoping all the students in her school would follow the superintendent’s strong recommendation to wear a mask. However, two days ago at the Back to School Night The Tucker’s were one of the few 523 Monon Trail Trailblazer families that headed the recommendations of our pediatrician, Dr. Fauci, and Superintendent Kaiser. At that moment my heart broke for a variety of reasons that I’ll just keep to myself.
For this article I’m willing to share one of those reasons. My heart broke because I fear that my daughter will probably be different than the majority of kids in that school because of our decision to mask her up. Stella is mine and Missy’s daughter so she is bound to be different because she is cool with herself. As a parent my only fear about school is the mask exacerbating her differences. But, keeping her safe is job number one.
That being said, it is also my belief that kids are much more accepting of the differences between us than adults. There is hope for this world yet. Our futures do depend on their kindness, empathy, and self respect.
With tears in her and her mothers eye, I put on a brave face at the bus stop, and as normally as I could I shared with Stella the words of advice I have always given her since our first trips out into this world all those years ago,
and Don’t take shit from anyone
We all miss you kiddo and we can’t wait to hear all about your first day.
Oh the places you’ll go,