Omicron Is Forcing Kids Back To Virtual Classrooms and I Just Can't Do It Again

We're still waiting every day for the email that says, "Sorry parents, we're about to turn everything upside down once again."

Six year old boy having a remote schooling session with his teacher
Photo: Getty Images/Mint Images

When my daughters' Wisconsin school district announced it would be moving to virtual classrooms at the beginning of 2020, I couldn't see anything but the bright side. The kids could sleep in longer. I didn't have to battle my way through parent pick up and drop off in the parking lot. Since I already worked from home, I could be more involved in their learning and cook them all those meals I had pinned on Pinterest. Of course, we also had less potential exposure to the virus.

Virtual learning was going to be great—until it wasn't.

While there were benefits to distance learning, I was completely unprepared for the consequences that would come with it. Kids are flexible and resilient. While this would be a transition, it still would be fun, new, and exciting, right? Wrong.

My (then) kindergartner would have an absolute meltdown (on camera, of course) when she couldn't get her stylus to work right. My second-grader had so much anxiety about her classmates seeing her on camera that she eventually left it off 80 percent of the time. Needless to say, the virtual classroom experience was hard, really hard.

There were recent talks our school district would temporarily go remote again as Omicron cases rise. It's continuing to be the case in districts across the country, including in Washington and in Tennessee, as the pandemic is also causing staffing shortages. While our district hasn't gone remote again just yet, the thought of having to do it all over is just too much to bear.

I'm reminded of the nearly year and a half where I turned into a tutor, chef, and referee (my girls started bickering more than ever before). That was on top of trying to keep up with my own work.

All of that time and energy I thought I would get back with them staying home? Yeah, that didn't happen. Oh, and excitement about learning alongside them and being more involved in their work? Well, let's just say Google became my best friend.

The word overwhelmed doesn't even begin to cover it. Honestly, I felt like I was drowning most days. Being pulled into too many directions left me unable to give my all to anyone. I couldn't focus, and every aspect of my life slowly floundered.

This circumstance is familiar to so many parents. We found our way through the tears and tantrums, the breakdowns and excitement to the other side. And maybe I'm just speaking for myself, but I can't do it again.

It finally feels like I'm hitting my stride at work again. The girls no longer feel immense anxiety when we're trying to get out the door in the morning, and they've settled back into a routine. So, when slowly but surely we saw schools across the country again making the transition to virtual classrooms as a means to slow the spread of Omicron, we worried.

At first, I was angry. Angry at every person who chose to not take safety precautions. And absolutely irate at the fact they can't see past their own selfish need to prove a point. My daughters do everything within their power to contribute to keeping their community safe, but in the end, they're also the ones who suffer. What happened to we're all in this together?

According to Lindsay Henderson, Psy.D., a New York-based psychologist, allowing my girls to feel all the feelings, no matter if they were hard or not, is important. When they're able to put a name to what they feel, they'll be able to process it and move on. So, that's what we did.

When the fear first set in, my daughters panicked and cried over the very thought of being isolated from their teachers and classmates again. My eldest cried herself to sleep because her anxiety shot back through the roof, and it broke my heart into a million pieces. But we talked about it.

We talked about the stress and the disappointment that came with virtual learning. Honestly, with as fluid as the situation is, it's a continuing conversation about how we can process each of those feelings together. It's not bad or shameful to feel these things. In fact, it's understandable, and I am so proud of them for being vulnerable enough to admit that.

We're still hanging in the balance, waiting every day for the email that says: Sorry parents, we're about to turn everything upside down once again. So, no. As a parent, I can't do virtual learning again. And neither can my kids.

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