On the day of the vernal equinox, my children had a 24 hour sleepover with friends who have been part of our pod this entire pandemic year. This time with them together felt different. Of course, it often feels different as the parent who is not hosting the sleepover. But on this occasion my worries and my woes were almost completely diminished. River and Oak sang and danced all night, got crazy mask-tans from the sun in the day, and hardly wanted to return home later that afternoon. In its entirety, the experience was light and full, with an ease I can’t only associate with the weather (though that helped).
Language has become our guide through this process. Recently, our conversations have been based on tangible things that are quite different than last year this time. The most notable difference being that, a good portion of our immediate friends and family are now vaccinated. There’s also the school schedule changing, more restaurant seating outside, the trains that are still slightly empty and mostly open, and other things I just can’t think of on hand. This kind of availability and opportunity feels almost-foreign. And yet, it sits alongside a reality and deeper subset of a year of fear.
In the New York Times yesterday, Kari Cobham writes, “But even if my kids weren’t dealing with economic insecurity, the longer the pandemic dragged on, the heavier the toll on their mental health.” The mental health toll, when it comes to so many avenues of not only isolation, but racism, responsibility, the gaps of learning and the emotional parenting load, can not be erased within a week or month. It shouldn’t be. In a recent video, Terri-Karelle shows a moment of vulnerability with her daughter, Naima. In it, her daughter is crying and clearly upset, Terri-Karelle is beautifully nurturing her and also giving truth to her lingering fears. These conversations feel so similar to the ones we have and have had here. In the video, she reasons with her (to show understanding), laughs with her (to show reassurance), and gives herself grace through the process as a parent.
Through all of this though, no matter where your city, state, country, or even personal position stands on the spectrum, a year later, I’m finding the ease in (and out) to be the most important. I taste the jolt of winter last year on the tip of my tongue. And I imagine that my children will be feeling it, the difference and responsibility of the year for a while just the same. While a vacation to somewhere nice seems dreamy, I keep thinking about how important it is to detangle the process of an entire year with my children, and to take it slow.
Of course, we’ll be keeping our pandemic Friday night movies, but maybe we lessen the need for social screen time, and make more of an in-person effort? Maybe, in our conversations, along with hopes and dreams, I’ll discuss in the simplest terms how many more people were vaccinated in one day (which is always fascinating to Oak)? We’ll take the train more for errands, we’ll plant flowers in our garden and spend entire days outdoors making sure our bodies find a healthy space to converge with our minds. There will be afternoons where we must address our collective lingering fears, too.
The ease in or out, won’t feel the same for everyone. It won’t even have the same timing. For some, it will take weeks. And for others, it will take months. Even a year. Whatever that is, I am finding it important to note it as a journey we are charting together.
How are you and your children lately?