January 28, 2022

Until they're no longer in sight

From my vantage point, this is what it looked like when I dropped my children off at school this morning.

Parents/caregivers are no longer allowed to enter the building, convene in the lobby, and physically watch their children head down the main hallway toward their respective classrooms.

And, honestly, it's the most strikingly noticeable change that's been sparked by COVID.

I relished the opportunity to look on as my kids arrived at their final destination within the school. It pacified me to see with my own eyes that they got where they're supposed to be. It provided closure. It was like tying a bow around the otherwise mundane ritual of the morning drop-off.

But I can also see how this new protocol is beneficial.

Since Monday was my children's first day back in-person (see the post right before this one), I was granted permission to enter the school and see my kids off personally. 

Like old times.

But what I found was that it wasn't like old times.

I observed kids whizzing by me, cruising seamlessly to their classrooms as if on autopilot: They were down with the new program. With parents out of the way, the kids didn't have to engage in perfunctory hugs, kisses, and I love yous that had long been part and parcel with school morning goodbyes.

The lobby was quieter, calmer.

Despite the smoothness, it felt like something was missing.

Something was missing: The parents.

And the kids were alright.

This morning, it occurred to me that the kids are doing better on the inside than the parents might be doing on the outside.

Today, when I walked my kids up to the door, a father, who had dropped his children off mere moments before I had arrived with my kids in tow, held the door open for my kids.

And then, he singlehandedly altered my drop-off experience with one slight--almost imperceptible gesture: After my son and daughter crossed the threshold, he kept holding the door open, long enough that I was able to watch both of them turn the corner and disappear from sight.

When I couldn't see them anymore, the man let the door close. Our eyes met, and I thanked him. He nodded.

"We want to catch every last glimpse. Until we can't anymore," I said lightheartedly.

I was utterly aware that it was a delicate dance: Hover around a bit after the door closes and you look like a concerned, loving parent. Hover a millisecond longer than that, and you look like a creepy parent.

No one wants to be perceived as the latter.

But this man and I were on the same page.

He replied, "I hear you." And then repeated, "Every last glimpse."

I know this may sound morbid, but let's be real: The notion that parents and caregivers acknowledge that drop-off may be the last time they see their child is no longer illogical or absurd.

It's reality.

And it's because I'm mindful of this that I savor watching them until I can't anymore.

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