When I took my four-year-old daughter’s photo on her first day of preschool in September, I didn’t know if we’d be taking it again on her last day in June.
There was so much about the pandemic that was unknown and the direction it could take was unpredictable. Would we make it through the school year?
In February 2020, before COVID became a part of our lives, enrolling my daughter in preschool was an easy decision. I’d be on maternity leave with my youngest daughter, and my four-year-old could learn and play with kids her own age a few times a week. Fast forward to summer 2020 and I was anxious about whether I should still send her. A simple choice under normal conditions became complicated and worrisome in a pandemic.
Since preschool is optional, my daughter could stay home and avoid getting sick and bringing the virus home to her newborn sister. However, I felt I’d be giving in to my worries and preventing her from learning, socializing and just being a regular kid. My daughter was desperate to be with kids her own age, especially after spending six months with minimal socialization thanks to COVID. I wanted her to be happy but my need to keep her safe from an invisible virus was powerful. I was told her odds of getting sick were quite low but any chance can be too high for a nervous parent.
I’d developed some health anxiety since my first pregnancy and having two children. Around the time my eldest daughter turned one, she had been to the emergency room four times because of pneumonia and another viral infection. I get nervous if she becomes sick, even if it’s just a cold.
And so, she went to preschool. She was thrilled to have fun in her own little kid world bubble where practically everything was normal. I trusted the school was doing everything to keep staff and students safe. Just as I slightly relaxed, I received the first exposure email in November and it was followed by several more. There was also a direct exposure in her own class, which meant we had to self isolate for two weeks during Christmas. While it was hard, I was just happy we had almost made it to the halfway mark of the school year.
As spring arrived, so did the third wave. I kept my daughter home from preschool a few more weeks after spring break since cases had skyrocketed, and this made me feel more comfortable.
When the last week arrived, I felt my family and I had reached our own little milestone during a strange and scary year. My husband and I even received our second vaccinations the night before her last day of preschool.
She made it to the end of the year, just as Step 2 of BC’s reopening plan arrived and life started returning to normal.
Despite the stress and fear that I’ve often felt since COVID arrived, I feel thankful to look at my daughter and see a happy, playful, social little girl who had a wonderful year at school. She made new friends and adapted to new pandemic rules with ease. As a mom, I feel more confident making decisions for myself and my family. I know there will be more serious decisions to come, and many will be more complicated than this one. I’ve learned to take things one day at a time and to trust things will turn out just fine. As the heavy weight of COVID lifts, I feel grateful and excited for a new beginning.
Guest post by Roberta Heron, mom to one-year-old and four-year-old girls. She is a former journalist who has rediscovered her passion for writing during her maternity leave.
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