Even Though Times Are Different, We're Celebrating Our Son on the Last Day of School
The last day of school will certainly be different this year. We won’t be patiently waiting outside the doors of the school building to whisk up our kids with congratulatory hugs and kisses. We won’t be wiping away the tears as they bid farewell to the teachers who have nurtured and supported our children for the last 180 days. We won’t be planning big graduation parties, attending school ceremonies, or making reservations to treat our kids to dinner at their favorite restaurant. They won’t even be able to give a final farewell to their friends, teachers, principals, school nurses, janitors, and all the other people who became their home away from home over the last year.
For some students, walking away from this school year means they won’t get the chance to say goodbye to the people who have surrounded them for eight years of grammar school, four years of high school, or the most memorable years of their college career. It’s sad. But it doesn’t have to be anti-climactic.
Celebrating our children on the last day of the 2020 school year is more important than ever. Not only have they worked hard to get to this day, but they’ve also had to endure more in the past few months than they might ever have to endure in their lives. They’ve adjusted, adapted, coped, and overcome something that many of us never thought we would see in our lifetime. Even if they didn’t finish off the school year in the classroom, even if we can’t be around the people we would normally celebrate these milestones with, the celebration must go on.
If your kids are like mine, they’ve been faced with a roller coaster of emotions as they shift to distance learning. Whether they got every bit of school work done to perfection or simply skated by in the best way they could, the fact that they made it through despite all that was going on definitely calls for a special day. The last day of school marks a milestone, the right of passage into each new phase of life, that we can never get back again.
Too many kids are missing too many things today, and while we can’t control that, we can make sure they still get a day of fun to celebrate the completion of the 2019-2020 school year. It’s a good time to pause and reflect on everything our children have learned, accomplished, and overcome – then make a plan to make the last day of school special in whatever way we can.
I’ve been planning this since the first mention that schools might not open up for the remainder of the year. Making little notes of things my son has asked for over the last several weeks, things that aren’t as easy to come by as they were before quarantine. We’ll start the day by treating him to breakfast in bed, a simple but meaningful gesture that I am sure will put a smile on his face. I plan to stay up late the night before, decorating the yard, filing his room with balloons, hanging streamers throughout the house. On normal school days, we always had a dance party before we walked out the door, which stopped for some reason when homeschooling began. We’ll have an epic dance party that morning.
He’s been dying for a water balloon fight, so we’ll cross our fingers that the weather will be nice and surprise him with the biggest water balloon fight we’ve ever had. If my planning comes together, we’ll have a drive-by parade with the most important people in his life, just as we did for his 6th birthday. Before his dad cooks his favorite meal for dinner, we’ll swing by his amazing kindergarten teacher’s house to shower her with gifts of love and appreciation. As if teachers didn’t do enough before this pandemic, they’ve worked extra hard to make learning fun and adjust to the new technologies and routines required with this massive change.
We’ll end the day with a Zoom call. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when we log onto the computer to see the faces of the family and friends who he’s been missing so much these last few weeks. Just before bed, we’ll sit down to do our “Quarantine Time Capsule,” a memorable activity that one of his therapists shared with us. It’ll be a time to reflect on everything that’s happened in the past year. As we look through pictures, jot down our thoughts, and talk about our feelings, I have no doubt there will be both laughter and tears.
As we tuck him into bed later than normal that night, I hope he’ll drift off to sleep with a smile on his face. Even though he didn’t get to experience his last day of school surrounded by the people who made this year unique, I hope that all our efforts to make it special give him hope. I want his last day of school quarantine celebration to give him hope for the future, remind him of how far he has come, and leave him feeling loved and adored by the family that’s beyond proud of this 2020 kindergarten graduate.