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  • Writer's pictureHoosier Doc

This Isn't Supposed to End Like This

girl stands at an easel painting
R painting (mid-March 2020). These pants don't fit anymore. She's much taller, too.

In 2018, we enrolled R in the best of all schools. A spot for her became available in the 1-2's group mid-year and in January 2019, she started at an independent Jewish day school just after her 2nd birthday. We loved the play-based focus, the kind teachers, and the amazing daycare director who has become more like an "auntie" than a person who happens to help care for our daughter. This is a woman who ran us bagels 2 days after my surgery just because and just drops off paint for R whenever she needs it now because she knows our daughter is a budding artist. The school lent us an easel when it closed up in March for what was supposed to be a couple weeks. A couple weeks has now become 4 months of unimaginable pain and stress. Tomorrow should be my daughter's last day at school. It should be a celebration as she moves into the pre-k class. It should involve exuberant celebrations and shabbat. It should lead to perhaps a few tears as she says goodbye to some friends - some of which won't return because they're going to kindergarten and some who are moving out of state. One of her favorite teachers will be moving on, too. She's called to a temple that needs her in North Carolina. My heart breaks for my kid who doesn't understand this. We say more and more her moods are very "four". They make more sense now then they did at late-2 or early-3 but now that she's closer to 4 than 3, she's starting to connect a lot of dots. Her emotions are big. She understand why people are leaving. At the same time, she has trouble visualizing life outside of the walls of her favorite place - her school.

R asks to go to school every day. Every. Day. The two of us - two nerds - raised a social butterfly. She loves her classmates. She longs to play with other kids and has empathy beyond her years. Our mid-year parent-teacher conference was enlightening. Our kid is a people person to the nth degree. She's more prom queen than wallflower. We're both wallflowers. So, we wonder where she came from some days. What doesn't surprise us is that she loves school. We did, too. I mean, her mom loved school so much she stayed in it for 23 years. Tomorrow, though, will not be her last day of school filled with sweet goodbyes. It won't be a start to the week-long vacation that I planned for. It won't be a big camping trip that I also planned. And she won't return in a week to start summer camp which was integral to her development and stability last year. R came alive in that camp. She lives for being outside and there was nothing she loved more than nonstop playing in water and climbing structures. She hung out with the older girls an loved every minute of riding around on bikes with her friends. I have no doubt she would have been one of the "big" kids taking care of the little kids this year. She would have ridden bikes with abandon. She would have played in the water - this year no swim diaper needed! I think about that and I smile. I adore these memories that won't be this year. She's getting more and more ready for "big" kid school. And her skills and general ability to do everything in her own way reminds me that she is her own person. But part of that little person is a person who loves other people and it's a part that isn't being actualized right now in the ways it should. Her boundless love of pretend play and learning isn't being utilized in the way I imagined. R will hopefully be back in the fall - maybe. It depends on many things which still remain uncertain. I wonder about the implications of making preschool "safe" for kids - the physical risk and the mental duress that comes with it. Everything has changed so much and I worry about everything. That choice is a post for another day. For now, I cry thinking about Zoom shabbat and how much I will cry tomorrow when it's over. I didn't cry when I left high school. I didn't cry when I left college. I didn't cry when I graduated with my PhD. I was thrilled to leave. So, crying over a Zoom meeting no longer occurring seems ridiculous - especially for a three year old! Of course, these are very strange times we find ourselves in. I cry a lot these days. I cry over such random things - my yeast is lost in the mail, I haven't had espresso in very long, my next haircut is a year away, I miss sitting in a coffee shop writing and doing nothing, I miss my coworkers. I also cry because I worry about the long-term consequences of this on our mental health. Even if we survive the grim realities of Covid -unscathed or minorly altered- what will be the end-result on our mental well-being? I can tell you for now I know I'm not okay. My daughter may not be, either. She is incredibly resilient. She once moved twice in 4 months and didn't bat an eyelash. She's lived in more houses than I had until I was 23 years old. R sees me and says "oh, honey, it's going to be okay," something I know she learned from watching a teacher comfort another child. At her school. At the school she can't attend right now. Even that makes me hurt. This wasn't just a school. It was our community. It was our group of friends, teachers, and our extended family. For me, watching this year close is hard for that reason. And R doesn't get any smaller. She's grown 2.5 inches since the end of March. She has so many more words, demands, and abilities. I can't wait for her to share these with her friends and teachers. Maybe someday. Maybe it won't feel like it's so far away someday. Until then, I'm over here ugly crying.

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