From An ER Doctor: A Letter to My Daughter, Growing Up During The Pandemic
You’ve lived half your life inside this pandemic. But you will have no memory of any of this. How I envy you.
It’ll be a long time before you’ll know what a virus is or how much this past year upended our lives. This letter is for when you’re old enough to understand.
Just a few days ago, you got together with friends you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. You were bursting with joy, a huge smile on your face, as you all ran around screaming and chasing after each other.
Watching you that day reminded me of how much you’ve grown since Covid changed everything.
When you’re older, you might hear people refer to this time as a ‘lost year’. But for our family, it was when we really found each other.
We had a pretty normal life before the pandemic turned everything upside down. I was away often, either working a long shift in the emergency room, teaching, or traveling abroad for research. Your mom took the subway to midtown Manhattan every day for work. With pressing deadlines and train delays, we often rushed to pick you up on time from daycare.
In March 2020, everything changed. For the next 7 months, you were at our side every waking moment of every day.
I won’t pretend it was easy. As anyone who parented during the pandemic knows, it was rough at times. Juggling work and keeping you entertained was a constant struggle. It weighed on our family, and it undoubtedly weighed on you, even if you were too young to tell us.
I constantly worried about keeping you safe. I recoiled every time I walked in the house after treating Covid patients in the emergency room and you tried to hug me. I can’t imagine how confusing that must’ve been for you. I was so afraid I’d infect you with the virus I was trying so desperately to protect you from.
But with time, we found a rhythm. I watched you grow, up-close and in awe of how quickly it happened. I learned everything about you and taught you everything you could absorb. I discovered how you’re only ticklish under your chin. And how you laughed every time you pulled the loose screw from the panel in the elevator, swung it around like you were conducting an orchestra, and then stuffed it back into the hole for safekeeping until our next ride.
When the pandemic started, you were still unsure on your feet and only spoke a few words. Now you and I can have a conversation and share a laugh over an inside joke. But it’ll be a long time before we can really talk about what we went through.
Unlike so many other families, we were lucky we didn’t lose anyone to this virus. Even with how hard this past year was for us, it was much harder for others.
Earlier this year, as Covid continued its incessant spread, your new baby brother joined our growing family. Like you, his early life couldn’t avoid the pandemic either — he was born the same week the U.S. recorded its highest level of Covid cases. The first things his eyes saw in this world were bright lights and N95s.
And oh, how you dote on him now. At first, you weren’t so sure, but now you protect him, try to feed him, and I can already see the love growing so strongly between you two.
This pandemic isn’t behind us. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know the next few months will be tough. I am excited and also a little nervous about sending you to 3-K at our local public school. As I have so often over the past year, I will worry.
Having worked as a physician on the frontlines — losing patients and colleagues to this virus — there are many aspects of the pandemic I would love to forget. But the time I spent with you — escaping to the beach or walking around the neighborhood — was the best part of every day.
There is no upside to a pandemic. But this past year brought us closer than we otherwise would have been. I will always be grateful that our family endured it together.