Care and Feeding

I Screwed Up at Pandemic Parenting

My first grader is going to be hopelessly lonely because of me.

Adult holding hands with a 5-year-old child, who's wearing a backpack.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Chinnapong/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Our first grader is finally getting two days of in-person instruction a week after being remote-schooled since mid-March of her kindergarten year. As a transferee, she had only been at her current school for three months when the district closed and moved to online-only instruction. She was friendly with kids in her class but hadn’t yet been able to form any deep bonds, and her dad and I hadn’t been able to set up any playdates for her either. As an only child, this last year had been devastatingly isolating, so going back to school had been something to which we’ve all been looking forward.

However, in a monumental lapse of parenting, we neglected to try to coordinate with any of sorta-friends’ parents to see which two days of the week their children would be attending in-person. We were shocked and disappointed that NONE of the three or four kids with whom she was closest are in her cohort. The school rejected our request to switch, although they could accommodate her numerically when you consider that several children in her class opted out of returning to the premises this year.

How hard should I push here? I don’t want to make it harder for administrators, as I know they have their hands full, but I want to be a good advocate for my daughter. Perhaps something worth mentioning is that her cohort is mostly boys, and I’m worried that the girls in the other cohort will all be further bonding, and it’ll be even harder for my kiddo to make friend-inroads at this school. She’s sad that her buddies won’t be with her; we still aren’t doing any indoor play dates and live in a frigid climate, so the park is out too. I am carrying so much guilt over not reaching out to the parents (as well as for transferring her to begin with, which was an elective move to a school that has a better reputation in our city).

—Pandemic Mom Fail

Dear P.M.F.,

If there’s no fail, is it really “pandemic parenting”? Try your best not to feel bad about a series of totally understandable oversights during a time in which everything is topsy-turvy and stressful.

Do continue to try and fight to get your daughter in the cohort with her buddies—be respectful of the teachers and administrators, while politely reminding them how difficult this transition has been for your child and how much it would mean to her to return to her friends. Meanwhile, encourage her to find ways to connect with the kids in her current group, in case she isn’t able to transfer elsewhere; this may not work out the way you’d like, but don’t give up so soon and assume that she won’t make friends in a class full of boys either. School is still largely new and confusing for all of these kids, especially with the pandemic, and there’s likely a little person or two in her class who is just as in need of a new buddy as she is. Work with her teachers to see how they can help foster those connections. Wishing you all the best.

—Jamilah