Although the pandemic has hurt me as it has the entire world, my everyday life isn’t really that different. I can easily work from home as a psychotherapist, and my favorite people (and pets) are with me all the time—my husband and children (and two cats!). I can still see my mother and best friend (albeit from six feet away on my front lawn, but I do see them every week). My other best friend is available by phone at the ready. My father lives far away, but we Zoom regularly (even more so now due to the pandemic).
But … the effects this pandemic is having on my children send me into my closet daily for full-blown weeping sessions. I weep over how powerless I am to provide them with a solution to their isolation, loneliness, and grief.
I’ve watched my 16-year-old feel more and more alienated from her friend group because she is wearing a mask and social distancing and they are not … which has replaced the “my-friends-drink-and-I-don’t” peer pressure of high school. I weep for her because of the injustice, the gaslighting, the out and out insanity of it all—why does she feel bad for doing what you are supposed to do? She watches on social media as they run around town (without masks), acting like they are immune from the virus. It is the epitome of the injustices of the high school experience: you’re popular, you’re “in” if you follow the crowd, and if you have any deviation, you’re out, an outcast, a loner, a weirdo.
I’ve watched my 12-year-old’s developmentally appropriate sudden switch from cuddle bunny to surly almost-teenager become edged in a type of sadness and despair that is not only not her personality, but most definitely due to the inevitable isolation of this pandemic. Although, you could say she’s the luckier one of the two since at least her two closest friends wear masks and are socially distancing and thus can see each other often. Yet, even with routine hangouts with those friends, she is very sad and very angry.
She tells me she misses the smallest of things—seeing her friends at the bus stop, eating her favorite hot lunch meal at school (the BBQ chicken calzone), and hugging her best friends. She is emotionally mature enough to know that there is no one to blame, yet she has the hormones of an almost young woman coursing through her, causing a tug-of-war of emotions. Over these last few months, she went from 11 to 12 and with that, her mood went from “it’s nice to spend so much time with you” to exploding just last week at my husband and me, “I’m just so sick of you guys!”
I wanted to tell her, “Me too, honey. Me too.”
Although I weep over my powerlessness to make my older daughter’s friends be more empathetic, I also am awed by how she has coped with that loss. She’s delved deep into her own internal world—reading books she’s never had time to read before, teaching herself embroidery, taking online yoga classes, and watching documentaries on race and feminism. And though I do weep for my younger daughter who wishes for those small, regular, middle school moments with friends and school, I also am amazed at how she’s thrown herself into studying art more through online classes and YouTube videos.
The girls are forced to look within themselves, and I’m hoping that what they have found is their infinite resilience and creativity. As for me, I will continue to weep for all they have lost and, at the same time, I will celebrate what they have gained.