'Expect the best but plan for the worst': who knows what September will bring?

Alex is a mother to two children under four, living in Barcelona. This week, while under pressure to put down deposits for school in September, she is hoping for the best whilst mentally planning for the worst.

Today (Tuesday 30th June) was the last day of the academic year for my two girls. A more stop-start ending than ever could have been anticipated. For my youngest (aged 2.5),  it was her last day in "infant community". In September she will, in theory, be promoted to the coveted position of youngest entry into "Children's' House" with the 3 - 6-year-olds.
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She will rub shoulders with her sister and learn the sass and secrets of the older children. For my eldest daughter (aged 4.5), she will, in theory, advance to her last year of elective schooling before officially starting primary school. She will be one of the oldest children in her school, the sage, the leader, the keeper of wisdom, guardian of rules. Next year will be a big year for both of them - in theory.

We have been, as I imagine many families have been,  under pressure to recommit to our old routines and contracts and activities in September and the beginning of the coming academic year. We have been presented with contracts to sign and deposits to pay. We have been asked to recommit to structures that are, to the logical mind, almost impossible to commit to.  Why? Because who knows what September will bring?

Theories

I keep saying "in theory" because in truth that is all we have at the moment. Theories. Ideas about what the immediate and foreseeable future will bring. Ask our governments and they will tell us that things will be back to "normal". As schools and they will cautiously tell you that they will be opening, as per government advice and instructions, in September as normal. Pending any last-minute changes and protocols that might need to be put in place, of course. Ask your local pharmacist and pediatrician and they will plead with you to remember that COVID has not "gone away", precautionary measures are still in place, please wear a mask, please maintain distance, please be safe. Someone, please, wake me up when September ends.

The old Alex, the BC (before COVID) Alex, would have lost her metaphorical marbles at these types of policy contradictions. Especially regarding health and safety and schools.

My father, a wise man and gifted lawyer, always told me to "Expect the best but plan for the worst". I always felt that this was a very pessimistic view to take of the world and of one's future, but now in the cold light of (post?) COVID, I see the point.  We need positive expectations to motivate us onward. We need strength and hope. Hope is the generator that turns anticipation and apathy into action;

 "Today is a bad day today but I hope that tomorrow will be better. I know it will be better." Hope and expectation are necessary. But planning for the worst is also an excellent exercise. Planning for the worst allows you to take a cold, hard look at your fears and your family and your finances and to decide what actions you can take, now and going forward, to mitigate them. Much of planning for the worst is facing yourself and admitting that you are scared or that you don't know.

The old Alex, the BC (before COVID) Alex, would have lost her metaphorical marbles at these types of policy contradictions. Especially regarding health and safety and schools. She would have felt the full weight of indecisiveness and uncertainty and been stifled by it. She would have tormented herself with the murkiness of the future and the speed with which plans can be broken and changed. She would have felt cheated out of her typical stability. But today, taking my farther's well-worded advice to heart,  I have found something resembling balance; hoping for and expecting the best whilst mentally planning for the worst.

What if's and maybe's

I don't know what September will bring. I don't know if my children will be expected or allowed to return to school. I don't know if I want them to return in September, because I don't know if the relaxation of distancing measures and reopening of beaches and bars will bring another bout of COVID. But we will keep talking with the school and we will keep our options open and we will not be daunted by the thought of no school. We will expect that they will return and that our preventative measures and close to 4 months of lockdown were effective. We will hope for the best.

I don't know if anyone else has been playing this round-robin game of what if's and maybe's in their head as much as I have, but for those that have, here is what I do know:  It will all be ok.

I don't know if we will be able to visit my family in Ireland, whom we have not seen since December '19, in August this summer and I don't know if when we return from said theoretical visit, if we will have to quarantine at home. But we will buy our tickets home all the same and we will laugh and cry and plan and hope with my parents over the telephone, until we get to see them face to face again.

I don't know if anyone else has been playing this round-robin game of what if's and maybe's in their head as much as I have, but for those that have, here is what I do know:  It will all be ok.  We will all be ok. Expectation, Hope, and a little bit of worst-case-scenario planning will get us there. Bring on September.


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