The End of the Oddest School Year

Last Friday, I went with the kids to the front entrance of their school to pick up their report cards, prizes, schoolwork and footwear, so this seems to be the proper time to declare an official end to a messy and odd school year. Considering my kids were at home more than they were at a physical school for most of this year, my brain hasn't quite officially registered that they're plunging into the summer vacation season. On top of that. even though we do have a few trips and vacations planned, with the hovering threat of variants and Ontario still slowing creeping towards opening up, there is still this unsettling feeling this summer will look a lot like what has been most of these past 16 months -- being stuck at home.

Summer vacation for the kids and Emily has usually meant for me there will be two months of delightful distractions as the special sauce layered over the obstacle of trying to run a freelance writing and pop culture business. I usually find small moments in June for strategizing sessions for how to manage the impending carnival of family magical super time fun with both client work and growing the site and podcast. 

Even with this loosely cobbled game plan, my work ambitions often get karate kicked to the corner because my family just loves me oh-so-much and I am the only one that can possibly make them a snack right at this moment or these dolls must be played with instantly (or else, I get a sad-sad-sad song about how I won't play with dolls right this moment), But this year, these past summer obstacles have morphed into this entire school year. This past year has all been melted into a giant glob where the school year is all congealed into the summer season with no real difference.

It will just be new things that I yell about amongst the chaos and fresh crisis to solve in between scrambling to complete a project for a client. No longer will the scissors need to be found immediately for a craft to done or Everett being reminded that yelling at Danika to get back to her class is actually not his school assignment, but instead, the interruptions will now be sudden family extravaganzas sprung upon me or just Danika deciding she needs to belt out her favourite Disney Princess song while dumping Lego on my keyboard. These types of things may have once made summertime a bit more stressful as I kick and scream my way to making my business work, but now it is just months 17 and 18 of my current Covid-life.

The only real big difference of the summer over the school year will be that my children's bellows won't be the only disruptive noise as we will be going full swing into some major house renovations that began this past month, but the real crashing and bashing is about the become the soundtrack of the coming weeks. Past years I'd have retreated to a coffee shop, but I am not entirely convinced such things even exist in our modern apocalypse. The plus side is that the person doing the renovations is the same amazing fellow who renovated part of our basement and so, I know all the disruptions will lead to things looking spectacular. After 7 years of constantly whining my office needing doors, I will now need to search for a new gripe to keep my grump status.

But that is the summer and right at this moment, I'm thinking about the whirlwind that was this past year of school. A year of school that melded right into the past summer and the spring of the previous school year. This isn't just a result of my memory fading as my mind becomes cantaloupe innards in my old age, but even Everett wrote in a project that his most significant thing from this past school year was learning to bike, even though that was a Grade 3 milestone rather than Grade 4, but happened during the great 16 months blur. It is clear that the necessity of being stuck at home for such a long time has smashed the end of the last school year into this year for one big Covid stew.

But what I've learned and what this tangent of despair is proving is that my kids are way more resilient and positive than I could possibly ever be as the resident curmudgeon. They have been true champions as they've been treated like small neon balls that have been bounced from in-person to online to in-person to online and they have not just adjusted but excelled right away every time. As this year has felt like a tornado of constant chaos where sometimes even breathing feels like an overwhelming task for me, my kids have been the leaders when it comes to a positive mindset and doing their best with the circumstance they've been handed.

Of course, this doesn't mean that it has been Lollipop Lane and sending them back to in-person schooling in February likely saved them from giving each other permanent scars and the house from being burnt down. They've had moments where they'll explode over how I decided to pour their Cheerios into a bowl or confuse furious punches to the back as appropriate morning greetings to each other, but considering this year has been flaming garbage for almost everyone, they've really mastered the shifting environments of school to the point that both of them got high praise from their teachers for how they participated and handled the unexpected online schooling of the past two months.

This next statement may jinx everything and be blamed for a crushing rise in Covid cases that puts the entire world into a decade-long lockdown, but I am fairly optimistic that we've experienced the worst and we are marching towards actually real stick-to-it openings and that the kids will be returning to in-person school for the whole year with the most irritating thing being the continued necessity for masks. For the first time since this all started, I have suckered myself into being optimistic and believing that online schooling will be a memory and tale shared to my kid's future children as an anomaly.

The swirling blurred chaos that has been my kids' recent school life officially ended on Friday. My deepest hope is when we picked up that report card that it officially signaled the end of an era. The fact that every day someone proudly posts that they are now double vaxxed, and that Emily has joined that cherished club while I will join the team very soon that all this should herald the end of online school being a mandatory activity throughout the year. 

As much as my soul is screaming for the official finale to 'everyone at home at every single moment' lifestyle, I will once again reiterate that there were several golden treasures to be discovered with my kids home for the majority of the past 16 months. When a few years pass, I will remember the precious moments with my kids, and the crushing feeling of being overwhelmed trying to be a teacher and father while also a business owner will be erased and forgotten.

Instead, I'll remember Designated Physical Activity bike rides with Everett, Danika's face light up as she gets an idea for a craft project, watching both kids struggle with a task but then get to experience their joy as they master it, being right beside my kids as they develop new skills, moments throughout the day where they just want to spend a little bit of time with me, and just knowing that I've been gifted extra hours with my two amazing growing kids that was time that I had assumed were impossible before Covid hit. When the depression and anxiety are erased from this year, my memories will elevate this as a very special time.

As Danika once told me, I'm done with this online schooling, but that doesn't mean I can't cherish the good moments from it.