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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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Hillsborough Parent’s Perspective: Baby, I love you…now put on the stupid mask

I resisted masks as long as possible. I didn’t want my three school-aged children sitting at their Hillsborough County Public School desks with masks covering their beautiful expressions. I didn’t want them running around at recess with their masks soaking up sweat. I was one of the first to sign the Hillsborough County School’s mask opt out form offered to parents at the beginning of the year.

However, I gave my three kids all the information and let it be their decision whether to wear masks at their schools.

My 9th grade son, a new freshman in high school, was the first one to grab his mask and place it firmly across his face. He wasn’t fully vaccinated yet and did not want to miss any of his freshman year being quarantined.

My 4th grade daughter was next. She loves her friends. She missed her friends over the summer. When I explained to her that if she wore a mask in school, and her friends wore their masks, her chances of being quarantined at home, with me, without her friends, went down exponentially.

Lastly was my baby. My 3rd grade daughter. My free spirit. My “Lil Bit” who never sits still for more than 2 seconds.

She said no.

She wasn’t gonna do it.

She would NOT, under any circumstances, wear a mask in school – that thing – across her face for 8 hours a day.

I said okay.

She’s young, she’s healthy, she dropped the mask in the dirt every day anyway… I figured she’s probably healthier without it.

And so we lived for the first 3 days of school.

Then I saw the cases in Hillsborough County Public Schools skyrocket… Along with the quarantines.

The Hillsborough County School Board called an Emergency Meeting to discuss mandatory masks in schools.

At previous meetings about masks in Hillsborough County Schools, I sided more with the anti-maskers. However, this time, I just listened. At that point, 10,300 students in our Hillsborough were under quarantine. To be honest, I shuddered every time my phone rang, thinking it could be my kids’ schools telling me my little darlings were going to be stuck at home with me for the next 7 days.

The numbers in Tampa and Hillsborough were going up every single day.

It was only a matter of time.

Unless the Hillsborough School Board did something impactful.

And it did.

At the Emergency Meeting, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to mandate masks for the next 30 days unless you had a medical exemption.

I must admit, I wasn’t sad.

I went home and told the kids.

My 9th grader shot me an “I told you so” look.

My 4th grader was like, “whatever”, and went upstairs to call her friends.

My 3rd grader, my “Lil Bit”, threw a fit.

“NO! I’m not gonna do it!”

I sat her down and explained to her that if we all really join together as a school community over the next 30 days, and we wear our masks faithfully, maybe we can bring down the number of cases and quarantines… And we can get rid of the masks altogether in the future.

She still didn’t look sold.

Finally I took her beautiful blonde head in my hands, looked deeply into her determined aquamarine eyes and said, “Baby, I love you… Now put on the stupid mask”.

*Cover image by iStock by Getty Images: studiogstock


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Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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