Concerned Citizen

Smeyes: Smile with your Eyes

From Mississauga, ON

Tue Apr 27 2021


The Ford Government convinced me that the schools were safe and I believed it. Hindsight really is 20/20 though. I often reflect on conversations I had with my children and other parents. A mother I know told me her son’s Grade 1 class had 8 kids back in the fall of 2020. That’s so great, I texted her back. Imagine the social distancing! The very next day, she told me her son got transferred into another class and now there were a total of 22 children. I asked my son and daughter everyday whether their classroom windows were kept open. No, the windows are stuck, they told me. Is there enough hand-sanitizer? No. It was always No. I still sent them. At drop-off time, I watched their little bodies and the backs of their heads walk away from me. I knew their faces were smiling behind the masks, searching longingly for their friends. I said a prayer at every drop-off and another one at every pick-up when I saw them running towards me with all of their day’s excitement spilling over. My daughter’s teacher taught them how to “Smeyes” (smile with your eyes) so he could gauge how they were feeling from behind their masks and the PPE he wore himself. Our teachers are heroes. True heroes. Thank-you for risking your life to teach our children with none of the support you truly deserved.

It became a patchwork school year after that. A few cases popped up at the school here and there. We went through two periods of isolation at home due to closed classrooms. It was shocking and disappointing the first time, but it became old hat for us after that. I still held on to the hope that schools were safe. I subjected my children to that brain-tickler of a Covid test multiple times to put our minds at ease. And then, one week, we went from a few cases to about 10, after which Public Health declared an outbreak. I called my School Trustee voicing my utter confusion and realized everyone was just as lost as I was. We are in different boats but all in the same water, he told me. I felt somehow comforted.

So, here we are. I am grateful for so many things. I am grateful I can work from home. I am grateful we have technology for each child. I am grateful that a fellow parent I know is finally feeling better after contracting Covid. But there are days where I don’t feel like being grateful. I recently discovered my daughter spent an entire week watching YouTube videos instead of listening to Grade 2 lessons online. She told me she was bored. I was trying to search for more of an explanation, as she had tears welling up in her eyes. Then she told me she was lonely. I pulled her into my arms and gave her a hug. And now, I check on her as often as I can. There are some days I sit with her out of her camera’s view, trying to separate my own work from double-digit addition. My son in Grade 4 tries so hard to coordinate Google Meets with his friends. There are days when nobody shows up and he waits. He waits and waits until I hear stifled sobbing coming from downstairs. Nobody joined, he tells me, between big gulps of air. I only have temporary solutions for them – a hug, a promise of a fun weekend with what little we can do, a bike ride between work calls.

It could’ve been different Ford Government.

So yes, there are days like today when I give myself permission to be angry and ungrateful. I’ll go back to being hopeful tomorrow.

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