Kesara Brewster: Doing what was best for my kids meant asking for help after the pandemic hit

January 29, 2021

We already lived in a cold house with a leaking roof, moldy walls, peeling paint, and no home cooking because the oven hasn’t worked in years, and now we had to spend long days in these horrid conditions. That’s how homeschooling and quarantine began in March 2020 for my five children and me.

Most of my children just had notebooks of work to do. That was easy and smooth sailing for two of them, but for one of my sons, a first-grader, it was very difficult. I worried the difficulty was because of bad parenting on my part. I am a single mother who suffers from Narcolepsy, which means I spend most of my life sleeping. When my youngest was two years old, I fell asleep while he was playing outside. For me, it felt like seconds, but when I woke up, my baby was lying face down on the concrete with his mouth bleeding. We rushed him to the hospital, where the doctors removed two of his teeth. I worried that it looked like I didn’t take care of my baby’s teeth because the enamel was scratched. For years until his adult teeth came in, my child walked around with a big gap in his smile.

Fast forward to the pandemic, and I realize that child, now 6, isn’t retaining knowledge or reading. I decided to get him tested for special needs, and just filling out the questionnaire for his Individualized Education Program brought rushing back to me the trauma of his visit to the emergency room four years ago — the other kids crying, the long hours in the ER. It’s my fault, I told myself. I wiped away tears and decided it was time to ask for help.

I sent two of my kids to stay with my daughter’s godmother, a family friend, and two others to live with my mother so that I could give my first-grader some one-on-one attention, hoping I could teach him on my own. That was frustrating for us both, leading to him just playing on his tablet rather than learning. I knew it wasn’t working. I already felt like I failed him in the accident, and I didn’t want to be the parent that failed him again. So, I made the difficult decision to send him to live with his siblings at the home of our family friend. My children are separated, but they are getting a better online schooling experience and in a better home environment than I can provide to them right now.

By Kesara Brewster, Ward 4 parent leader