Opinion: Pandemic parents barely hanging on, but determined

·3 min read
Adam Baker, of Montgomery, spends some quality reading time with his four-year-old and 17-month-old daughters. Baker says he and his wife are members of a special, barely-hanging-on group of humans responsible for the health and safety of kids under the age of 5 —those still too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Adam Baker, of Montgomery, spends some quality reading time with his four-year-old and 17-month-old daughters. Baker says he and his wife are members of a special, barely-hanging-on group of humans responsible for the health and safety of kids under the age of 5 —those still too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The sun isn’t up yet and my four-year-old is sitting at our kitchen counter spitting into a tiny plastic vial.

"Is that enough, daddy?" She asks, peering over the tube with puckered lips.

"Two more big spits and I think you’re good," I say, in disbelief this conversation is part of our new normal.

It’s time for school. I grab her battle gear: a child-sized mask, hand sanitizer and Ziploc bag of spit. Someone in her classroom has tested posted for COVID-19. Fortunately, her school has invested in saliva testing that allows kids who’ve been exposed to quickly find out if they’re COVID-free and able to stay.

After a big hug, I send my three-foot, 30-pound, pig-tailed, too-young-to-be-vaccinated soldier off to war. And I start to wonder: Is today the day she gets it? Will it be like a cold? Or will it be worse? How long will we have to wait at the Emergency Room? Will there be doctors and nurses available to treat her? Will there be an open bed, room, or hallway where she can stay? Will it affect her health long-term?

Will my little girl be OK?

I stop the spiral. Not because it’s nonsense. Not because it’s outside the realm of possibility. I stop because the sun is coming up and it’s Day 672 of this pandemic and there are work emails to send, Zoom meetings to attend, laundry to change, dishes to wash and antidepressants to swallow.

In addition to our four-year-old, my wife and I also have a 17-month-old. Our pandemic baby was born quietly, almost secretly, in the fall of 2020 into a world of chaos.

We’re the lucky members of a special, barely-hanging-on group of humans responsible for the health and safety of kids under the age of 5 – those still too young to be vaccinated. I knew parenting would be the hardest job I’d ever have. I expected lots of wild cards. But then we drew the wildest of all: The Pandemic Parenting Card. (I imagine the thing itself features a tiny figure curled into the fetal position. But instead of a developing baby, it’s a fully grown adult parent clutching themselves and crying.)

We’re so tired. Tired of sitting at home, staring at the same walls, watching the same endless Netflix loop of Sofia the First, asking (demanding?) Alexa to play the same Baby Beluga song, and picking up the same toys we franticly bought off Amazon at the start of the pandemic.

We’ve done everything possible to keep our kids safe. Alternative childcare. Limited visitors. Skipped weddings and funerals and holidays and birthday parties. We’ve washed our hands for an extra-long time. We’ve distanced six feet. We’ve bought every type of mask imaginable. We’ve hunted through drug stores for at-home tests like Black Friday Deals. We’ve been good soldiers, even though it often feels like we’re doing all the fighting by ourselves.

We’re the ones who want to meet you for lunch, but can’t. The ones who still go out in a mask. We’ve been running and hiding and shielding our kids from this virus for two years. Omicron may be our greatest challenger yet. But we’ve come too far, given up too much, to stop now.

On behalf of all of us who drew the Pandemic Parenting Card, I ask that you think twice before you leave your mask at home, turn down the vaccine or share that piece of misinformation on Facebook. Think of my four-year-old spitting into a bottle and walking into the unknown. Think of all those still unprotected. Think of how much we all want this to end.

Adam Baker lives in Montgomery with his wife and two daughters.

Adam Baker
Adam Baker

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Pandemic parents barely hanging on, but determined

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