She strategically lined ten lovies up in a row against the wall.
It was the first step in her DIY living room course. After getting called upon to jump on the trampoline, the stuffed animals were led through a makeshift hop scotch on her former dog’s blanket and finish the course by jumping on a set of five rainbow river stones. She would line them up on the opposing wall and repeat the course. Minnie mouse was always the fastest, but Elsa and Anna had some magic to give them a competitive advantage.
It is an exercise she came up with to mimic the friends she sees weekly in her toddler ballet class; the one activity she picked to do through the winter.
She hasn’t been to dance in a month.
All because we found out the hard way our home wasn’t the untouchable bubble we created and cultivated throughout this pandemic. Despite our tireless efforts to protect our kids, they were not exempt from getting the virus. We did everything “right.” We social distanced. Wore the masks. Got the vaccines. Say it, we did it.
Thankfully, they are okay. And to be honest, the story could end here because that’s the most important part. We truly are so fortunate and appreciative that there does not seem to be anything residual happening and our kids can resume their normal (or are the cool kids still saying “new normal”?) activities.
But I’m not going to stop there, because parents are being vocal about struggling and no one is listening.
Yes, our family is so lucky that our kids recovered from the virus, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s incredibly defeating when you’re home, trying to work, keeping everything afloat and all the while painfully paying for a daycare service we’re not even able to use.
Parents are begging. Pleading. Wishing and hoping. Doing anything we can to get back to an actual normal and regain any ounce of sanity we have left.
What a time it is to be alive when “The CDC says…” has become a meme. Read that again.
But hey, it’s not all bad, right? (Insert tinges of sarcasm here.)
It’s very exciting getting 823 emails a day about new protocols and decoding them to see what applies to you and your family and how it makes sense that you aren’t sick but still have to stay home. Do I get away with five days? Oh, 10 you say? Wait, how did we land on 20 days? What are the rules? So, your school has different rules? Huh? The rules aren’t actually rules? What’s my name? Where am I? How did I end up hiding in the bathroom with the tub of ice cream?
The text chains have shifted from making play dates to comparing all the nuances of testing protocols that, by-the-way, seem as perplexing as an puzzle with 100 missing pieces. The threads are miles long outlining where to get the fastest results, what to say and how to not give away your first born to pay for them. One friend said the anticipation waiting for the kids’ results was equivalent to waiting for graduate board exam results back. When those PCR tests determine the fate of listening to “Baby Shark” on repeat 24/7 for weeks ahead, I get it. Ooof.
And we can’t forget about wearing a mask during every activity known to man being super fun as well. That feeling of your own breath coming back at you and sweat building up on your face is basically a trip to the spa I haven’t had in years. I’ve tried to defend it for science’s sake in my quirky – no, awkward – way by throwing out the, “It keeps my face warm in the cold!” and “Hey, at least I can sing Whitney Houston in Target and no one knows it’s me!” In all seriousness, we do it to protect others and will continue to do as long as it’s actually working. Don’t let that get lost in my complaints.
Can I also just take a pause in this
essay vent session to admit that grocery pickup and delivery becoming mainstream is equally amazing as it is freaky? Our ancestors would laugh if we told them someone else does our shopping and we open our trunk or side door to retrieve our macaroni and cheese. Lame (albeit true) defenses for its use to make ourselves feel better sound like, “It saves me so much time!” and “It makes our meal planning so much easier!” When I think about it, going actual grocery shopping these days is such a thrill. I need to get out more…oh wait.
I could go on, but you get the drift. Expectations have been l o w e r e d. And maybe in some ways they needed to be. But overall, we don’t like striving for mediocracy and neither should you.
One thing is for sure, we continue to thank our lucky stars Disney+ was birthed into the world at a time when if parents could wish for one thing and one thing only, it was that Walt’s entire collection could be available at a moment’s notice. Check.
While we’re on the topic of TV, a special shoutout goes to the Tiger King series. It’s as if we all somehow manifested that perfectly-timed release as a form of twisted at-home therapy to make us feel not-so-crazy after all. Although, I did watch two entire seasons of the Bachelor and the Bachelorette with three of my closest girlfriends…in the garage…while I was pregnant…during the coldest months of the winter…in Buffalo, N.Y. So, yeah, maybe I take that crazy part back.
All sarcasm aside, the pandemic has shown our family how privileged we are to be given the opportunity to slow down at times. Embrace the outdoors a bit more. Explore more of our hometown. Spend more time with family. Those are the silver linings we’re choosing to take away from this. Moreover, we realize we’re incredibly blessed that at the end of the day that’s what we’re able to take away from it. Many families have had really rough times through this pandemic from losing loved ones, to suffering long-lasting effects, to employment scarcity and more. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
Sitting there in that moment, watching her carefully line up those lovies for “dance class” I sure as hell teared up thinking about the gravity of it all. Once the tears started flowing, I couldn’t make them stop. It’s as if two years of trying to hold it in came out in full force.
Of course, I’m proud of her for ability to adapt; making lemonade out of lemons. Although the little leotards, tights, ballet slippers and mirrors are absent from the experience, she found creative ways to bring class to life anyway. Resilience is a classy trait to have, but should a three-year-old have to learn that in such a forged way? Should she have to be that crafty while missing out on important parts of childhood? Of course I’m not just talking about dance anymore. Everything has become so rigid, impersonal and tense for their budding little worlds.
And trust me when I say I don’t believe for a second that I have the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this rollercoaster of a piece in plea.
Then again, I can say that when there is a will, there’s a way. It’s been two years of parents staying home, creating makeshift fun and adaptations to bring the outside world in. If we can be so creative in our homes, we must find a way to continue to be creative out of them as well because the truth is, no one else is going to do it for us. There must be helpful, non-stressful solutions on the horizon with both science and humanity in mind we can come together to achieve.
So what on God’s green earth could that look like?
We can start by reading what is coming into our feeds and inboxes.
We have to hone our problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
We should genuinely care about others.
We can be more generous, giving others hand-ups (metaphorical hands of course or wash them, mmkay?).
We must have hard conversations based in truth.
We make ourselves dig deep and find the patience when we don’t think we have any left.
We must listen with open minds and hearts.
We will advocate for our children and ourselves, together.
Because at the end of the day, all we really have is each other.