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By Kaci Lane Hindman

Six months ago, I never could’ve imagined my son’s school supplies would include masks. A year ago, I wouldn’t have even known what that meant. Superhero masks? Some sort of costume for a medical career week? Maybe. But a cloth adorned with baseballs or dinosaurs to wear around friends never would’ve entered my mind.

In fact, I don’t know anyone who isn’t a bit bothered by this. While I understand and respect everything the government and schools are trying to do for my child to have a normal second-grade school year, nothing about this is normal. And even if students do wear masks for years to come, as a parent, the only silver-lining I can imagine is saving a ton of money on orthodontics.

Thinking that my kids may have to grow up in a world where everyone is met with masks unsettles me.

In a culture inundated with electronics, we need face-to-face interaction more than ever. My husband taught our son to look people in the eye and shake their hands when meeting. Now, we have to tell him to stay back and not touch anyone. Even when (or if) everything does go back to the way it was pre-COVID, an awkwardness will forever linger when greeting someone new.

Last week I filled out a survey for our school system, choosing in-person learning for my child. My main reason for doing so is that I feel school teaches us so much more beyond academics. School teaches all kinds of social skills through activities and interacting with other students. The sad part is that I’m not sure how this will work with all the prolonged social distancing.

As a child, I remember comforting hugs from my kindergarten teacher when I got hurt or encouraging smiles from an upper-grade teacher when I struggled to understand math. Beyond that, I loved playing tag and piling on the marry-go-round with my friends. None of this can happen in the 2020 school year for my son or any other student.

Instead of an open house, my child will go meet his new teacher outdoors on a designated night for his grade. He asks me every week if he will get to have PE classes, and I can’t give him a sure answer. At least for the first semester nobody will go on a field trip, and we’re still waiting to see what fall sports will be available. It’s like we’re all just holding our breath, waiting on the other shoe to drop before schools have to close again.

It upsets me when I think about students of all ages dealing with changes beyond our control. During my first year of college, security procedures for travel and large events forever changed due to 9/11. While I can somewhat relate to a major shift in culture, I can’t begin to imagine how students must feel with changes happening almost daily.

In some ways, I’m glad my children are only seven and four, which means they aren’t missing any major milestones like graduations, proms or important extracurricular events that might lead to scholarships. On the flip side, it’s sad to think they may never know what it feels like to attend prom without a mask or take a school trip out of state. Needless to say, this pandemic affects everyone from my preschooler to my younger cousin who saw her senior year turned upside down almost overnight.

While most of us can’t help find a cure or make life go back to normal, we can help our own children. More now than ever, it’s important to make the most of family time. In all this madness, I have learned to slow down and spend more quality time with my kids—talking, playing and enjoying the outdoors. This might not seem like much until I think back to some of my favorite childhood memories. Most weren’t made at Disney or during extravagant events but in everyday life with my family and friends.

If we focus on those we love and keep a positive attitude, I’m quite certain that no matter what happens wearing a mask will not be what our children remember most about this time.

Kaci Lane is a journalist turned fiction writer who believes all stories should have a happy ending. While unsuccessfully trying to learn Spanish for a decade, she has become fluent in sarcasm, Southern Belle and movie quotes. She is married to a high-tech redneck and has two young children who help keep her humility in check. Connect with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, or on her website.