Ready, Set, Don’t Go:: Another Disappointing Milestone for the Class of 2020

Ready, Set, Don't Go:: Another Disappointing Milestone for the Class of 2020There is no bet I would have won in March that could have included accurate predictions of the last 4 months. As a mom of a Class of 2020 high school senior, I honestly never thought that graduation and prom would have been cancelled. Now, we find ourselves in August. This is the month that our family has prepared for for the last 18 years. It’s {supposed to be} launch time for my girl. She searched the country to find the right fit. We visited campuses every year she was in high school. She dreamed of her bedding and her wall decor. When she paid the deposit to the school of her choice, she was ecstatic. Filling out the housing survey helped the entire process seem so real. Until June came. It was then we realized that no matter what decision was made, what we chose as a family, or what the university did to set policy, nothing about the fall of 2020 was going to look “normal” on a college campus

The Best Plans

Ready, Set, Don't Go:: Another Disappointing Milestone for the Class of 2020

To say that I have been impressed with the decisions and approach of my daughter’s chosen school is an understatement. They are adapting, learning and communicating at every turn. But even with the very best plans in place, I recognize that we are dealing with a virus that is not amenable to any human plans. They are taking every step possible to keep students, faculty and staff safe. Many classes were moved online. Masks and social distancing will be vital. Testing and limited movement would be asked of all persons on campus. But let’s be honest, the reality is that a college campus, especially communal living situations, is going to be all but impossible to distance and control the spread of an outbreak.

As we approached mid-July, the decision was made that on-campus students would all have single rooms and that to make this de-densifiying possible, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students would only be allowed on campus in specific circumstances. Priority for the on-campus experience would be given to first year and transfer students. Just like every other parent in America today, that left us {and more importantly, my daughter} with a choice. Would she go away to learn mainly online in a dorm room by herself or would she stay home?

We Do the Best We Can with the Knowledge We Have

This is where every parent on the planet finds themselves as we face the 2020-2021 school year. Do we push for in-person learning knowing that our kids need to leave our living rooms? Do we follow the science and with caution and known risk, chose to use this year as an on-line learning experience? We are all in the same boat. Both of my girls are/were online high school students. Even prior to COVID, they have thrived in the online learning platform. Their choice to attend online school allowed them to focus on their interests and passions outside of the classroom. The pandemic stole many of those opportunities, so even though they are not strangers to online education, their “normal” is anything but.

As we tried to offer insight and guidance to our soon-to-be college student, it became clear that while she was devastated at the thought, the planned on-campus environment was going to do little to assist and guide her in this new season of independence. The last thing she wanted to do was to stay home this fall, but there was a worse option – isolated anxiety in a city that was experiencing record high virus outbreak. With these facts and many others, she made what I know is one of the hardest decisions of her young life. The dream of leaving home is on hold.

What Now?

Here is the real and raw and unfiltered reality of this mess. We now find ourselves in this miserable middle ground. We are all mad. She is sad and grieving. I am disappointed for her. The plan that was, is no longer. She will be home for at least the fall. The ways that she had dreamed of independence and adventure as of August 14th are not happening. I know that in light of so many of the devastating life and death decisions that many have faced during the pandemic, college seems silly. But it’s not to the Class of 2020. There is little about this season of celebration and transition that has been expected. If they are able to go away, they are being greeted with testing and masks and protocol for exposure. If the path of next steps is at home, they find themselves trying to navigate connecting to new friends and professors via Zoom. It’s just not the way we planned it. At all. 

Looking Back

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a generation of world changers. They will tell these stories with nostalgia someday. When they remember all that changed in their lifetime, when they reflect on their senior year. When the Class of 2020 looks at their future passions with the desire to shape the world, they will know that this story changed them. It’s easier for me from my middle-aged perch to see that, but I know it is true. That is where I place my hope today. I want for her to know that no matter how tough and unfair and sad and disappointing this season has been, there is a future ahead that will not be stopped. I hate that this defining season will impact our kids in ways that we would have preferred to protect them from. But, we can’t. Instead, I propose that our job as parents is to equip our kids to look back with perspective and hope in light of life’s greatest disappointments.

Challenge accepted, 2020.  


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