Refusing To Take COVID-19 Precautions Is Not A Valid 'Parenting Choice'

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
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I’m normally on board with the “you do you” approach to life. I stopped caring what other parents thought about me, or concerning myself with others parents’ choices, several years ago. I’ve come to the conclusion that each of us is an expert in our own situation and can’t be responsible for what other people believe to be true of our choices. Who has the time and energy to nose around in someone else’s business when we each have so much on our own plates?

Whether you breast or bottle fed your kids, chose to cloth diaper or go all-out disposable, how your child is getting educated, or what your parenting style is, I frankly don’t give a damn. I trust that you are a badass parent who is doing what’s best for your family. However, there is one topic I cannot take the you-do-you approach with, and that’s taking COVID-19 precautions. I can’t wrap my brain around why every person isn’t on board with protecting the immuno-vulnerable, pregnant women, the elderly, and every other human.

Here’s what’s up. Our parenting choices, like how much screen time to give our kids or how much junk food we allow, only impact our families. We make those calls based on our individual situations. Cool. But COVID-19 precautions, like wearing masks–properly, practicing social distancing, hand-washing, and staying home when we are unwell, have a domino effect.

Remember in sex ed class in high school when the teacher would warn us that any person we choose to have sexual intercourse with would mean we were also having sex with every other person our sexual partner had ever been with? Whether or not you agree with this teaching or not, it reminds me of what’s going on with the pandemic. If we choose, within our families, not to follow precautionary COVID-19 protocols, we are absolutely risking the health of others.

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As parents, we are supposed to guide our children. You know, practice what we preach. Our kids aren’t going to be gung-ho about wearing their masks if we don’t. If we choose to host the holiday party (or attend one), gather closely outside with neighbors while the kids circle the cul-de-sac, or go out to eat with “just a few” close friends from multiple households, our kids are watching and learning. What they’re watching and learning is that the health of others simply doesn’t matter enough to you to take CDC recommended precautions.

I’ve heard all the false, anti-precaution rhetoric. This virus isn’t that serious. The vast majority of people who get the virus will survive it. We shouldn’t live our lives in constant fear. The statistics are inflated. The virus is just like the flu, or, the virus is similar to a mild cold.

These are not only misinformed and selfish, but also privileged. It’s easier to blow off the pandemic if you have excellent medical insurance and great health—even though science says you can still get very ill and spread the virus. Let’s say that you do have stellar health and the best medical insurance. Even then, your good fortune (ahem, privilege) doesn’t give you the “civil right” to take risks with your own health, your children’s health, and that of others.

Parents, when we “bend” or blow off the rules, we teach our children that it’s completely fine to ignore the forewarnings of experts. We teach our children that the world revolves around them. Entitlement, much? We show them that they don’t need to worry about the “greater good,” and instead, focus on themselves. That’s called selfishness.

One of my goals in life is to teach my kids to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Currently, the right things are to take coronavirus precautions, correctly and effectively, now. I need to model what to do, and I expect my children to do the same. Period.

I’ve heard it all. Masks are uncomfortable. Distancing from our nearest and dearest during the holidays is depressing. Following precautions isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. I’ll take my chances.

We are all impatient and frustrated. This virus is on all of our last damn nerves. But unless we take the “we” approach, people will continue to get sick, and some will die. Collectively, we have to show the virus what’s up by doing what we should.

I’m calling B.S. on your cowardly “parenting choice” not to take precautions or teach your kids to do the same. This virus has been raging for almost an entire year, and we know that there are certain actions we can take to protect ourselves and others.

And while you’re at it, stop sharing sketchy sources and conspiracy theories. Someone’s blog isn’t a medical journal or scientific research. That graphic with coronavirus “statistics” posted on social media, with no reputable sources listed, is crap. Do not, I repeat, do not, click share. You’re only adding to the chaos and confusion, not helping others be and stay well.

Most of all, don’t teach your kids to be jerks. I’m all about being a critical thinker and teaching my kids to do the same. However, I’m also not going to pretend science isn’t real and that our healthcare workers aren’t risking their lives every day to care for others. Their stories and findings matter—and they are legit. Perhaps it’s time to do a lot less re-sharing, commenting, and gathering, and start contributing to kicking the virus—and teaching our kids to do the same.

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