The Pandemic’s Effects On Childhood

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As the lingering effects of this pandemic continue to affect our lives, we find the phrase “New Normal” being thrown around quite regularly. It has caused us to rethink how we socialize and conduct our lives inside and outside our homes.

The snow day may go the way of the dodo if full-time on-line teaching becomes the norm.
(Photo by Albert Herring/CC BY 2.0)

Masks and social distancing have become an accepted way of life for everyone’s safety. We’re getting used to reduced or limited capacity in restaurants and bars. We found that we can survive without going to crowded concerts or sporting events. Those of us lucky enough to be working from home have grown accustomed to never having to wear shoes or dress pants again.
After initially complaining about restrictions, adults have acquiesced to our new normal and have moved on.
But what about the kids?

Most don’t know any better. As parents, we have always tried to shelter our children from the reality of the adult world around them. I’m curious about what a five or six-year-old thinks about donning a mask when out in public?
This pandemic caused high school seniors and juniors to miss their proms and graduations. Granted, now that they are “off” to college and away from parental control, it will never be the experience they signed up for. They’ve seen the movies and heard the stories of legendary college parties from their friends and family. That’s not happening any time soon.

But what about our elementary school children? These years are the most formidable of their lives, with the early ones focused on socialization. They get to sit next to, work with and share with kids they have never met before. Lifelong friendships begin in elementary school.
If this pandemic has taught employers and educators anything, we don’t need to be in the same room to get our work done.

Online education is nothing new to this country. More and more adults have opted for computer-driven education to earn their college degrees later in life previously unobtainable after high school. Out of an abundance of caution (and using the same technology), many school districts utilize on-line teaching for all grades part of the time or full time.
Is on-line teaching perfect? Of course not. Is it necessary? Absolutely. But knowing that education can be administered via the computer may have a drastic and unintended devastating consequence on future generations.
The end of the snow day.

As a kid, was there anything more exciting than waking up on a Tuesday morning in January and seeing six inches of snow on the ground? When my kids were school age, we would turn on the TV and wait with bated breath while the message crawl of school closings ran across the bottom of the screen. We cursed the alphabetical listing of school districts like Amityville and Baldwin, which relegated Massapequa towards the end of the sequence.
Oh, the unbridled joy of spying your school district, followed by “closed.” We would dance and holler like it was New Year’s Eve. That morning would always turn into a breakfast of pancakes or French toast. It was like being on vacation for a day. Before long, we were making plans with the neighbors to go sledding.

But those days are over. school districts can just declare an on-line learning day for inclement weather now. For the kids, a Tuesday morning in January with six inches of snow will be no different than a Thursday in October when it was 70 degrees outside.
When our children become grandparents, their stories aren’t going to sound so far fetched as ours do about walking to school in a blizzard. They’re going to tell their grandkids about how schools used to be closed when it snowed.
Let’s hope they don’t respond with, “Hey Grandpa, what’s a school?”

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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