by Sara Lewis

It’s been quite a crazy ride for our kids, this last year and a half with Covid. And now, even as cases are still rising, the latest change is that the kids are going back to school. Most of our OUUC families have the kids going back to in-person classes, with the school district no longer offering a hybrid option and replacing it with one virtual academy for those who still wanted remote learning.

How does all this feel for families? I thought the general state of parents was well described in this essay from the Atlantic, which was recently shared by a parent on our OUUC Families Facebook Group: Parents Are Not Okay – The Atlantic

With all of this in mind, Rev. Mary and I planned our annual Back to School Blessing of the Backpacks for this year. To increase safety, it was kept separate from our Sunday worship service and was held outdoors on Saturday. Families, children, youth, and young adults shared their hopes and fears for the new school year. Then everyone, their backpacks, and some charms we gave out were all blessed.

It was a lovely gathering, but it makes me sad as well because it wasn’t part of our central congregational experience, which is the Sunday worship. It was right to schedule things this way in this year and with safety and love at the center of decision making, and yet. And yet it may reinforce the gap, that gap between the lived experience of our families with kids and the rest of the congregation. For everyone who is not a supportive caregiver for a child under 12, it may be easy to forget or to be unaware of the fact that this age group still cannot be vaccinated and is vulnerable. It can be easy for us all to be unaware of the challenges faced by a few.

This year, please take a little time to think lovingly of our children and families. Remember that we have young ones in our OUUC community, and that they are going back to in-person schooling right now. They return excited to see and to make friends, but also unused to the social norms and rules of school. They return excited to learn, but with so much possible pressure because of fears of learning loss. They return wishing to stay healthy and well, and worried about how to stay safe.

May our young ones all know themselves to be loved and held by this community.
May our parents and caregivers feel themselves supported and equipped.
May we all Welcome and Wonder, Embrace and Empower, Bridge and Become