• Laura

Social Distancing: Week 1

Two weeks ago, I was spending the four o’clock hour each day chatting with two kindergarten mom friends outside the school. After driving through the carpool line, we’d pull into a parking space and talk as we let our children run through the grass, making up games and releasing a day worth of energy. That Tuesday, we got the news that all field trips in our district had been cancelled for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus. It was seventy degrees with a light breeze, brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine. The kind of day that makes you feel like anything is possible, that evokes that light and carefree, roll down the car windows and turn up the music feeling. With the sun on our shoulders, we talked about how we would break the news about the cancelled field trip to our kids. We briefly discussed the news coming out of Italy and China and wondered--could some form of a lockdown be coming here? How would that work? How would it be enforced? It was hard to even wrap our minds around such a thing. On that Tuesday, I had no thought that my kids may not go back to school for the rest of the year.

Each afternoon as we talked outside the school, the news felt grimmer and in a strange juxtaposition, the days felt more beautiful, more spring-like, and more full of possibility. I’d stocked up a little bit at the grocery store on Wednesday, filling my cart with cans of soup and spaghetti-os, just in case. If we didn’t end up needing things now, I could just save them for the next hurricane. At this point, I felt a little crazy for even thinking about stocking up, because everything still seemed very hypothetical and unlikely. Our public schools hadn’t had any confirmed cases, but a few nearby private schools had parents test positive. The schools were closing for a day to be cleaned, and then reopening. Weekend events and professional sports were starting to be cancelled out of an abundance of caution. Colleges were starting to announce switching to virtual learning for the rest of the semester, but there was little talk about public schools closing. On Thursday night, several neighboring counties announced that schools would be closed for at least two weeks starting on Monday. I debated if I should keep my kids home on Friday or if I should send them to school so I could load up on library books and craft supplies, fully expecting an announcement on Friday that schools would be closed starting Monday. I decided to send them, and use the day to prepare. Over fifty library books and a cart full of craft supplies later, I felt somewhat ready for a possible unplanned two weeks out of school.

On Friday night, I was shocked to see that our school system had decided to remain open. I scoured the news and debated what I would do if they didn’t close. I’m usually a fairly decisive person, but I’m also not a big germaphobe. I would absolutely prefer that you don’t bring your obviously sick child out in public, but I’m also not too worried if my child eats something they just dropped on the ground--it’s building their immunity, I say. But this, this just felt different. Do we proceed with life as normal until told otherwise? Would it be overreacting to keep my kids home on Monday?

By Saturday afternoon, a teacher in our county had tested positive and the decision was made--school was closed for at least two weeks. Shortly after, the governor ordered all schools in the state to be closed for two weeks. Things were getting serious.

Now It’s a week later, and we’ve made it through our first week with no school. A term we’d never heard of two weeks ago, “social distancing”, is our new way of life. We’ve discovered a rhythm that is working for us, and the days are actually, dare I say it, kind of fun. I’m enjoying not having anywhere to be, a drastically reduced to do list, and a chance to try out activities with my kids that I’ve been pinning on Pinterest for years. We’re spending lots of time in the backyard, and the weather has been beautiful. While we miss our normal routines and our friends, the days keep me busy. I glance at the headlines from time to time but it’s not until the kids go to sleep that I really start to digest the latest news.

And then, my mind starts to race. The what-ifs and the how long could this go on and the horrible death tolls coming out of Italy and the desperate pleas from doctors and nurses who don’t have the necessary protective equipment spin through my head at lightning speed. Our pediatrician is currently closed because so many of their staff are quarantined. There is a very good chance that my children won’t go back to school for the rest of this school year. In one week, our world has shifted so rapidly that I’m left disoriented.

Information is coming from all angles, overwhelming and often conflicting. Resources for school at home are pouring out of the woodwork, virtual classes are showing up all over the place, the news is all focused on one thing. Comparisons are being made to World War II, but the enemy we are fighting is a virus. Our front line soldiers are our medical personnel and grocery store employees, and they had no idea they were signing up for a war. We are settling into a world of unknown that we didn’t anticipate only a few weeks ago. There isn’t a lot we can do to help, other than to fully embrace this new socially distant way of life.

So we stay home. We order our groceries online, and we disinfect them when they come into the house. We pray for those infected and those on the front lines and we hope that this will be over sooner rather than later.

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