Having a high school student who is currently a senior in the Class of 2021 during the pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion from students, teachers, parents and administrations regarding the argument of schools and if they should be having in-person classes or learning from home and if they are in session, should they be allowing extra curricular activities or be eliminating them.
Everyone has their own opinion and their own thoughts and students have been in the middle of the conversations and school leaders and staff, along with parents have been forced to put the kids in the middle, trying to make sense of what is best for everyone to keep them safe from a virus, with continuing changing information, that’s been hard to keep up with.
It’s been exhausting, overwhelming and probably keeps almost every parent wondering if they are doing the right thing, whatever their decision has been for their student when there is the option to send their student to school or allow them to participate in activities in and after school.
My children have been attending school in-person since school started in the fall and while I know it does not work for every school in every district, I am delighted that they have this opportunity. I am thankful for the school staff who have been putting in extra effort so my kids can attend school and I am grateful that my kids can participate in extracurricular activities, even if we have to do it with precautions. Perhaps some might think I say that selfishly but there is nothing intended selfish about it. As humans, it is healthy to have contact with others, routines that help guide us and enjoyment in being part of groups and events. When the pandemic rolled in with a vengeance last spring, so many of us, even as adults were at a loss in how to navigate forward with so many of our social connections halted. It was stressful, hard and scary. As a family we took precautions, we were playing it safe as we continued to learn about this virus and what it meant if one of us became ill. We were sometimes confused about the information coming out, but we tried to navigate as a family and tried to find things to keep our lives normal. It was hard but not impossible.
Having active kids involved in athletics and 4H and community service, it was a change to just sit and be still and I will admit, it wasn’t all bad. We are a close family but we found ourselves together even more. Slowly the kids returned to some activities but few were offered. Still we found a few that fit and we took our chance, having the kids participate. Still taking precaution but being interactive because it was healthy for us to be active. It was depressing laying dormant. Doing nothing was affecting our family and disappointing our spirits. We needed some activity and found some to help and slowly eased into some interactive activities that worked for us. It was great and the kids were back in rhythm and the smiles slowly came back and laughter was in the air. We were confident it was good for our kids. We didn’t dismiss the virus but we lived a little.
When school started, we watched as many districts and communities remained closed, canceled athletics and extracurricular activities and shut down to protect their students and staff. It was painful and my heart broke for students, parents and staff who were in limbo trying to make sense of it all. It still is and I know at any moment anything can change. It’s scary, yet I will admit, I am so grateful that even though nothing has been normal about this school year, my senior has had the chance to participate in athletics and am glad that I am in a district that took a chance. It hasn’t been perfect and every day I still wonder if it’s right. Nobody really knows and I try not to be selfish. I want to watch my senior experience all those moments that they should have in their last year of high school and as the school year gets closer to graduation, I just remain hopeful and thankful that my son still had and has the chance to be involved and in-person, with people.
Then I wonder how it has affected him and what these final moments mean. Do they really matter. He wrapped up his final basketball game the other night. The last time he would take court as a high school basketball player. It wasn’t a winning season, far from it, but the players made the best of it knowing there were many student athletes who never got a season. The day after, he shared something with me and it made me realize how much these senior moments do matter. How much the connections mean and how much being together with a “team” (whatever that means to each person) really does matter. He lost one of his best friends when they were 12, a friend he shared in sports with and in their graduation year, he is thought of more. To many, it may just be another sports season and in light of it, while we know it’s not the end of the world if they don’t play, reading his words made me realize how many emotions are behind our youth and how powerful his feelings are. I am grateful that my son DID get to play school sports this year and I am forever thankful for the opportunity he had. Nothing has been perfect and even at times I have found myself frustrated, but it has been worth it. Worth it to have these moments and feel the power behind these words. Thank you to those who have given my kids opportunity this year and helped them find some joy during a pandemic. The memories will always be worth it and we could not have had them without someone realizing how important it has been to have our kids connected. These words remind us of it.
What my son wrote:
As I walked off the court during my final basketball game of my career, I took one last look at the court and many emotions and memories ran through my mind and made it even harder to let go of the sport of basketball…
Ever since I was little, basketball has made me feel some type of way. Some of the emotions are bad, but that’s what made the good ones feel 10 times better.
That feeling of losing my first playoff game by 5.That feeling of missing the last second shot to give my team the lead. That feeling of playing bad in the last minutes losing. That feeling of not being able to make a shot all game and never being able to get anything going.
That feeling of being on the court, with the best teammates I could ever ask for. That feeling of wearing #22 on my front and back and knowing that when I take the court, I AM NEVER ALONE. That feeling of sinking the game winning free throws with 0.1 seconds on the clock to cap off the game of my life. That feeling of hitting a couple threes in a row and the student section going crazy. That feeling of coming off the court and hugging my coaches and teammates after beating our rival on senior night.
Throughout all the ups and downs of my career. I would never change anything about my career. It’s been one hell of a ride and all I’ve got to say is thank you!
The moments have mattered. They are important and being in school and with other students has been important and I am glad my kids district took a chance and faced the pandemic with precaution but still gave our kids and our seniors some moments. I am happy I could enjoy some of these moments too. They are now our memories that really matter.