By Dayna Bennett

Our Seniors Got Screwed.

There’s no other way to put it. They did. They got screwed out of a lot of great stuff this year. No prom. No grad night. No Senior BBQ. No Senior Ditch Day. No end of year party.  And no graduation. 

Many left school on Friday the 13th not knowing that was it — the last day of their last year. Now everything is different. They’re doing distance learning, can’t hang out with their friends, and for those of us with particularly social kids, it’s rough. It’s a harsh reality, for sure — but this is 2020 and it’s Corona Time.

If you’re like me, your heart hurts a lot for our kids. But I started thinking about it last night when I read about some people throwing backyard proms for their seniors. And that seems like a cute idea, except for…isn’t that sort of missing the bigger lesson here? I mean, why can’t they wait?

The one thing I think my generation has collectively failed to do in parenting our kids (and I’m fully throwing myself under this bus) is teach them to WAIT.

Before you think I’m attacking YOUR parenting, non-specific person reading this, just think about it. They don’t wait for anything. They’re the instant gratification generation. They have never waited for dial-up internet — their pages load instantly. They have never gotten a busy signal and probably wouldn’t know what it was if they heard one. They have never had to wait until they got home to get a message on their answering machine. They don’t have even have to wait until the end of class to talk to their friends, because they can just text (and obviously that wasn’t fast enough, because now they can even text on their watch). Because of Google, they don’t have to wait to look up a darn thing. The world is literally at their fingertips. They don’t even wait at Disneyland anymore, really, because of FASTPASS! They are the FASTPASS generation.

They don’t know how to delay gratification because they’ve never had to. And we have been their enablers, their accomplices, their dealers —- all of us. Our kids are given the keys to the kingdom with the phones and the devices and the computers, and we have given them the keys. We don’t know how to make our kids wait.

In the grand scheme of things, not getting a prom and a graduation is far less of a sacrifice than what previous generations gave up. Our kids have no idea and frankly, neither do we.

Of course I am not saying losing prom and graduation and the rest of senior year is not sad. It is! It’s a big old disappointment, and we should absolutely acknowledge that and when the time comes, and is safe to do so, honor these kids for their accomplishments!

But isn’t this also a chance to teach our kids something about how to deal with disappointment? Instead of throwing your kid a backyard prom now (which would certainly go against our SIP guidelines and potentially put others at risk. Why not take the opportunity to teach them to WAIT?

Think of what a gift and valuable life lesson that is! To give them the tools to do something they rarely have to do, and maybe practice a little ourselves. Cause I think we suck at it, too.
Wait.

Wait so that you don’t inadvertently sicken someone more vulnerable than you.

Wait so that our community has a chance to get ahead of the virus, because we know spreading the infections out over time saves lives by not over-burdening the system.

Wait so that there is time and opportunity to learn more about this beast we are collectively fighting, so that when you do get sick with it, or when your grandma does, the experts know more and can treat it more effectively.

Wait so that we have time to get closer to a vaccine.

Wait because they WILL get to graduate, and they will get to celebrate, but won’t that be better if more of us are still here?

Wait because the bigger picture means more than this one celebration.

Wait because not everything needs to happen now.

Wait because right now, we don’t have to be doing anything extra — we just need to be. And it’s enough.

Wait because it matters what kind of citizen you are, and it matters what kind of citizens we teach our kids to be.

Wait because it’s not just about you, or me, or them, it’s about all of us.

Dayna is a writer and an educator who works with local students in SLO and SB Counties. Her son is a senior at Arroyo Grande High School.