Laura Smith Borrman: The Kids Are Alright

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From math scores to personal relationships, remote learning has had consequences we’re only beginning to grapple with. Laura Smith Borrman has this Perspective.

Normally, driving the soccer carpool means a maddeningly loud ride that ends in a carful of crumbs, snack wrappers and aggravation. The antics of 7-year-old boys can feel intolerable. The fact that these boys spent kindergarten on computer screens makes it even harder.

No matter how great the teacher is, zoom kindergarten means the kids miss out on something simple, and important — a chance to learn how to make friends. How to talk with other kids. How to play nicely and use their words.

Back in the carpool, I typically face moments where I have to choose between ignoring the behavior, calling it out with a swift reprimand, or stopping the car altogether.

But on a recent ride home, I made a different choice. I decided just to listen. I took deep breaths. And gradually, the forced burping and excessive potty talk slowed. In its place emerged something amazing.

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One by one, the boys began to divulge who they had crushes on. They talked about who they liked last year, and who they like now. They took turns and were respectful. Some made a game of it. “It starts with an E…” one said. “Boy or girl?” a friend asked. “A girl, I’m not gay,” the first boy said, matter-of-factly. The sharing continued without judgment. The boys giggled, their excitement obvious with each reveal.

I’m not sure a bunch of second graders understand what a crush is. But it felt like a rite of passage… to “like-like” another person. And tell your friends about it.

I tried to memorize in my heart exactly what I was feeling. For me, parenting is often a state of chaos and self-doubt. But this little scene gave me hope.

After a rough first grade, filled with principal calls and fear that my son lost a crucial piece of development to COVID, I felt like it might all be okay. He was making good friends, and they were figuring out how to relate to each other and grow up in the new world…together.

With a Perspective, I’m Laura Smith Borrman.

Laura Smith Borrman is a writer and baker living in Oakland with her husband and two kids.