Parenting, even in a pre-COVID world, was always a balancing act.
But now the stakes are higher.
In a world where the risk will be present for years, and that is even if a vaccine can be created and distributed, every choice has to be weighed against the possible consequences and benefits.
If you screw up on one side, ignoring the chance of catching COVID, your child and your family have a higher risk of a possibly deadly virus, or long term illness.
On the other hand, putting your children in a bubble, and not allowing them to ever leave the house or see any other soul but your immediate family puts them at a possible risk of mental issues and relationship issues that can be avoided with the help of relationships with others.
So here we are, stuck on a ridiculous tightrope we never signed up to be on.
My daughter, complete with her immunocompromised body, has been riding her bike with a neighbor her age down the street.
Part of me, honestly, is thrilled. A relationship, with someone besides her brother. Another child, to help her feel normal. Riding bikes on the street with a neighbor. Like a moment from a classic movie, it is just sweet.
Back in pre-COVID times, we literally didn’t have time for that, because we were so booked (probably overbooked) with sports.
On the tightrope of parenting, this one was easy- it was outside, you can’t get too close riding bikes, and it will help her feel more socially stable- go for it.
Then they gave each other a high five after a race.
It was so simple, so normal… but it scared me. What if that family has COVID and don’t know it yet? What if that high five passed the virus to her, and to our family?
I hate seeing it that way.
For the record, we didn’t overreact, just had her wash her hands afterwards, and it seems that nothing came from the moment.
But it is terrible that the smallest moments now come with such large possible ramifications that every choice for our kids is layered in doubts and questions.
Like my son’s hockey.
Pre-COVID, he was on multiple teams, and really seems to thrive from playing the game.
We have done everything we can to help him stay conditioned in the meantime, and he spends time practicing, shooting, and skating at home, but game play is where he has the most fun, and the most connections with others.
There is a rink (relatively) near us open, and allowing games. There are temperature checks at the door, rules about masks and spectators, but on the rink, the kids get to play.
So, we allow it.
But I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. When someone fell on him, as kids are prone to do at his age as some are still learning to play, my thought wasn’t about the possible damage from being fallen on- it was about COVID.
Would it be better to keep him home?
But for how long? Until 2020 is distant thing we talk about, and he has lost years of his favorite sport? Lost the chance of possibly playing in high school clubs or college?
See, that’s the flip side of the tightrope. Safer to stay home, yes, but if we parents wait until the risk is 0, how much of life and possible memories will be lost in that time?
I shared earlier about our decision on schools, and it wasn’t made lightly.
But I also recognize that on this tightrope, every parent has to find the best path on their own.
My kids will be okay at home. They have each other.
For parents of only children, I understand the appeal of school, and know that some parents might think it is worth all the possible risks, because for quality of life, their children need some time with other kids.
To the parents that allow playdates with specific families, cousins or whoever, I get it. I hope that you aren’t being flippant and spreading possible COVID everywhere, but I won’t judge your family’s cautious choices as we are on month 4 of this pandemic.
The sad truth is no one knows how long it will last, and until it ends, we are all walking this thin line of trying to find something close to 2019 normal, while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
We have even been allowing grandparent time, outdoors, with masks on.
It is a two way risky street. We hope to not pass anything to them, or them to us, but grandparents are precious.
Personally, I only have one grandma left, and I appreciate the time I had with all my grandparents growing up. I want my kids to have those relationships too.
So, once a week, we visit with my parents in their backyard. They don’t go many places, and neither do we, so the risk is relatively low. It is there, it is admittedly a gamble, but one that we are both making for the sake of relationships.
I know of others that regularly use grandparents as babysitters, yes, even during the pandemic.
I don’t judge these people either, as the relationship with your spouse is important too, or even a single parent getting a blessed respite from the ongoing work of parenting.
Most know the risks inherent in multi-generational contact until the high risk of COVID passes, as we hope it will eventually. But in the tightrope of parenting during the pandemic, there are always risks, and some of them are worth it.
Does anyone remember this commercial from few years ago?
I recommend watching it, but if you skip the view, the point is that we could spend our time arguing, or we can agree that we are all trying to do our best to care for our child.
Life is not the same as it was in 2019, and nothing we do can change that fact.
It isn’t as simple as scheduling a time to play with other families. Instead it is a delicate balance of seeing what families you are willing to bend the distancing rules for, and making sure that everyone agrees on the parameters.
Hoping that no one is unknowingly sick.
But like it or not, if you have kids in 2020, you are on this tightrope, and necessary decisions about who you allow into your family’s bubble are a part of the unique challenges this year brings.
Let’s all agree to show grace to those who are taking one step at a time, carefully, across this precarious year, trying to make the right decisions for their kids and families.
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