“You know things aren’t always like this, right? You won’t always have to wear a mask or stay away from people or line up outside stores to get in?”
So I found myself awkwardly asking my oldest kid the other day, as we celebrated one year of life with the plague, one year of awkward side-stepping strangers, one year of being unclear on if we’re allowed to have playdates (no) or meet friends at the park (yes, I think) or go to the grandparents’ houses (no). And, man, it’s the last one that’s the killer, our kids barely seeing their grandparents for the past year; considering our youngest is barely two years old, that’s a big deal.
It’s all just so awkward, really. Before the pandemic my kids had started to get a bit of independence; maybe they would hop over to the grocery store by themselves to grab a snack. Now, with all the rules and regulations, with all the increased tension and news reports of horribly miserable people getting into fights with store clerks because they don’t want to wear masks, I just think, no, my kids aren’t ready for that.
Of course, none of us was ready for this, which is probably why people are miserable, people are getting into fights, people are just staying home with their kids, getting increasingly more agitated as the days, weeks, months pass.
We celebrate a year of kinda barely living by continuing to kinda barely live, passing on taking the extracurricular stuff online because that just isn’t working on our end, Zoom malfunctions leading to familial malfunctions until all plugs are pulled.
After homeschooling for a while, we actually put our kids back in school—during a pandemic! Well, we put our kids back in school because of the pandemic, really. Because homeschooled kids aren’t allowed indoor playdates with other kids, it just all become a bit too much, a bit too much time spent without social contact.
I’m still not entirely sure about that decision, but are any of us entirely sure about any parenting decision we’ve made during the pandemic?
This is a messed-up time to be a parent, no doubt about it. Every decision—seriously, even just running into the mall to grab something—becomes a matter of life or death, even for people like me who regularly eat food off the ground (I don’t mean food I just dropped, I mean, “Holy crap, I found a chip on my floor, Daddy’s day is looking up.”) and aren’t exactly what you could call a germophobe by any stretch of the imagination. We forget our masks, we curse under our breath, we lament the fact that our kids all just lost a year of their lives, a year of what should be the best time of their lives.
We were barely getting the hang of parenting before this. Now we’re relearning.
“Do you remember what it was like before this?” I added on to my line of questioning to my daughter, who said yes as she kinda rolled her eyes at me, reminding me that, hmm, alright, kids are maybe a bit more resilient than we are and don’t overthink things as much as us adults do.
Still, I yearn for the day when I can shake another dad’s hand in greeting, when my kids can go to the store without having to worry about total societal collapse around them resulting in strangers spitting on each other in fear and anger (or walking the wrong way down an aisle), when I can just make a decision without factoring in COVID-19 restrictions that I need to re-check every single time because I can never remember what exactly they are.
I guess, like everyone else, I just want our lives back. And, like every parent out there right now, I just want my kids’ lives back.