Care and Feeding

My Family Says We’re Screwing Up Our Kid by Keeping Her Home From Preschool

COVID is out of control here in Florida—surely this is right call?

A preschool age child wears a mask.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I have one child, a little girl who turned 2 at the very beginning of the pandemic and is now 3 years old. She is a bright and chatty kid, and despite the fact that she probably doesn’t even remember a time before lockdowns and quarantines, she’s incredibly social and loves seeing other kids at the store or park, saying hi to cashiers and neighbors, and facetiming extended family. We have absolutely no concerns about her development. She went to a day camp several weeks this past summer and was scheduled to start preschool in a week. Unfortunately, we live in area where masks are generally seen as “optional”—and this includes her preschool. With the high caseload in our area and given the fact that she can’t be vaccinated quite yet, we decided to keep her home this fall since I’m fortunate enough to be able to be at-home full time with her. I checked in with her doctors to see if they had any concerns about the effect continued lockdown would have on her. They not only felt that she would be just fine, but in fact agreed with our reasoning.

The problem is that my family thinks we are messing up her life. My family basically feels that I’m being overly cautious to her detriment, and she should just go to preschool. I should, in their opinion, give her a mask if I want, but just let her be a kid. They succeed in making me feel incredibly guilty about keeping her out of preschool, and I already feel bad since she keeps asking to go to school. How do I handle the constant jabs that we are screwing up her social development? One of my relatives actually told me she would pray for our eyes to be opened to what a terrible thing we are doing to our little girl and that she would pray for my daughter. I wish I was joking. Any advice?

— Frustrated in Florida

Dear Frustrated,

OK, let’s take a deep breath here.

Your kid is 3 years old. Homeschooling her for a year while she spends time with you isn’t going to mentally scar her. As a matter of fact, she’ll probably thrive, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that she’ll be in a safe environment. You made the right decision for your daughter, and I would absolutely do the same thing if I was in your shoes. Actually, I’d probably sell my house and be on the first plane out of Florida if I were you, but that’s another story.

Now let’s talk about your extended family. The reason why COVID is decimating your state (other than crappy leadership) is many of the residents aren’t taking it seriously. Your relative is praying for you to open your eyes? Give me a break. Anyone with open eyes can see these horrific statistics for themselves.

I don’t know how to say this gently, but to hell with what your family says. Your main priority in life to take care of your daughter. What would happen if she caught COVID? What would your family say then? “Oops, sorry!” You would never forgive yourself or them for allowing it to happen. You should just tell them, “Thanks for your input, but I’m going to do what’s best for my daughter, and it isn’t up for debate. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” End of story.

I have a friend who has a child hospitalized with COVID, and I wouldn’t wish that pain upon my worst enemy. That is way more likely in a state like Florida with the virus running rampant due to unmasked and unvaccinated citizens. Even your daughter’s doctor thinks you’re making the right move.

I wouldn’t doubt your decision for a minute.

— Doyin

More Advice From Slate

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