The Pandemic Has Redefined Our Family's Boundaries

by Leslie Blanchard
Originally Published: 

It’s a good thing I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.

Because I’m wrong a lot.

So it’s super awesome that I can freely admit it. Especially this year. Because of the Corona.

In March I told all my kids, friends and every other schmuck who was listening, “Just wash your hands, practice this social distancing thing and it’ll all blow over soon!”


Thank God I wasn’t on any governmental advisory committees setting health care policy.

I also said over and over again ad nauseum, “Americans don’t have the attention span to drag this thing out too long. We will get weary of it and move on to something else.”

Ummmm…wrong again…

Don’t worry, I burned my Prophet card.

Actually, I might’ve been a tiny bit right about the last thing. We did move on to some relevant social and humanitarian efforts, but unfortunately the virus did not get distracted when our society did. It persistently raged on. And regardless of how tedious we find it and how “over it” we all may be, it continues to plague us on the daily and promises to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

And, man, has it ever taken its toll on the modern American family. It’s become a new Civil War of sorts. Pitting brother against brother. Cousin against cousin. Even poor Grandma has had to take a stand. (No no, not Grandma! May it never be!) It seems no one can agree on the exact right amount of quarantining and what exactly that looks like.

My oldest daughter is an attorney, married to a doctor. They have two very young children. They came out of the gates in March extremely cautious. Initially, I thought they might be a little “overly cautious.” But, that was me. Wrong again…

When they went into quarantine, they were definitely not playing around. I wasn’t allowed to see my grandchildren within two weeks of any travel, nail salon visits or restaurants.

This presented me quite the personal, moral and “grandmotherly conundrum,” as I’m a fairly young recent widow, who is just climbing out of the deep dark abyss of my grief to reclaim my life. So: a couple hours with the grandchildren per week versus my entire social life? (Which might just be salvaging my sanity – just sayin’…)

One of my other daughters, who is also a new mother, was slightly more lenient initially and a little more dependent upon me right after she gave birth. She was reluctant to enforce any strictures that cut me off from visiting them and helping out. But, as the case numbers continue to escalate in her state this month, she is understandably battening down the hatches, as well.

And then there is the issue of my college-aged sons. They were both sent home from their university in March and were forced to finish their semesters online. Letting them work part-time seems to make sense because they are at loose ends and it didn’t seem to bode well for their mental well-being to be entirely isolated from their peers, yet that further estranged me from my married daughters and their precious wee ones.

(It makes sense to look at this virus like it’s a venereal disease and we all agree that the grandchildren are potentially exposed through me to anyone the uncles are exposed to via work. It just can’t be contained any other way.)

Matter settled.

We just eventually had to come to a tearful agreement that I, as a mother of five (some grown, and some grown-but-not-flown), would have to prioritize everyone that was still under my roof. Including myself.

One of my closest friends assuaged my tremendous guilt when she said, “Remember how easy it is to beguile a child? You’ll have those kids eating out of the palm of your hand just as soon as this pandemic is behind us!”

Out of necessity, I am choosing to believe her.

Until that day, our family is respecting everyone else’s boundaries and tolerances right where they are. I’ll be making up for lost time soon enough.

Every family, especially the large ones and extended family, has had to navigate around the opinions and tolerances of each individual member. This pandemic has redefined all of our boundaries and ushered forth a new era of respect for one another’s viewpoints.

At a time when we have needed each other the most, my family has had to cancel two vacations and several birthday dinners just like every other family in America and possibly the world. There’s no question we will all be delighted when we can be fully reunited in health, sans fear, again.

Until then, we will strive to protect the most vulnerable among us, as we work toward quellIng and quashing this most unwelcome and intrusive social game-changer that has altered modern family life as we know it…probably forever.

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