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The stay-at-home dad: A new (and wildly different) school year

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| September 12, 2020 1:00 AM

School looks different for everyone this year. Many kids return to school with masks and social distancing measures. Others are learning virtually. Some are being homeschooled by their parents.

We’ve seen school reopening efforts become one of many hotly-debated topics during this pandemic. I certainly have a strong opinion about the whole situation, but I’ve heard perfectly reasonable arguments on the other side. And I’ve heard unreasonable opinions all over the spectrum.

When it comes to the safety and well-being of our kids, I think most, if not all, parents approach complicated situations with good intentions. We’re all doing what we can to make the right choices for our kids, and, truthfully, none of us know for sure the best way forward.

It’s okay if we choose different paths.

Three of my four kids began elementary school this year in a virtual classroom. They likely won’t return to regular school for the rest of 2020. I’m anxious about it, because I know the virtual experience can’t compare to the benefits of in-person instruction and socialization with other kids. We already spent three months last school year in a virtual program because of COVID-19, and it was stressful. I’m not a teacher, and I don’t understand how teachers can even tolerate a classroom of little kids for several hours a day, let alone teach them anything. I can barely get through lunchtime without wanting to lock myself in a bathroom.

We made the decision to go virtual this year in large part because of specific health concerns in our household. It only feels like the right decision about half the time. The rest of the time I think we’ve made a terrible mistake. I didn’t like any of the options, to be honest, so I hope we chose the least-worst option.

I’ve seen some major vitriol online about what to do about school this year. I think it’s important to respect individual choices when it comes to how families approach school and the pandemic. What’s best for us might not be best for you, and vice versa. We don’t know each other’s individual situations, so there isn’t much point in debating the topic in broad strokes.

I sometimes fret about what personal details to share in this column. I don’t consider myself to be a superstar parent by any means, so I never veer close to anything that could be construed as “advice.” Generally, I think there’s more value in sharing my mistakes and insecurities as a stay-at-home dad, because parenting can often feel like a constant stream of failure. The successes only seem to come sporadically sometimes.

Parenting can be a real struggle, and that’s something you won’t necessarily see on your friends’ social media feed. There’s a natural urge to convince others that everything in your life is sunshine and rainbows, and that your kids are doing super awesome because of every great decision you’ve made with them. We try to make it look like we have it all together.

Well, I don’t have it all together, and every time I talk to other parents in person, they don’t seem to know what they’re doing either.

So we can support each other, even when we take different paths. I sincerely hope every kid out there has the best experience possible this year. I can’t wait for the return of “regular school,” however we eventually get to that point.

In the meantime, I just hope our Internet keeps working well.

Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad to four kids, ages 3-9. He is tired. He can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.