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Bittersweet Last Days

Bittersweet last days

Andrea Zanin, Kids Matter facilitator/comms pro & mum of five, talks about eding a school year in the anticlimax of lockdown.

When lockdown happened, my heart broke most for my little Aiden. Three years old and two months into pre-school she was having the time of her life. Only moments into figuring out how to make friends and be a good friend, it all stopped – no more friends and teachers and climbing frames and learning to write her name and morning singing and being in a group. Sure, we could do some of this at home but it’s just not the same. She cried when I told her she could no longer go to school, and I cried when she cried.

But, you know, children are resilient and we’ve had some incredible lockdown moments – sibling bonding and all manner of family crazy. And then three weeks ago, Aiden got to go back! To be in her school, making friends again…and whilst I acknowledged what she had gained being at home, when I saw the expression on her face at the end of a school day I also remembered what she has missed. I am grateful that she got some of it back.

I know that I will never forget. But she will. It’s the way of it.

On Aiden’s last day of school this week, there was a little social distancing gathering outside pre-school for all the kids (even the ones who didn’t get to go back) – it was a weird thing of smiling through tears. The children played together outside (because they couldn’t be together indoors) and the teachers stood behind the fence, with tears in their own eyes as they saw some of the precious children that they had missed for four months, and waved hello and goodbye from the safety of the space between.

My older children have had no end to the year. They had their last half day of school in a bubble of ten – not able to say goodbye to their class mates and some of their favourite teachers who are leaving. There was no end of year assembly, the year 6s didn’t get to to the play they had practiced to perfection and, perhaps most significantly, there was no atmosphere – that joyous end to a school year and the palpable excitement of summer; waking up late, pyjamas all day, NO school work, playdates but also days and days at home doing whatever, whenever. The presence of summer was not at the school gate this year because not much of it is exceptional any longer.

In many ways they have lived their bests lives – with pink and blue hair, hot days in the garden and late nights nestled in their beds reading until ridiculous o’clock. But they’ve missed their friends – their peeps, and the freedom to figure out who they are in place void of parent (school!).

There is a resounding buzz in my home for the school year ahead – albeit a different looking school, where: my four children in separate years will not see one another on the playground (because they will be restricted to allocated play times and zones), their baby sister won’t be able to play on the slide while we’re waiting at pick up, I won’t be able to walk Aiden to her brand new reception classroom on her first day at school – she will be met at the gate and escorted into school, and all the special moments that make school a community (fairs, nativities, class assemblies, trips) will be gone, one can only assume. And, really, who knows if school will even happen if the much hyped second wave hits? I’m trying to keep expectations real, which is tough – because I know that yet again, Aiden (who is so much looking forward to school) will miss out most.

Does this sound petulant? When we, as a family, have so much to be grateful for? Perhaps. And yet regardless, there has to be space for mourning. To grieve the losses – no matter what our story or journey…because everyone has lost something, some more than others – but something. 

And after that, the only thing left is hope. To hope, that in spite of it all, that we will come out on the other side kinder, more resilient, better human beings. Because there is an “other side”, and whilst none of us know what it looks like – there is a God in heaven who does. And He’s got this.

 

If you’d like to find out more about Kids Matter or would like to get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at info@kidsmatter.org.uk. And for more on our IMPACT, click here.

 

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