Tonight, I tucked my kids into bed, kissed their little cheeks and, as I walked out of their room, I said, “Goodnight, sweet dreams,” just like I have every other night before.
But tonight is no ordinary night.
Tonight is a school night. The first school night in six long months.
While I am incredibly thankful my children will be able to return to school tomorrow, it is not lost on me that it will be the first time in six months that my children will fight this virus without me by their side.
For the last six months, I was able to protect my children. I decided who they played with (if anyone at all), I decided where they played (if not inside our house) and I decided when they left my sight (if ever).
For the last six months, I was there to stop them from using a public water fountain. I was there to remind them to put their mask on if it came off. I was there to make sure they stayed 6 feet away from strangers, and even friends.
For the last six months, I was on the front line to protect their little hands and, more importantly, their little immune systems.
But, now I am sending him into battle alone. At least it feels like they are going into battle.
Before bedtime, I went over what was in my second grader’s backpack with him. “Here are your extra masks. If one gets wet or dirty, just put it in your backpack and put on a new one. I’ll wash them when you get home. Here is your hand sanitizer. Use it as often as you can. We have plenty more if you need it.”
I felt like I was handing him his shield and armor.
This fight against the virus is a battle. And it is now one that our children will come face to face with on a daily basis. All that is left to do is to hope we’ve prepared them with enough knowledge and equipped them with the right armor to fight it.
Tomorrow, when my three children wake up and bounce out of bed with excitement to finally return to school, I will make them cinnamon rolls, brush their hair and take their first day of school pictures.
But tomorrow won’t be an ordinary first day of school.
Tomorrow, I won’t walk them into their classrooms. I won’t take a picture of my kids and their teachers, like I have every other year. I won’t linger too long in the hallway making small talk with parents just so I don’t have to say goodbye.
I won’t be there to protect my children tomorrow. All I can do is hope my babies can be a small but mighty David in a world filled with a Goliath virus.
Tomorrow, I will put all of my trust into the courageous teachers and administration to take care of my little ones, as if they were their own. I will have confidence that they will love them and comfort them when they are scared or overwhelmed by the changes. I will appreciate their unwavering bravery in the midst of such uncertainty. I will thank them for putting themselves on the front line, for facing fear in its face, and for shaping our future’s minds despite what the future holds.
Tonight is no ordinary night. Tomorrow will be no ordinary first day of school. But with a little hope and a hell of a lot of hand sanitizer, we’ll make it through six feet apart but always together.