On March 13, 2020, schools here in New York closed, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Since that day, four months ago, my house has been filled with constant squeals of joy, deep belly laughs, skips in one’s step and big unexpected bear hugs.
While many people struggled through quarantine, my kid thrived, and because of that, you can say I did as well. However, don’t get me wrong, have there been days where I wanted to pull my hair out? Days where my bathroom towel took the brunt of my blood-curdling screams? Days where I felt like the walls were closing in on me and life was just so fucking heavy? Yes to all of the above. But as a Mom, when your kid is happy, those gnarley days I mentioned above, cancel themselves out.
You might be asking yourself why my kid has been such an outlier during this pandemic, considering many others struggled being apart from their friends, teachers and normal school activity. Let me draw up a scenario for you that puts it all into context. Think about that one place that makes you incredibly anxious, fearful beyond belief, and triggers every single one of the 7 trillion nerves in your body. For most people, I would guess that is the dentist. Now, imagine having to go to the dentist every single day, and every tooth in your mouth needs a root canal, but Novocain does not exist. Then picture your petrified- self sitting in the dentist chair, while listening to a symphony of colicky babies wailing through the office stereo system. And finally, if that wasn’t enough, while the dentist is prying the roots out of your rotted un-novocained teeth, a swarm of murder hornets fly in through the window in the room you’re being treated in… and THAT, folks, is the kind of mental/emotional and physical anguish my kid experiences while in school. Dramatic, maybe. Traumatic, hell yes.
So when Kellan found out that the dentist office, I mean school, was closed for the rest of the year, and he’d have to resume learning from home, I saw my son transform right before my eyes into his happiest, truest self. And that is how he has remained for the past 122 days.
Whereas many parents and their kids have dreaded this time in lock down and virtual learning, we as a two-person family unit, have treasured it. In the weirdest of ways, it has provided a sense of normalcy that I as a mother have never experienced. I now understand how natural it is to just wake up, and not have to worry about your kid mentally melting down. To sit down and eat breakfast together, where he is actually eating, because his stomach doesn’t hurt from nerves. To observe him taking joy in getting ready in the morning, knowing what the day has in store, and actually being excited about it. That’s all what I expect is normal for most parents throughout the year. However, that is not our normal – not even close. That’s why I welcome this new normal, that everyone else seems to dread. I mean, not the deadly virus – social distancing part – obviously. But the part where our days flow easily from the minute he calmly awakes to the laugh-fest before bedtime, knowing we get to do it all again tomorrow.
I am also gratefully aware that I will most likely never get this much alone time with my son again. Time where I was truly present to see him mature mentally and physically before my eyes. Time where his nerves didn’t dictate his mood and behavior. Time where I actually got to witness the incredible strides he’s made academically and the struggles that still persist. Time where the rain poured down on us during our daily strolls and we laughed uncontrollably. Time where he let Mom give him a buzz cut. Time where he took his very first shower (bath’s no more). Time we would have never wholeheartedly experienced and appreciated 122 days ago.
So yes, this is a part of why I do not want to send him back to school in September, but there’s a more critical cause at hand – the risk of him contacting and/or carrying COVID-19. We will basically go from 122 days of connection and protection, to that of extreme discomfort and vulnerability. That is not something I am prepared for.
As every type-A, overthinking, planner does, I laid out a pros and cons list. I needed to get every worry, concern and disempowering thought out of my head and onto paper. Here’s the list as it stands today:
As you might be able to tell, I am leaning on the side of caution. Because whereas school is extremely important, so is good health. In my opinion, it’s the most important thing we should be focusing on right now, for without good health, we have nothing. I make this blantantly obvious in my list above, as all my worries lie in the cons of sending my kid back to school.
I worry about my Autistic son getting sick and having to determine if it’s a common cold or COVID-19, because he can’t communicate his symptoms. I worry who he will come in contact with, and who those people have been exposed to. I worry that he will carry this home, and I will become infected. I worry about the time he will have to spend apart from my vulnerable 84-year-old Mom, as to not infect her. I worry for his classmates and their families. I worry for his teachers and therapists – as they too are at great risk, trying to follow a new set of protocols, keeping our kids safe, yet having to teach them at the same time. I worry that all the strides he made in these 122 days will become undone. I worry with all this newness, his anxiety reaches a whole new level. I worry.
So, I wait and worry, like every other parent, to see what is the next right step to take. And here’s the thing, my next step might look different from yours. And that’s ok. I recognize that every family has had different lockdown experiences over the past 122 days. Everyone has different reasons for making the decision they’re going to make in September. And everyone is entitled to not be made to feel bad or judged for making that decision.
And in the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 8-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.