Three days before Memorial Day weekend, the coronavirus pandemic touched our daycare.
With more than 1.7 million people in the U.S. infected and 100,000 deaths, I guess you could say (to echo Effie Trinket from “The Hunger Games”) the odds were ever NOT in our favor.
The email last Wednesday from the daycare director read in part: “We recently learned that someone in our center has been diagnosed with COVID-19…The local health department has been informed about this concern and has recommended our center close for at least 72 hours, effective immediately. As a result, we ask that you please pick up your children as soon as possible.”
I hopped in my car and rushed to the center to pick up my daughter, along the way thinking, “72 hours? That sounds awfully optimistic.” Sure enough, a follow-up letter announced the expected: the center won’t reopen until June 4 (maybe).
Just like that, my wife and I joined the ranks of the millions of parents who find themselves working from home with kids during this pandemic. In the words of comedian David Arnold, “it ain’t for the weak.”
Case in point: After wrapping up an exhausting day of teleworking while parenting, my wife and I tried to unwind that evening by watching a movie, unaware that our curious daughter had snuck away with her EpiPen (grabbed from a shelf) and accidentally punctured her thumb with the auto-injecting needle, leaving streaks of blood all over the pillows in the family room to say nothing of her pink button-up sweater.
Besides a bruised ego, no serious harm came to our daughter; I just have a new growth of gray at my temples. Fun times.
As we adjust to new circumstances, I take comfort in a line from a now-viral employee memo sent by Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada: You are not “working from home.” You are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
We’re just thankful we have the option of daycare. Many parents don’t even have that.
Thanks to my wife’s work being deemed “essential” by the state, our family can tap into the limited number of daycare slots reserved for healthcare workers and other essential employees. (The fact that she is a bankruptcy attorney and people have been in constant need of her services tells you all you need to know about the dire economic state of America.)
There’s a fragility to what seems stable in this Age of Corona. This virus disrupts any inkling of routine we may have gotten attached to or reliant upon. It is the ultimate disrupter.
As parents, we’ve tried to maintain some sense of normalcy for our daughter in these unusual times. Kindergarten was effectively canceled mid-March, but at least she could engage in e-learning and play with friends at daycare. And she still met with her friendly autism therapists a few times a week.
When the autism clinic canceled all in-person therapy sessions last month, our daycare center remained a source of stability, even as the coronavirus continued to upend everything the world over.
Now the center itself is temporarily canceled. Despite the bevy of public health precautions, we learned this week that a total of five people in our daycare have been diagnosed with COVID-19, underscoring the reality that no place of human gathering is risk-free.
We continue to monitor our daughter and ourselves for any of the telltale symptoms of infection (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, etc.). Thankfully, to date, we remain in good health.
On the desk of my home office is a printout of six “Daily Quarantine Questions” by photojournalist Brooke Anderson.
Among them: What am I GRATEFUL for today?
Another: How am I getting OUTSIDE today?
The third one reads: What expectations of “normal” am I LETTING GO of today?
I let go of any expectations of “normal” at the start of the pandemic, but didn’t know I would also have to ditch the expectations of my “new normal.” There’s a fragility to what seems stable in this Age of Corona. This virus disrupts any inkling of routine we may have gotten attached to or reliant upon. It is the ultimate disrupter.
Life, of course, goes on.
The day after our daycare closed for deep cleaning, my daughter’s kindergarten class celebrated the end of the school year with an online graduation ceremony on Zoom. Her teacher presented a sentimental slideshow entitled “The Graduates” that included a look back on highlights from the school year (“Remember Apple Exploration Day?”) along with two photos of each student: one from their first day of kindergarten and one on their last.
My daughter became giddy with delight upon seeing photos of herself on our iPad and hearing her teacher tout her accomplishments, from learning how to pronounce new words to the progress she’s made as a reader and speller. “You’re going to have an amazing year in first grade, I just know it,” her teacher said.
After the ceremony, the students were asked how they had celebrated the last day of school. Some shared they had favorite meals, memorable outings with family, or received gifts. But if there was a prize to be won for Best Answer, I would have given it to a little boy named Colin who said with excitement: “I got two new face masks that my grandma made.”
I almost burst out in laughter at the innocence and honesty of his response but had to hold it in for fear of being heard on video chat.
At that moment, a Quarantine Question came to mind: What am I GRATEFUL for today?
I am grateful for the ability to laugh, in spite of it all.
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