My kid’s first day of second grade was supposed to be Wednesday, September 9. Only it wasn’t. After acrimonious negotiations with Seattle Public Schools, the Seattle Educators Association went on strike for the first time in three decades.
The strike ended up lasting for six days, which isn’t so bad considering how long some walk outs have lasted. But the thing about being in the middle of a teachers’ strike is that, as a parent, you don’t know how long it might last. Tomorrow is always potentially the first day of school, so you kind of have to behave as if it is.
You talk through the day-before-school jitters. You make sure you’ve got the right kind of food to pack for lunch. You align your family’s schedule with the school’s. You psych yourself up. And then you get an email that says, “Sorry kids! No school tomorrow!”
So then you revamp your plans, scramble for childcare, and tuck your kid into bed with the reassurance that school will start eventually. Even though yesterday you said school might start tomorrow, but that tomorrow turned out to be today all over again.
The cycle goes like this:
First you wake up optimistic. Sure, the strike sucks, but the teachers’ working conditions are the kids’ learning conditions. You want the educators to have a fair contract, so, overall, this is one of those inconveniences that will turn out to be beneficial in the long run. The strike is a good thing.
Besides, you got word yesterday evening that there was no school. You put a plan in place. It worked out. You nailed down your domestic stuff like a BOSS.
Then the afternoon rolls around and you start thinking, “I wonder if there’ll be school tomorrow… I want my kid to start the school year on the right foot. Is all the laundry done? Do we have all the stuff we need to give her a good breakfast and lunch? Have I set the alarm so we make it to the bus stop on time?”
And you also start thinking about your kid. How are they feeling about all this? Is she nervous about this? Is she feeling good about the impromptu child care situation? Sure, one day of alternating between letting Kids YouTube babysit your kid while you work isn’t a big deal. But at some point the scales will tip and she’s going to be more familiar with Shopkins than math.
“But hey!” you tell yourself, “Stop your worrying! School will probably be back on tomorrow.” Then you check your email and no. No, it’s not.
The experience is kind of deflating.
But you are resilient! You start cobbling together plans for the next day. But only the next day. It’s not like you can ship your kid off to her grandparents or take some time off work for an impromptu vacation because, even though school isn’t starting tomorrow, it might very well start the day after that. Right?
And you just keep repeating this loop for this weirdly undefined period of time. If you’re lucky, everyone is patient and accepting of this process. But sometimes you’re unlucky.
It doesn’t feel like an emotionally sustainable situation.
I understand this was a necessary process. I support our educators’ actions, no question.
But, man. I have never in my life been happier than when the first day of school finally *did* roll around.