Like almost every other parent, my wife and I are doing our best to shelter our 16-month year old daughter, Elliott, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, us parents trying to fabricate a bubble with some sense of normalcy. Up until recently, I tricked myself into believing that we could mask (or minimize) the impact of social distancing on Elliott. Unfortunately, I no longer hold on to that belief.
On Monday afternoons, Jess attends a (remote) hour long appointment and during that time, I break away from my office and watch over Elliott. This past Monday, Elliott and I walked — well, I mostly carried her — to the neighborhood park located right around the corner. And when we arrived, in the distance (about 50 feet) were two young girls (around six and two years old) and their nanny, the three of them sitting cross-legged in a circle on the ground, feasting on their homemade picnic.
Elliott waved her little hand at them and caught the attention of the one of the little girls, who raced over and introduced herself, abruptly stopping just about six feet away from us.
“I’ll keep my distance, because of the coronavirus.”
After shooting the shit with this 6 year old for a couple minutes, we parted ways and Elliott and I continued walking towards the swing area. I noticed that Elliott was still gazing at the two little girls sitting in the distance. When I planted Elliott down on her own two feet, she spun around and faced the direction of the girls, turned her heads towards me, then stretched her arm our towards them, pointing her index finger in their direction, signaling to me she wanted to go play. But I had to explain to her that she couldn’t and that we needed to keep our distance.
Elliot started bawling. Non stop.
I felt so sad for her.
I squatted down to her eye level, trying (as best as I could) to gently explain to her that she couldn’t go play with them. But it was no use. Nothing I said comforted Elliott.
God damn this pandemic.
I hope and pray that this pandemic ends soon and that we can return to our “new normal”, a normal that allows children to run around with each other, play tag, hug one another, without them fearing, or their parents fearing, for their lives.