We’re a year into a global pandemic and our world has been turned upside down. We have been quarantined, masked, social distanced, tested and now vaccinated (at least some of us). The year has been freckled with fear, anger, confusion and tremendous loss. Yet here we are, a year later settled into a new normal. But how normal is it? Not very. But it is what we have to do to be safe and hopefully survive. Strong statement, but it’s true. That’s how adults think. What about the kids?
My seven-year-old son said something that piqued my interest: “Remember when we thought this was just going to be better after like three weeks and flattening a curve or something? But we’ve missed two St. Patrick’s Day parades. I wish adults would just do what they’re supposed to.”
Why aren’t adults doing what they’re supposed to do? Great question. Why are there still people running around without masks on and putting others in danger? Well, buddy, that’s because adults are selfish. They often think that they know better because they’re older. Wisdom does not come with age. It comes with experience. Don’t confuse the two. Those who are wise to this pandemic have experienced pain and loss. They have a reasonable fear of the unknown. They don’t want to get sick or to have their friends and families get sick, so they’re taking all of the proper precautions to ensure that doesn’t happen.
His thoughts piqued my interest, so we kept talking. I asked him how school was going. “Horrible. I hate masks. Because you have to wait hours to take them off. It’s really annoying. If you go into the lunchroom you have an assigned spot for the whole week and you can’t see your friends. We have dividers and we just want to break them, but we can’t.” He wants to break a divider to talk to his friends. My heart ached.
We kept talking. “I know I have to wear a mask because people are getting the virus. You get it when you sneeze and the droplets get out of your mouth and can go into someone else’s. I don’t want to get sick or make anyone else sick.” I was impressed. He has a lot of knowledge for a little body. “That’s also why we use so much sanitizer at school. In case you touch your face when you have your mask off outside. And after touching the lunch tables and everything.”
How is recess different? “Well, we don’t play tag as much, ‘cause we aren’t supposed to touch each other. But thankfully, we don’t have to wear our masks. I hate inside recess cause you just have your box.” Each child brought a plastic shoe box to school in the beginning of the year with activities to do on their own during indoor recess. No playing cards together or building things with Play-doh, just individual play. It makes me sad.
When he was distance learning, he liked one thing, he could just work in a t-shirt and boxer briefs. That was a win. Now, he’s back to a uniform. But he’ll tell you any day, he prefers that over being at home. “I missed my friends. Talking on Google isn’t the same. We didn’t get to tell jokes and stuff and it was hard to pay attention when people didn’t turn off their microphones.” I watched him struggle at the kitchen table to stay focused. I thought about the other parents balancing children and work and busy lives. Hundreds of thousands are still doing this everyday. I commend them for the strength.
“I am glad that people are getting shots now. Maybe that can help this go away faster. I am glad that Maurmi (my mom) got one so she’s not worried that much about getting sick.” Yeah, me too. I feel very fortunate that our family has been vaccinated and can get together again without fear. Don’t get my wrong, I’m not running around without my mask on, but I don’t worry about giving my parents a hug either. The vaccination is a relief.
“You know what I want to do when this is over? I just want to go to Target and not freak out if I forget my mask is in the car. Remember when that happened to Dorothy?” His little sister wasn’t wearing a mask the other day and she and I were wandering around the store as if nothing was wrong. Granted, she is five and still young enough to get away with it. I suddenly noticed and blurted out, “Oh God! You’re not wearing a mask.”
Her reaction? Panic. She became totally unglued, crying and covering her mouth like something horrible was about to happen. I quickly fished one out of my purse and she was covered in seconds. I consoled her and said that she had nothing to worry about. She was not in trouble and she was safe. Her big brown eyes leaked tiny tears and she said, “Thank you.” But her reaction stuck with me. She is so conditioned as a preschooler to protect herself against a deadly virus that she is legitimately fearful. Talk about a dagger through the heart.
I hate this for my kids. It saddens me that a poignant memory from their childhood will be the years in the masks. Yes, years. This isn’t going away anytime soon. Thankfully, it gets better everyday, but masks aren’t going to disappear tomorrow. I fully believe I will be sending my children to school with their faces covered next year. I try to make it as happy as I can by letting them pick out ones that are fun and match their personalities. That lasts about five minutes, then it just goes back to sucking again. They are covered up all day while I am at home doing what I want. Kids are the real heroes. They have taken these blows with stride and kept moving. I am so proud of all children dealing with this right now.
What do we do? Keep vaccinating, keep masking, keep washing your hands. That’s how we get back to normal. Whatever that means. But as my sweet boy said, “I just hope this never happens again. I don’t want my kids to have to do this. It sucks.” Same buddy, same.