Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Sunday Reflections: Of Course Parents are Sending their Kids to School with Covid-19, So Let’s Fix That

When The Teen was 4, she came down with a rare illness that we would soon learn was called Kawasaki Disease.

It began simple enough, I took her to the doctor on a Friday and they put her on an antibiotic. By Saturday, she had broken out into a weird rash and I called the office and they told me it was probably just a reaction to the antibiotic and put her on a different one.

I called again on Sunday, and they told me to bring her in on Monday.

I took her in on Monday, having to call off now for the second work day in a row.

I took her in again on Tuesday, having to call off again.

I took her in again on Wednesday, having to call off again.

On Thursday, I made yet another appointment and tried calling off. My boss said some things that let me know that I was in serious trouble. So I found someone to come sit with my child while I went to work for 4 hours at the library.

I had demanded to see a new doctor at this appointment and he sat me down and said, “I think I know what this is and you have to take her to Children’s right now, don’t even go home to pack a bag. But first, we have to do a test on her heart to make sure she will survive the time it takes for you to get her there or if we need to take her by ambulance.”

So I called my boss and said we were going to children’s and I didn’t know when I would be back and if she had to fire me so be it, but I wasn’t going to let my child die for a job. And I just hoped I didn’t get fired because not only did I love my job, but I needed it to survive and was really going to need it to pay for our medical bills.

We soon learned that she had a rare illness called Kawasaki Disease and her recovery was long and hard. If it’s not diagnosed within the first 10 days – and we were diagnosed on day 7 – it can cause permanent heart problems. We would spend the next 5 years taking her to yearly check ups to make sure her heart had no permanent damage. And the first few months right after treatment, we had to care her because the inflammation throughout her body was so severe it hurt her to walk.

I tell you this story because I’ve been thinking a lot about Covid. A recent headline indicated that policy makers – those who have chosen to open schools – were surprised to realize that parents were sending their children to school even though they had signs of or had tested positive for Covid. But I don’t understand why they were. This has always been happening.

Parents send their kids to school with lice, with fevers doused with fever reducers, and knowing that they spent the night throwing up their guts. Although some parents do this because they hate parenting or want a break or don’t believe their kids, a vast majority of parents do this OUT OF NECESSITY.

Most American workers have little if any paid sick leave. Most Americans are working multiple part-time jobs with no benefits and they are desperately trying to hold on to those jobs to keep their families alive and safe.

And even if you do have paid sick leave, many workers are still punished by their bosses for taking it. I had paid sick leave and my boss made it clear that she was most displeased with me. Though she did change her tune when she learned that my child had been close to possibly dying without prompt medical treatment.

Capitalism, greed, and the selfish bent of American culture makes it very hard for working parents to take care of sick kids. And kids get sick. Especially in a global pandemic.

So no, I’m not surprised that parents have sent their kids to school sick with Covid. I can’t even be mad at them for it, not really. But I am mad at our culture which makes it a necessity for parents in America to have to make hard decisions like this. I’m mad at our government that hasn’t helped our families during a deadly global pandemic. And I’m mad at the selfish individualists who decry wearing a mask when a simple act could help to protect our children from a deadly virus.

The year 2020 has exposed a lot of our faults and fault lines. So moving forward, I hope one thing that we will do is work to institute paid sick leave for everyone because you know what, sometimes people get sick. And they deserve a chance to care for themselves or their loved ones while knowing that they can come back to their jobs and continue to care for their families by providing financial support.

Also, look at what other countries have done to address that pandemic compared to the United States. They locked down. They provided more significant and long term financial support. They had more testing and contact tracing. They have affordable (or basically free) health care. In comparison, we had no national lockdown, no mask mandate, testing was hard to come by, and adults got a one time check of $600.00 for each adult. It’s been 6+ months now and we have the highest number of cases and the highest number of deaths in the United States. We’ve crossed the 200,000 death mark. And parents are sending their kids to schools with Covid because in most cases, THEY HAVE NO CHOICE.

We need to create a world where these parents can choose to keep their kids at home and attend to their health. We always have, but especially now.

Cindy Crushes Programming: 11 Tips to Help Us All During Pandemic Programming, by librarian Cindy Shutts

Here are some tips I am doing with myself and my programming.

  1. Be kind to yourself: This is easier said than done. Everything is hard and draining. You have to realize you will not get the same amount of work done as before because you are working through basically an active trauma.
  2. Do not make programs too hard: This is really important because you do not want to overwhelm the teens or yourself. Having programs that are too hard can make you and the teens feel like failures if you both do not get the desired result.
  3. Do programs you care about within reason: This makes the work easier. I got back into Animal Crossing this year which made my life easier. I was able to do a whole series of programs around it. I add within reason because you want to make sure the teens are interested also.
  4. Look at social media to see what teens are interested in: I got a tik tok over the time I was sheltering in place and saw a lot of things that teens are following such as the resurgence of Twilight, Animal Crossing, plants, crafts, and a lot of social activism. This is giving us a chance to see what teens care about. I will warn you not to be creepy. Please keep healthy boundaries between you and your teens.
  5. Keep costs low: Right now attendance is very different than it was before. You have no idea what the attendance of programs will be. We can not hold ourselves to standards that are pre pandemic.
  6. Put Yourself First: This is very hard for people in our profession. We want to help everyone and do everything we can to help our patrons. You can not do your job if you do not keep yourself first. When we came back to work I had a lot of questions for our supervisors and thoughts. They allowed me to help me make my own way back to work. I work on my safety first. If I have concerns about my safety or feel like something is going wrong. I talk to my supervisors. This has been very helpful. I feel much more in control by setting boundaries
  7. Try New Things: You are having a chance to start fresh. Try new program things that you have always wanted to do but could not. We used Kahoot for trivia last week and it was super fun. We have always thought about doing virtual programs and this time has allowed us to use new platforms such as Roll 20, Jackbox Game, and of course Zoom.
  8. Be prepared to have changes: We are working on doing programs that if we had to work from home we could run them. We do not know what the next few months will bring so be prepared to change how you do your program. You have to be flexible when the time comes. My county just got more restrictions and our positivity rate is going up so we are looking at upcoming programs to see if we can adapt them if things get worse.
  9. It is okay to cancel a program: Sometimes things do not work out how you planned them. It is okay.You might have thought your craft was going to be in person but now it is a take and make and it does not work as a take and make. Cancel. You can not control the pandemic.
  10. Let yourself have feelings: It’s okay to be disappointed a program did not work out or no one came. You can feel that. It does not make you weak. This is a horrible year. I am just going to say 2020 is the worst. Your feelings are valid. You are in an active trauma.
  11. Protect Your Teens: There are new dangers in the virtual world. Make sure you practice kicking people out of your virtual program. Use a setting that lets you be in control of the room so that you can protect the teens from harassment. Zoom booming could happen so we use a waiting room and we are using our patron policy in the virtual space. Learn from others who have had issues. We require registration to come to most of our programs.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.