The story changed meaning as I wrote it - writing in a pandemic
ONE DAY THINGS WERE FAMILIAR
I started writing this story when schools and parks were full. Hugs were not scary and hello was not a thumbs up from 6 ft away. Before the pandemic, life was buzzy and my son would see and meet new faces daily. Hi to the postman, chats in the grocery store, meeting old and new friends in the park, every day was a chance for my son to practice being a friendly approachable member of society.
I was writing a story, a story about saying hi on the first day of school. Words on a page that would hopefully help him and other children find confidence when it was time to meet a friend on the first day of school.
THEN THINGS CHANGED
As we learned about COVID I was cautious about what to tell my son. As lockdowns were slowly taking shape, I researched and spoke with other parents. What was the best way to tell a happy four-year-old about a rapidly spreading virus? How do you present facts without fear? Though I crafted my words very carefully during our first conversation, he still dubbed COVID the "naughty cold”.
It felt strange telling my son to stay clear of others. It felt equally strange working on a story about making new friends at school. Many times when I was writing, I would close my eyes and visualize a moment in the future. A moment when we are getting ready for his first day of school after a summer of quarantine. His clothes are picked, his lunch bag packed. Though we’ve prepared for first day’s of school before, this moment feels very different.
WE KNOW THEY WILL GO BACK TO SCHOOL BUT THERE ARE SO MANY UNKNOWNS
Though the future Is unclear, there is a definite, at some point, kids will go back to school. In fact, lots of children might be entering society before many grown-ups can. These school children, in a sense, will be testing the waters of being social as a country reopens.
No one truly knows what the school environment will look like or what this generation of COVID surviving kiddos will feel. But we do know that school will happen in some form. I’ll admit, as a mother, I have fears. How will my little one feel when it’s time to enter a sea of new faces? How will he feel on the first day of school when his parents drop him off and it’s time to make a new friend? Hopefully, he'll be excited, but I want him to know it's ok to feel nervous. I want to give him the tools he needs to find a positive perspective. I went from wanting to write this story, to needing to write this story.
THIS IS NOT A STORY FULL OF SAFETY REGULATIONS
I am not an authorized expert in public safety. We've all had months filled with rules and warnings about keeping distance. This story is a tool for both parents and children to talk about feeling excited, nervous, scared, brave and all the emotions that may come when walking through the classroom doors again. Those emotions will be important for both children and parents to address. Many of us have been parents-turned teachers-turned home doctors-turned any role the family needs. Taking off some of those hats might feel a bit unnerving. I hope this story helps families talk about all the yays and yikes of the first day of school. It’s a chance to talk about the courage to enter a new world and say hi to a new friend. This story is a conversation starter...literally.