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Instructions Not Included AKA Parenting in a Pandemic

Having a baby is like buying a really cool entertainment center at Ikea and then finding out it doesn't come with instructions. You have the potential to build something amazing, but also to completely screw it up and wind up with disaster.



As a parent, you're always trying to avert disaster but basically you're just arbitrarily making it up as you go. "No more snacks, it's too close to dinner", "No you cannot wear that out of the house", or "No, jumping repeatedly from sofa to loveseat does not count as exercise."

I mean, don't get me wrong, you try your best to make informed decisions. You research before the baby comes and at every new stage. "Alexa, is it possible for infants to eat too much?", "OK Google, what if my baby hates being swaddled?", or "Google: Is my neighborhood school a good school?" You buy books, read blogs, watch documentaries and put your doctor on speed dial. You try your best to gather as much information as you can to turn your arbitrary decisions into informed decisions.

So when something comes along that you need to make a decision about without much information, it's kind of intimidating. When those decisions could mean life or death, it's terrifying.

I think that's one of the worst things about the pandemic. COVID-19 is so new that there's not enough conclusive evidence about anything. First they said children don't get it, next they said they can get it or at least pass it but they wouldn't get very sick, then came reports of kids developing MIS-C because of it and some of them dying. It felt like it was impossible to make an informed decision about what to allow your children to do or not to do. Zoom only or 6ft away play dates in the backyard? Take out should be safe or I need to cook all of your meals? This is the stuff parental nightmares are made of. Then the time came to decide whether or not you'd send your child back to school. Our school district asked us to decide between a hybrid model of two days a week in the building (synchronous learning) and 3 at home (asynchronous learning) or fully remote.

We were asked to decide before they released their plans on how they would keep the school clean, how they would handle things like lunch and lockers and how many children they would allow to be in a space. All we knew was they would divide them into A and B days so that all of the hybrid kids would never be in the building at the same time. I spoke to the principal, I (virtually) attended the board meetings and I researched the how other schools around the world were handling it. I determined that I believed hybrid could safely work if handled properly. Too bad they wouldn't explain how they intended to handle it.

The school district set 4 metrics based on different COVID numbers in the county and said that all children would be fully remote until those numbers were met and then, once they were met, hybrid would be put into action. They talked about having consulted with county health officials. This felt like something concrete to base a decision on. If you agreed with the metrics, hybrid was the way to go. For the next few months, the county did not meet those agreed upon numbers and the district stayed fully remote.

Halfway through the year they gave parents the option to switch their election between hybrid and remote. Of course, if you switched, your child would be pulled from their classes and switched to a teacher in their new designation which definitely stinks for your kid. Say bye to the classmates you've gotten used to and the friends you struggled to make on Zoom and hello to being the new kid. If you trust the metrics though, you probably don't wish to switch from hybrid to remote and you may possibly wish to make a move to hybrid. The metrics means the county is doing well with COVID and 2 days a week would mean never more then 12-14 kids in one room (depending on the school). You're feeling informed. Like maybe you've got a handle on this educating your child during a pandemic thing. Then the board votes to ignore the metrics and send the kids back to school in the middle of the 3rd quarter. What?! They then very kindly offer to allow you to switch your child to remote...even though that means your kid gets new teachers, classmates and lesson plans in the middle of the quarter. That's just what every middle schooler needs. Talk about learning interruption.

So, you plod along. Try not to freak out when your child tells you of classmates and friends that weren't at school because they failed the morning COVID screener. Roll with the punches when they decide to change the learning schedule and attendance method for asynchronous days. Remind your child to keep their hands clean and make smart choices. Try not to freak out when your kid tells you that a kid in class took off their mask and repeatedly and defiantly refused to put it back on. It's 4th quarter, you've almost made it. You've got a routine that works. You've managed to get almost all the way through a very rough year. Here comes the school board again, though. They want to change it up for the last 6 weeks of school. Not going back to fully remote, which you knew could