What’s The Other Side Of Family Day?

This morning, I started off my day as I always do, reading Doug Peterson‘s daily blog post. His post today really resonated with me, and while I commented, I also need to follow through with the request in Doug’s tweets.

I think it’s time to look at the other side of Family Day. 

I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t enjoyed the long weekend. With Communications of Learning all written, edited, and distributed now, I actually spent some time this weekend for me. I met friends for brunch. I read a great new book. I took a few naps, and I even enjoyed a nice dinner with my family. But I’m one of the lucky ones! 

  • I have the day off.
  • I have a car, and I can drive myself to where I want to go … even if I sometimes get lost. 🙂
  • I have a safe, warm, nice place to live and sleep … even when my dogs decide that sleep is not in the plans for the night. 🙂
  • I have a wonderful group of family and friends, and they’re all off for the long weekend.
  • I have a good disposable income: I can afford what I want to do for this extra day at home.

I’ve taught though in schools with students and staff members that are not as lucky. 

  • An extra day at home might mean being alone with the kids while the spouse goes off to work.
  • An extra day at home might be a sad one because their child is at the other parent’s house for the weekend: there’s only one Family Day, but possibly, a few different “families.”
  • An extra day at home means another day without a Snack Program or a Breakfast Program. Will there be enough food for everyone to eat?
  • An extra day at home becomes a problem because the parents have to work, but there’s no childcare for the kids. Can they afford this?
  • An extra day at home means a need to entertain the children in the area because movies, indoor playgrounds, and trips to recreational activities cost money … and the money isn’t there. But it’s supposed to rain on Monday, so how do you spend another day with a large family in the rain?

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a list of actual things that happen. I’ve seen them all, and as a teacher, I’ve watched students that have experienced them all. As much as I love a long weekend — especially one where I can truly relax — I keep thinking about this encounter with a student almost three years ago now. This moment shaped me, and made me realize that not everybody finds joy in the holidays. 

I’m not necessarily suggesting that we get rid of Family Day. 

  • Maybe a different name would make the day seem less stressful for some.
  • Maybe ensuring that more people are off would make the day easier to manage.
  • Maybe creating some additional, free community events would provide options for parents that can’t afford a bus ride, a car trip, or admittance to various events or places (e.g., Lego Land).
  • Maybe some extra food for the long weekend (from services such as Food4Kids) would help reduce the stress of not having enough to eat for another full day at home. 

And maybe it’s just about knowing that when we go back to school on Tuesday, not everybody is going to have a special, happy story to share about the long weekend. So celebrate being back at school.

  • Share an extra smile.
  • Give an extra hug.
  • Be understanding that another day at home might not be a gift for everyone.
  • Listen … lots!
  • Know that there might be a bigger story behind the behaviour that we see … and that story might involve Family Day. Be caring, compassionate, and kind!

Love might be needed even more tomorrow, as it’s not always easy returning from a long weekend. And one of the greatest things I learned from my diverse teaching experiences is THIS. The world is not always full of sunshine and roses, and having this perspective, makes me love and appreciate the wonders of school even more than I did before. What about you? How do you gain a multi-faceted perspective on holidays, and how does this impact on your interactions with kids and adults at school? Remember that going back to school tomorrow — to a consistent routine with food and friendly, familiar faces — may be the best part about this long weekend for many kids and adults.


8 thoughts on “What’s The Other Side Of Family Day?

  1. Thanks, Aviva. Doug’s post also resonated with me. I really appreciated the way you broke down the challenges many of our students and colleagues face (and I’m so glad you included colleagues in your thinking).

    I spent yesterday afternoon on my favourite ski trails, and then headed to my in laws for some “unplugged” time. My husband helped my father in law set up a new HD receiver, my kids read and watched Olympics, we ate delicious food, and then today we did some seasonal maintenance – shovelling out paths, clearing roofs, checking the wood supply in the sugar bush, breaking up ice to allow a drainage path for the forecast rain. We are often thankful for this long weekend, because it means, even with a teenager working Saturday, that we have a chance to get 4 able bodies up to the lake to help out. I am incredibly lucky and privileged. I also have 6 step-siblings who can help carry the Family Day weight with my mom, so I can help out my in-laws. Again, I am extremely fortunate. I even have a 3rd driver in the family these days, which means less driving time, and more time to knit in the car!

    The thing you mentioned that really hit home for me was the lack of a vehicle. There was a lot available in my community this weekend, including today, but much of it would have required a bus ride or a long walk, without a car. We have a transit system that requires a stop at a central hub on the way from point A to B. So even getting to the Y for their activity day could be an hour and a half total time one way, to go a distance that would take you 15 minutes in the car. And the bus costs money!
    I feel like it’s a day that needs some kind of a rethink. And don’t get me started on the upcoming 4 day weekend based on a religious holiday that an incredibly small group of us actually celebrate.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I love how you spoke about what you and your family do to support other people in the community or others that may struggle in some way. What a great reminder that there are things we can do on Family Day to assist others that may not be able to enjoy the day quite as much as us.

      As for the upcoming four-day weekend, I’m also looking forward to some quiet reading time and connections with family and friends. Again, I’m one of the lucky ones. Maybe this is another case of having to recognize our privilege and considering what we can do to support others. I know that for that weekend, many adults are off on the Friday, but not the Monday. Can they all afford child care? And if not, is there something we can do?

      This continues to be a good reminder that there are many sides to every holiday. Are we always considering each of the sides as we celebrate these special days?


  2. Thank you for certainly extending the thoughts from my original post, Aviva. The observations that you shared are true and certainly remind us that the word “family” takes on different interpretations and importance depending upon on the child. Particularly with younger students, it’s importance to notice when things are different and act appropriately.

    • Thanks Doug! I agree. Changes in behaviour may definitely have something to do with the long weekend. I think this may be as true for older students as younger ones. Adults that are also stressed by this extra day off may inadvertently impact on the words and actions of kids. I find that children read us so well. Curious to know what others think.


  3. I just wanted to say a quick hi. My name is Dawn Mikkola and I lived across the hall from you at Nipissing Your name was brought up during our PD day. You have accomplished so much. I am a SERT for the Rainbow Board. I would love to hear from you.

  4. It’s funny that I’m just getting to this now on my March break. March break is usually beloved by teachers, but for me, it has always been stressful because it was a week without getting paid. In the staff room, everyone would be counting down while I filled with dread. It makes me very aware of all the kids for whom the break isn’t about a magical trip somewhere warm and sunny, and I am now greatly appreciating that this year things are different and I can enjoy this week without that fear.

    • So interesting that you mentioned this, Melanie, especially as I blogged today about March Break and Self-Reg. I think it’s important to remember that experiences might be different for all of us: adults and kids. I bet that your stress around March Break makes you even more aware of those that may feel stressed during holiday times.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *