Our children going back to school after 18 months should be a moment of pure joy and relief. There should be smiling pictures, big hugs, and the good kind of tears. There should be a sigh of release, a return to life — creativity, work, and friendships. Surely, now, all of the parents will finally be able to get back to “normal,” right? Nope.
Your friend with kids is not okay. Especially if those kids are under 12.
Last year was pure hell. We had to keep our kids home while working from home. We held meetings while they played drums in the background and screamed for more tablet time. We said yes, over and over, only to berate ourselves when we read of the damage that too much screen time can do. We made elaborate educational schedules, only to end up devolving into hours of tears (us) and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (them) by the end of the day. We worried about our lives, and the lives of our parents.
We stopped going to farmer’s markets because of the transmission risk, and then felt guilty for failing to provide healthier food to our families. We were terrified to go to playgrounds, so we stayed home and had our kids do YouTube exercise (only to further berate ourselves for the screen time). We let our bodies go to absolute hell, because there was literally no time to deal with it.
So…this year should be great, right?
Kids are in school, and it’s time to finally kick back with friends, get our work groove back, and get back into organic foods! The world is our oyster! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!
But the first day of school came, and…it was not it.
The Delta variant is raging. Pediatric infections are going through the roof. So, we spent long weeks of sleepless nights convincing ourselves that it was for the best to send them to school. We did the math, and realized that they need this. The benefits outweigh the risks. For many of us, we also actually need to send our kids to school because we work, and without work, where can we get the money for all that organic food we’re supposed to buy?
But, the decision brings no relief.
Our eyes are red and raw from nights awake, researching articles on those statistical anomalies — the ones that everyone dismisses as “too low to count.” We obsessively look at pictures online of the latest child who died in our state. We spend more money on multi-layer face masks than we do on that organic food, or on that life we were supposed to return to. When we bring them to school, we nervously cling to them, take a single cursory masked picture, and then grind our teeth to oblivion.
We wonder if our child will be that statistic. We think about what picture they will use of our child if they are one of those 0.03% cases.
Our stomachs churn, but we still can’t bring ourselves to eat good food. We end up eating what our child leaves behind at lunch, the Spaghetti-O’s they begged you for but didn’t eat, the cheese cubes they forgot about. We get sick over and over again, and every time we think it’s Covid. We get tested, and stop hugging our children until we get an answer. We’re not truly satisfied even when we get a negative, because we wonder: “will it be me? Will I be the one who makes them sick?”
But we can’t show our kids how scared we are. We keep our eyes open, our mouths smiling, and our tones light, because we set the tone. We sing songs, pretend play until our brains explode, and read to them until they are tired and ready for another night’s sleep. When they finally drift off, our eyes sag, our mouths droop, and we wonder how much a human person can cry. We don’t sleep another night.
We click on more articles. There are always more articles.
So, if you’re wondering why your mom friend doesn’t have the same light in her eyes lately — the same wry smile you came to love for so many years — know this: your mom friend is probably not okay.
I know I’m not.