Remember those paper chains you made as a kid to count down to something exciting, like Christmas or the last day of school? I’ve had a digital countdown to the first day of school on my phone since May. It was my way of surviving through the summer. Much like the last school year, summer was challenging.

My boys were so relieved to be finished with the school year. It was such an accomplishment for us all! The year had been so stressful and busy that we all just needed some time to catch our breath.

In the beginning, it was such a relief to have my mornings back. Instead of making lists of assignments, I could drink coffee and waste time on TikTok before starting work. I didn’t mind that the boys were sleeping until noon, because it meant the downstairs was quiet—and clean! However, just as they were waking up, I was starting my workday. I was ready to focus and enjoy working with my clients and I was getting texts saying, “Mom, can I let the dogs out? Mom, can I come down and make a pizza? Mom, why aren’t you answering me? Mom? MOM?” By the end of the day, switching spaces and navigating daily tasks, we were all ready to scream. It didn’t take long to realize this was not going to work for the next three months.

Even as I started to return to the office, I felt as if I had to check up on them. Instead of my thoughts being on work, they were focused on, “Are they awake yet? Did they clean the kitchen? I don’t want to clean the house when I get home tonight. Did they shower? Have they come out of their rooms?” We had several family meetings, lots of lists, and a chore chart to help us communicate and coordinate our schedules. It was certainly a lot more effort than just getting dressed and leaving for work. Thankfully, we have managed to work together and even have some fun over the summer.

As I write this, there are 20 days until the start of school. It’s been 17 months…507 days…since they have attended school in-person. I can’t wait for it to get here, but it isn’t at all what I was hoping. I had hoped to just send them off to school and enjoy the peace and quiet—maybe have coffee with my husband that didn’t involve talking about homework and missing assignments.

The reality is this year still won’t look anything like February 2020, pre-COVID. My reality is having to tell them they must wear masks at school, even though it’s not mandated by the school, and it is likely most of their peers will not be wearing masks. My reality is my boys will still be concerned about a possible exposure to COVID, and an exposure will be major for our family. I want them to be able to just leave the house and think about friends and “What’s for lunch?” and “Do I have my homework?” It is not that simple anymore.

I wonder what it will be like the first time we get a letter stating a classmate or teacher has tested positive? How will we handle quarantine? How will my clients be impacted? How will my boys continue their schoolwork virtually again? What will it really be like for my kids to return to school in person after essentially missing a year and a half? My boys feel like they’ve already missed so much time. I want them to have fun, despite all the challenges. I want us all to have a good school year.

What I know moving forward is to not get too ahead of myself. When I find my anxiety rising, I often think, “What would I tell my clients?” So, I will focus on what I know, rather than worry or speculate on the unknown. I will remember that my family and I have survived hard things, and we know how to make it through. We may have to adjust and deviate from our plans, but we will work together. I will continue making time for self-care and find time each day to do something I enjoy. I will ask for help—from family, friends, and school.

The uncertainty of the upcoming school year is a lot! A lot of pressure! A lot of stress! A lot of worries! We would all benefit from slowing our brains down and taking things one day at a time. One worry at a time. One joy at a time.

Katie Taggart, MSW, LCSW received her Master of Social Work degree from Saint Louis University and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has extensive experience serving clients with chronic and terminal illness as well as grief and loss. She worked in hospice for 11 years and is comfortable in medical settings. Katie provides private therapy to clients of all ages and enjoys working with both children and adults. She uses various modes of treatment, including play therapy, to address depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues.
In addition to Katie’s clinical practice, she provides on-site counseling to seniors and families throughout the continuum of senior living.

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