On Sunday, March 15th, the Alberta government, concerned about the spread of COVID-19, closed all schools. Two days prior, on Friday, March 13th my kids attended school with few reservations on my part. They also would have attended school on Monday, March 16th had the government directive not been made, again with few reservations on my part.
Today is September 1st and schools reopen to tens of thousands of kids across the province, but not mine. We’ve chosen the HUB option, a beefed-up continuation of the slapdash home-schooling instituted back in the spring. I have no idea if our decision is the right one.
My certainty wavers seemingly by the second, wondering if we’ve done something stupid, or worse, silly. Maybe both? I honestly can’t rationalize the disparity in my comfort level with sending my children to school on March 16th versus September 1st, nonetheless, there it is. It’s a testament to the power of the media, I suppose. Or the weakness of the mind.
Of course, decision making has never been my strong suit. I hate it. Whether picking a chocolate bar, toaster, investment, or house, the very act of choosing makes sentience more a burden than blessing for me. Toss in a pandemic, social media, the politicization of everything, and our growing infatuation with wilful ignorance and the resulting overload has me wanting to bury myself in the odorous den a skunk dug under my garden shed.
As someone who typically defers to experts on important matters, sometimes even (gasp!) the government, I’ve grown used to my sheep’s clothes. Sure, they’re a bit drab, a little tight around the chest, but they’re more to my liking than the garish wardrobe fancied by braggart lone wolves.
And, anyway, I think sheep get a bad rap. For the life of me I don’t understand how they’ve come to represent such a shameful insult. Bighorn Sheep don’t exactly give off a pushover vibe. I doubt they take much shit from anyone. Same goes for Lamb Chop who always had a saucy edge to her. And benevolently avoiding confrontation with a domesticated predator strikes me as pragmatic, not mindless. Besides, they’re tasty as hell. What’s not to love?
Then, last week, the CBE announced that only 16% of students were enrolling in HUB and I suddenly found myself in unfamiliar territory. It was as if all my woolly brethren, when asked for a volunteer, had taken a step back leaving me all alone in the spotlight. I’d never been so nakedly on the non-sheep side of the equation and it surprised me.
I understand that many families have no choice but to send their kids to school. There’s no denying our own work situation, as in lack thereof, influenced our decision. Still, with all uncertainty regarding how this return to school would actually happen, safely no less, and with all the angst vented on social media, I fully expected a far greater number to opt for HUB.
To put that number 16% in perspective, 18% of Calgarians voted for the Liberal Party of Canada in the most recent federal election. In other words, more Calgarians like Justin Trudeau than their own kids.
Needless to say, my already fragile confidence spiderwebbed like an impacted windshield. My sheep instincts are strong and if everyone I know and respect was sending their kids back to class, even those I’d have bet money would choose HUB, then maybe we were being too cautious. Perhaps ludicrously so.
We are, after all, a very low risk household. My wife and I do not work outside the home. All of our extended family lives outside the province, save for an aunt and uncle who are a two hour drive from here. Neither kid is playing hockey this season (woohoo! … sorry, couldn’t resist … but seriously, woohoo!). We have no plans to travel. Our summer camping adventures are about to wrap up this Labour Day. And as for socializing, let’s just say that’s we’re able to avoid that easier than most.
What, then, am I afraid of? My loved one most at risk from COVID-19 is, well, me. And while I’m unsure how great that risk actually is, I trust myself to be smart about it and stay safe. What I don’t trust, it turns out, is all of you.
A couple weeks ago I sat through a Zoom presentation by our minor hockey association. It was a chance for the executive to explain all the changes being made in order to provide a safe hockey season for our children. It was as dry as it sounds.
The amount of change being implemented is astounding. This will be far from a normal hockey season and the effort put forth by these volunteers already, not to mention in the coming months, is truly impressive. And ridiculous. All this just to make what amounts to six months of practice, fun. I wasn’t buying it and ultimately, neither did my kids (see woohoo! above).
What really struck me, though, was when the speaker asked, no pleaded is more accurate, that any parent volunteering to coach please refrain from playing recreational hockey themselves. The reasoning being cohorts. He even admitted they had no means to enforce this but hoped volunteers would show leadership and do “what’s right.”
It’s a good thing my mic was muted lest everyone hear my dismissive snort. I knew right then that this fall was going to be a gongshow. All the earnest preparation in the world will not compensate for human selfishness. Oh, you can ask that everyone limit themselves to a single sport but they won’t. Few things have become more obvious in the past six months than our willingness to stretch guidelines. Or flout them completely.
The hockey cohort is connected to the family cohort. The family cohort is connected to the school cohort. The school cohort’s connected to after school sports cohort. And on and on, none of which, by the way, is connected to the funny bone. Seriously, do any of you truly believe everyone else will do this by the book? Hell, do any of you truly believe you will do this by the book? Of course not.
That’s why we chose the HUB for our kids. Yes, the evolution from “we must reduce the rate of infection so as not to overwhelm the hospitals” to “my God we must never get this” has been dramatic, maybe even irrational. I get your cynicism. Baa-aa-aa.
I also just don’t trust enough of you to do what is required to avoid a second, bigger, wave. One that nobody seems to have a clue as to how it will be dealt with. The potential ripple effect of a positive test in a kid, or twenty, is staggering in terms of quarantines and closures. If keeping my kids at home another five months (or more) makes for a less disruptive school year, then sign me up. Oh, right, I already did.
If I’m wrong, hey, there’s no better tasting egg to have on my face. Mmmm embarrassment. I’ll return my kids to normal school in February, a little (cough) sheepishly perhaps, and comfort myself in knowing that erring on the side of caution is nothing to be ashamed of.
As for my kids, they’ll have a great story to tell their own spawn when they’re bitching about some perceived unfairness forced upon them by worrywart Dad. Ah, the circle of life.