By Melinda Munson

Call me a bad mom, but my favorite days are Mondays. That’s the day I send my kids back to school with a wide smile and relief in my soul that I won’t have to sweep the kitchen three times a day or continuously ask my children if they washed their hands after using the bathroom. (Three out of six times the answer is no, but half of my kids are on their way to becoming unhygienic, pathological liars.)  

On Mondays, I go to work where I talk to adults as I sit in my quiet and orderly office. I am my own boss and I know I washed my hands. No one asks for a snack directly after putting their breakfast bowl in the sink and no one tells me I’m stupid when it’s not their turn to pick the next Blu-ray.

With six kids, summer stretches endlessly. There are hugs and kisses and breathtaking hikes but there are also fights over who’s looking at who (it doesn’t matter that the person doing the “looking” is blind) and constant pleas for more, more, more. 

This summer has been particularly grueling with in-person school ending in March and social distancing restricting us to — well, us. No respite workers, no barbeques with friends, no trips to Juneau or even the grocery store with three high-risk family members at home.

For the past five months, I have looked forward to the start of the 2020-2021 school year as the light at the end of my tunnel. But lately, the figurative light is so bright it burns my retinas. I am desperate for the isolation to end but wondering if the future holds something worse.

Several of our favorite teachers have voiced their concern that school is commencing at a time when cases of COVID-19 are climbing. Teachers talk about how they will immediately strip down and shower when they return home. Some are thinking of retiring or switching fields. I can’t ignore  the fact that 1,000 people a day are dying in our country.

In Skagway and the rest of the country, there is tension between honoring the science of what we so far know about this virus and the politics of opening up an economy that clothes and feeds families, possibly at a higher risk to those with less resources. 

The worst part of COVID-19 is that I’ve lost my confidence. Normally, I’m a person with strong opinions, steamrolling my way to a goal. But COVID-19 has stripped me of what is normal, of what is right.

Is it right to send all my children back to school on August 27 where they can socialize and learn? Is it more responsible to only send the kids that I know will reasonably follow health protocols? Should everyone stay home because once one family member is exposed, we’re all at risk? 

I’m not a person who lives in fear. I wear a mask out of respect for those around me and take reasonable precautions. I want the world to normalize and I want both my household and the community to remain safe.

We haven’t decided what the start of school will look like for our family. Perhaps we’ll ask for a teacher to temporarily come into our home and work with our children who have special needs. A few weeks after school starts, we’ll all know if we made the right choices for our individual situations. 

I promise I won’t think you’re a bad parent if you send your child to school on the first day. I won’t think less of you if you choose to to educate your offspring with on-line learning. With Skagway School’s small population and dedicated staff, we’re fortunate we have options. One way or another, they’ll help all our families get to the end of this tunnel. And hopefully, one day soon, Mondays can be my favorite day again.