A Letter to My Children: Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear Landon, Charlotte and Ava,
It’s Easter Sunday, 2020, and we awakened to a vivid, decorative rainbow that arcs a new world below–one that’s being consumed by a pandemic as it tries to eclipse and reshape life as we knew it a couple of months ago.
Today marks 1.9M COVID-19 cases and 115,000 deaths worldwide–souls who passed away alone, many of whom are eulogized from afar and buried where space allows. Public health, delivery, and grocery store workers are our superheroes whose capes shine brightly on the frontlines.
Overnight your dad and I became homeschoolers to the three of you. We’re not always as graceful as we intend to be, but we’re trying our best while we shield the family from an invisible enemy and watch the economy free-fall in real-time.
We’ve carved adventures for you that we inhabit alongside you through fifty hikes in the past four weeks–our primary outlet to the world–as we jostle responsibilities and try to demonstrate resilience and adaptability. But some nights when our heads hit the pillow, we succumb to exhaustion and secretly dream of our own safety net to tumble into.
We grudgingly steer you away from CAUTION tape-enveloped playgrounds, and Ava, you manage even as a toddler to keep your tantrums at bay as you’ve accepted this new rhythm. When you watch Frozen, you’re convinced that Elsa is keeping her distance from Anna because she has ‘germies,’ and you’re waiting patiently to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” on your first real ride. “Just a bit longer,” I reply with a heavy heart.
Masked trips to the grocery store have become a calculated risk and an environment that resembles a dystopia where patrons avoid eye contact, scurrying around partially bare aisles like Pac Man. We help the homeless on our way home, some who now extend a pole adorned with the American flag and a dangling bucket.
The few restaurants that are still open for take-out have started to offer free toilet paper rolls with an order, and I’m beginning to wonder if this is a sign of superior customer service or a preemptive measure to ensure customers are covered while eating their food. Self-grooming is a newfound skill for most, which will produce potentially frightening styles once we emerge from our cave, and Landon, I’m still grateful that you and dad haven’t taken a mirror to the back of your head yet after I cut your hair last week.
Simple walks down the street have turned us into a string of magnets that repel when we’re within ten feet of others; a glance or smile have somehow become uncomfortable or threatening, and it’s the unquantifiable energy exchanged with strangers close by in public places that I mourn the most–an invisible bond that will always be unmatched by artificial intelligence or virtual reality.
Still, buried within the deep trench of debris that the virus leaves behind is an even stronger will to safeguard our spirit from its infection. Dad and I have remained tethered to our existing network while reconnecting with those from childhood. The virus is slowly dissolving the socioeconomic demarcation that previously isolated us more than we are today, and despite the whiplash of this experience, we’ve discovered a simpler life that gives way to a sigh of relief.
Things we used to take for granted like stumbling upon an abandoned, unchained table and chairs to enjoy a family picnic, a stocked store egg shelf, converting our kitchen counter into a nightly ping-pong tournament, or hearing you this week, Charlotte, on your 9th birthday say, “Mom, I realized I didn’t need a big birthday party, I just needed you guys,” are the triumphs of our day.
For the first time, this journey doesn’t feel like a solitary struggle but a universal effort. New technologies and hobbies will surface from the aftermath of this and by the time you read this years from now, we may have suffered a resurgence of this virus or a string of other catastrophes: perhaps the trauma we’re enduring now cuts deep enough to drive a permanent shift in perspective. Or, we will quickly forget.
Life will catapult you onto a new course more often than not. Sometimes you’ll land in anguish and other times, at the base of a rainbow. You might channel your heartache and become the person who creates a vaccine or a whimsical world for your children in your living room. But whatever you do, wear your cape whether the road is paved or rocky. And Ava, once the world reopens, I’ll recruit every passenger to sing with us on that bus ride.
All my love,
This essay was featured in the April 19th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.