I'm a parent during Covid
Covid isn’t the only thing that has happened to me (to us) over the last two years. Life has continued to have hard and beautiful moments. Work and bodies and families change. But, to answer when someone asks, “how are you,” I have to first dig deep below the thick top layer of being a parent during Covid.
How’s your week? I’m a parent during Covid. What’s new in your life? I’m a parent during Covid. How’s writing? I’m a parent during Covid. How’s your health? I’m a parent during Covid.
I’m a parent during Covid. I’m a parent during Covid.
And, thanks to Omicron (our sincerest thanks, Omicron), people are talking about parents again. About the impossibility of being a working parent during a pandemic. Even about families, like ours, with high-risk kids.
We’ve screamed and cried and quit and stayed up too late on our phones. We’ve taken on risks and we’ve isolated. We’ve thrown screen time limits out the window. We’ve made thousands of impossible decisions.
But, the part of parenting that I can hardly bear to face, the part that feels like looking directly at the sun, is watching Khalil suffer. Parents have space to joke about annoyance and rage and sitting on the other side of a locked bathroom door to steal ten minutes of privacy, but talking about the love is talking about an open wound.
Last night, after Khalil was asleep, David and I watched videos of him from late 2020. His voice was tiny and he still moved clumsily, like a toddler. He was two when Covid started and will turn five in a month. In one video, he’s “reading” Green Eggs and Ham in his sweet little voice. I wonder if he could focus that long now, or if our years of iPad-parenting have rewired his brain away from sustained concentration.
Khalil has endured months without playmates and taken on the constant knowledge of ambient danger. His primary friends are exhausted parents. School came back and was taken away. It will soon come back again, but then he faces inevitable quarantines and risks suffering in the hospital.
It’s his joy that destroys me. The way he grins at me every few seconds when we are watching Encanto or reading a book. The way he tells the same joke over and over if it made me laugh once. How hard he’s constantly working to stay happy. I don’t want him to have to work for his happiness. I want him to be showered in new and joyful moments. I want him to return home to me after a day of adventuring with his friends. I want to be his safe haven, not his everything, every moment.
Loving him and watching him hurt is an ache in my chest and a grief pulling down on my cheeks. It’s new lines on my face and a sadness and doubt that I lug around with me. It’s holding his isolation and loneliness with his respiratory risk factors and finding, once again, that nothing fits together.
Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’ve been interrupted MANY times while writing this newsletter. The burnout and depression and anxiety are all real for parents. But the biggest thing, the part that feels like it might shatter me, is watching Khalil’s joy fade.