How Can the Same Day be so Different?

by Charity

May 17, 2018
May 17, 2019
May 17, 2020

It’s amazing how different the same day can be each year.

I love Facebook, but sometimes the memories are hard.  Yes, I know you can turn them off, and while that may be appropriate in some situations, there are just some memories I don’t want to forget, even if they are painful.

I woke up to a bunch of “on this day” memories this morning. Two years ago today, May 17, Adalyn graduated from kindergarten. We had her ceremony in a really nice facility and each kindie was accompanied by a graduating senior.  The kids stood up to the microphone with their “Innovator on the Way” shirts and said, “I will innovate the future by…”  It’s a STEM tradition that has been done since the elementary part of the school opened six years ago.  The memory reminded me what Adalyn had said, along with the funny things the kids came up with.  Adalyn was going to innovate the future by being a ballet teacher.  Her friend was going to be a ninja.  And some kids described careers so technical, I couldn’t tell you what they wanted to do.

There were flowers, excitement over grandma and grandpa coming, pictures with teachers and friends, some exchanging of phone numbers for setting up play dates, and a fun dinner out accompanied by a few gifts.  This day was so important to her and I love that she still remembers it and talks about it.

Over the last two years, Carter has pointed out the facility where Adalyn graduated from kindergarten and all the things she got to do.  He’s been excitedly asking how much longer until he gets to do it. We’ve told him, yes, your turn is coming up.  Yes, grandma and grandpa will come.  And yes, we will go out for a celebration dinner.

After I reflected on Adalyn’s day and the wonderful memories that came back to me, I kept scrolling down and saw memories of cards the STEM administration had asked me to make for Kendrick’s family and all the students injured in the shooting. It’s crazy how one specific day can be so incredibly different every year. Last year, we were dealing (and are still dealing) with the aftershock of the shooting and just trying to process what had happened and why.

Cards for Kendrick’s Family and Injured Students

And here we are this year, May 17, 2020, where we have been quarantined in our homes for nearly 8 weeks.  While there have been some positives that have come out of the situation, that is a topic for another post.  Today, I just want to allow myself to feel sad about it and what we are missing.

As the pandemic spread and stay-at-home orders were extended, it became clear that there would be no graduations or special events for anyone.  It was really heartbreaking as Carter started asking questions about why.  Why is this happening?  We do our best to explain it in a way his 6-year-old brain can understand.  And every time this is followed up by the saddest face you’ve ever seen.  He holds back the tears and yells, “The Coronavirus is so STUPID.  I HATE it!”  You may not think this is very dramatic, but he’s figured out a way to use two words, “stupid” and “hate,” he’s normally not allowed to use, which makes it a really powerful statement in his mind.  But I can’t really blame him. It is stupid, and I hate that this is happening in our world.

Carter doesn’t get to walk up on stage with his senior buddy and announce in person how he wants to innovate the future.  He doesn’t get to run and give grandma and grandpa a big hug after the ceremony is over.  There will be no pictures with his teachers.  He doesn’t get to say goodbye to his friends and exchange phone numbers.  I won’t get to hear him laugh and talk WAY too loudly with his friends that he has spent the majority of his time with over the last 9 months. We won’t get to go celebrate at a fun restaurant. The waiter will not see that he’s graduating from kindergarten and bring him a free kids’ ice cream.  There will be no ceremony pictures to post on Facebook, and no memories to pop up and look back on.

And it’s not just us.  Everyone is losing something during this pandemic. Every single person. 

There are young adults who are missing out on proms and graduations.
There are people losing jobs and homes, being forced to shut down their businesses and having to wipe out their savings to survive. 
There are people putting their lives at risk to save others. 
There are people who are giving birth in isolation.
There are people who are hospitalized and dying alone.

And ultimately, there are people dealing with the loss of friends and loved ones because of this horrid virus.  

The loss the pandemic has created can also be as minor as not being able to see your friends and host a party, not being able to go swimming or out to eat…

…Or not being able to attend your much anticipated kindergarten graduation.

Class of 2032 Kindie Graduation Shirt

Adalyn doesn’t know what it’s like to end the school year without people acting weird or having an escort and extra security so she can retrieve her stuff.  Two out of the three years she has been in school, she has lost the end of the school year.  For two years there was no excitement of taking off on her bike on the last day of school and zipping over to a friend’s house to soak in the first day of summer break by eating an Otter Pop. (Because Otter Pops are LIFE when you’re a kid.)   There’s just something in the air on the last day of school before summer break: the pent up excitement, the plans for the next 3 months that include fire pit nights and late-night movies instead of homework and super early mornings.

And Carter. My sweet boy who has been waiting with patient anticipation for his special moment for two years, does not get to do his graduation.  The only time he has seen his teacher since the middle of March is when we happened to open the door, in the rain, as she dropped off his graduation shirt.  She was in a mask and standing 6 feet away.  That was unknown territory to him.  Let’s face it.  We as adults didn’t even know what the heck “social distancing” was until two months ago. Our kids aren’t privy to all the information we consume and my kids haven’t left the house more than a couple times.  So they are not used to seeing people with masks on.  It’s strange.  They don’t fully understand why, and let’s be honest, masks can look scary. The only other time Carter has seen people with masks on is when he’s getting ready to go into surgery.  That can be super triggering, even for someone as young as 6.  He even asked me during his annual checkup (the only time he has left the house) if he had to “get his eyes cut open again.”  He also cried because he was scared and didn’t want to wear his mask. And my mom heart broke.

When you are in kindergarten and you see your teacher after a long break, you want to run up and give her a hug.  

But he’s not allowed to do that.  

He’s not allowed to giver her a hug.
Or a high five.
Or a fist bump.
Or hand her a special picture that he drew for her.

The things that are most natural to him, that he’s done every single other day of the year when he saw his teacher, he’s not allowed to do.  

And it feels weird. 

So he stands there, silent, as his six-year-old brain tries to process what is happening and what he IS allowed to do.
And I stand there wishing I could change it all.

We will do all we can to make his graduation day special for him.  There will be a pre-produced virtual ceremony. There will be flowers (because the kid loves flowers). There will be take-out of his choice and there will be a special gift for him.  But I really hope; I REALLY, REALLY hope that when May 17 rolls around next year, I get to update Facebook with some better news.  

Next year-
I hope the kids are hugging each other and signing yearbooks.
I hope everyone goes to that end of the year BBQ.
I hope the teachers get a hug and proper goodbye from every single one of their kids.
I hope they get presented with tons of end-of-year gifts that they will never use, but pretend to love because they love our kids.
I hope my kids get to have that bittersweet moment of packing up their stuff, and looking at their empty cubby and thinking, “I made it.”
I hope we go get our traditional “last day of school ice cream cone,” and I hope we have to wait in line for 30 minutes (ok, 10 minutes) to get it.  
I hope we get to pile in the car and visit our out-of-state friends for a massive 4th of July party.
I hope there are sleepovers and play dates.
I hope there are impromptu BBQ’s, concerts and road trips.
I hope there is the smell of sunscreen mixed with sweat and dirt as 15 kids come running through my house.
I hope they get to make random best friends at the park, hold hands and play together all afternoon.
I hope there are days where my kids swim so much with their friends that they are too tired to eat dinner and fall asleep sun-kissed on the couch.
I hope there are days that they play so hard outside in everyone’s yard that the bottoms of their feet are grass-stained for days.
I hope they beg to go the park for a second time in one day.
I hope there is a pile of bikes and scooters in my front yard left for me to figure out who they belong to.

I hope it’s different. 

I hope it’s normal.

But most of all, I hope we all appreciate the normal more than we ever have before.


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