I Am A Proud 'Free-Range' Parent, But Not When It Comes To COVID-19
Tired-ass parents of the world, I want you to know that I get it. I totally understand how fucking excruciating this global pandemic has been on you. I empathize fully with the redundant Groundhog Day vibes you’ve felt as you’ve exhaustedly attempted to keep your kids entertained for the zillionth time. I know how much you probably miss vacations, sending your kids to school, date nights, and generally any activity other than being stuck at home all the goddamn time.
I know this is so tough. But please, try to hang in there with me. As tempting as it may seem to take your kids out shopping with you or schedule playdates again, I’m going to implore you to stay safe and stay put. Because coronavirus cases are rising for children and teens in a growing number of states across the country. With the school year fast approaching, this is beyond terrifying news for any parent to grapple with.
As of July 31st, a total of 338,982 children nationwide tested positive for COVID-19, with over 97,078 new positive cases reported from 7/16-7/30. That’s literally a 40% hike in new cases for kids. In certain states, those numbers continue to dangerously rise. And just recently, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves announced the grim state of affairs to his residents — of all the cases being confirmed, the fastest growth rate is happening now for Mississippi’s kids and teens.
“The first age group where it’s increasing at the fastest rate is those between the ages of zero and 17, a 33% growth rate in new cases since July 12,” Reeves told News Channel 3 Memphis.
As many parents gear up to face this total shitstorm of a school year, a lot of states have opted to cancel in-person classes entirely for the first few months after initially promising to reopen in some form. Their reason? A not so surprising rise in COVID-19 cases.
Even more infuriating is the fact that due to limited testing and epidemiological studies surrounding our youth’s relationship to the virus, this fall will essentially be a whole lot of frightening trial-and-error for those who choose or need to send their kids back to school.
“Schools will now be the experiment,” Dr. Aaron Carroll, an Indiana University School of Medicine pediatrician, tells NPR. “We’re going to see a bunch of schools open with varying levels of control, and then we will see what happens.
I don’t know about you, but a statement like that pretty much scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to play a real-life version of Russian Roulette with my kids this September. I also hate feeling the painful solidarity of so many parents who need their kids watched so they can work to provide for their families, along with children who rely on school for their meals and a safe space to exist, among so many other concerns. This situation just plain sucks
Whether we send our kids back to school or not, there is a level of control we can enact while they’re with us. We must be proactive with our children to limit their exposure to possible infection however we can. We are the ones in charge, and that means it’s up to us to make damn sure our kids aren’t being exposed to large crowds or spaces where social distancing isn’t being maintained.
According to the CDC, the top three ways of preventing infection are making sure kids regularly wash their hands, maintain social distancing, and wear face masks if older than two years old when social distancing isn’t possible. You can also disinfect highly-touched surfaces and regularly wash plush toys as needed if you’re looking for more ways to beat this thing. If you’re desperate for some cute and breathable child-sized masks, Fatherly has an awesome list of options.
I know from firsthand experience that enforcing these strict guidelines with our kids can be a lot to handle, especially after already being so damn cautious for nearly half a year. As a work-from-home mom, I’ve had to make some incredibly tough decisions to both ensure my kids’ safety and also allow for enough time in my day to get work done. But if we completely throw care to the wind and stop taking the above precautions, this fucking pandemic is not going to stop wreaking havoc on our lives. If you absolutely must take your kids out with you or need to stick them in a childcare that is still open, please avoid crowded spaces, follow safe distancing and mask-wearing measures, and make sure that the facility your child attends is practicing these measures too. And please think twice about playdates and other social situations; I know our kids are desperate to see their friends, and we’re aching for them, but we have to be the “bad guy” when it comes to this. Because if we aren’t, this thing will just stretch out even further, which nobody wants.
If you’re struggling mentally with all of this bullshit, you are so not alone. I’m right there with you, along with millions of other Americans. I know there’s limited time to do so, but please make sure to take care of yourselves as much as humanly possible right now. (I’m saying this while currently un-showered for the fourth day in a row, so believe me when I say that I feel you on the challenge of this one.)
There’s an amazing — and free! – COVID-19 school relief hotline that you can call if you need additional support, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness has a COVID-related section on their website, which also provides things like free webinars for parents and a comprehensive resource guide.
I hope you’ll hang in there with me, parents. We can’t head into 2021 with the same bleak AF scenario as what we have going on now. If we want a fighting chance of removing COVID-19 from our national landscape, we need to keep being team players. Our children are counting on us to protect them however we can. You are all showing up in big ways, and I just need you to keep on doing it. I know it’s far from fucking easy, but it will be worth it.
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