How to be a grown-up in a pandemic

A friend in Madrid is snowed in and has to work throughout the night because her kids can’t leave the house at all, not even to go to school, which is already operating under reduced hours because of the coronavirus. Claudia and Davina, respectively in Bangkok and Brighton, tell me they’ve had to let go of their newly-found work routines because schools are going online or shutting down – again. In Buenos Aires, Estefi is worried that a new bout of the coronavirus will leave her kid without kindergarten and occupational therapy for a second year in a row. In Minnesota, another friend says he’s been talking to his toddler about inequality and racism, with Black Lives Matter protests and the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol as backdrop.

These are not easy times, and my friends are not the only ones struggling. After a year in which millions have had to endure unimaginable losses, being healthy, having a home and food on the table may be enough of an accomplishment. But what exactly counts as healthy? As we try and keep our heads together, those of us who have children in our lives also have an extra responsibility: to be the grown-ups in the room. We have to try to filter and make sense of the outside world for our kids while keeping our cool when, honestly, absolutely nothing out there makes sense to us.

Of course talking about the Black Lives Matter protests to a toddler is not the same as trying to explain to an adolescent why school, and parties and hanging out with friends, are cancelled. But the common thread is the feeling that we, the all-powerful adults, should be fixing things for our kids when the truth is that we can’t. We can’t fix much, and we shouldn’t try either, 

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