It feels like, in 2021, we no longer live in reality and time is meaningless. It’s also really hard to be a half-decent parent when those are the best words I can use to describe life right now. But we’re all managing, aren’t we?
We survived March 2020; we survived lockdowns, false starts, more lockdowns, general confusion about if we’re locked down or not… And here we are, squinting at the sun while wondering if we should stumble outside and try it one more time, unsure if we feel safe or in danger, and still just trying to be a good parent throughout it all.
Draining, isn’t it?
Yet we go on, because as parents, there’s no other option. Resilience is sort of our thing from the get-go. Which reminds me, I need to respond to about eight different emails from my kids’ schools, cut some fingernails and toenails (mental note: I should probably check my own at some point here), and good god is it safe to leave the house yet or not?
Who knows? Everything is just a big ‘who knows?’ as we navigate what feels like Year 30 of the virus, as we do weird dances to indicate that we can wear a mask if you feel it’s okay but we’re okay if you don’t if you’re okay with that and are okay with us being okay with that, and here I’ll place my big toe—ignore the long nails, I have children—inside your doorway as a polite way of saying do we go inside each other’s houses anymore?
It’s life on planet COVID, where everything is just a bit vague, a bit uncomfortable, a bit new. A bit uneasy. And a bit crappy: the family restaurant downtown that’s been there forever and my two older kids grew up in during regular visits shut down (cheers to the Island Parent-reading waitress there) weeks ago and I’m still sad over it. Like all parents, I spend a lot of time wondering how the past 18 months are going to impact our kids. My youngest is barely over 2; he doesn’t know a world where we don’t wear a mask to go inside the library. He loves strangers but rarely gets to see their smiles. It’ll happen, I tell myself, this isn’t forever.
But it also isn’t easy. Parents trying to keep it together through all these additional strains know what I’m talking about. The clerks who probably see me a bit too often at the liquor store get it; they probably see a lot of people a bit too often these days. Hey, we’re all doing what we can to get by, as we send our kids off to a pretty scary new school year, sort of half-happy that they’re even going back, everything just one big ball of mixed feelings, reality this forward momentum of getting-there shoulder-shrugging combined with sympathetic smiles and half-hearted sentiments of encouragement.
“We’re getting there,” I mumble to other parents walking past me on the street, and they half-smile, not even making eye contact, shoulders relaxing almost imperceptibly upon hearing those three words.
It’s draining, but we’re getting there.
One day, our kids will look back on all this and laugh, in that awkward way that we do when something is horrible and unreal. To all the parents out there, keep powering through, keep navigating the confusing mixed messages, the clear-as-mud directives, the sense of ennui that is so easy to fall into right now. Two weeks to flatten the curve a year ago; it’s hard to stay positive some days. But you know what? Our kids need us to—full stop.
So grab your kids today, give them a hug, and look right at them with an intensity that blocks out the rest of this bizarre time we’re living in.
After all, we’re getting there.