Recently, I came across an article about not being able to go back to normal until you’ve tested positive for COVID. For some this may be true, but I can only speak for myself that this is a disturbing idea for me. For over 18 months we have been doing our best to be cautious. Honestly, we have been scared to go back to our social norms, because we don’t want to be infected by the virus.
My husband is on the frontline working at Kaiser as a respiratory therapist. Most have no clue what that means, but he is the one helping the COVID patients because RT’s care for your lungs. They are the ones who put you on a bipap machine, ventilator and treat patients for breathing issues. Because of his experience with treating patients with COVID, I’d often ask him, “What did they do? How did they get infected?” 99% of the time it’s that they’re not vaccinated, not wearing their masks, and doing social things.
Yes many do have health conditions or are older, but he still has seen young healthy patients suffering. Because of the unpredictability and that we have three young children, all under five, the youngest not even one, we decided as a family to be incredibly cautious and limit our exposure as much as we can.
Masking is a way of life, inside and outside the home, and the few that we have felt comfortable to come to our home must wear a mask and be vaccinated and we prefer to visit outdoors in our backyard. Our guidelines were starting to ease up during the summer of 2021 when cases seemed to slow down a bit. We were still wearing masks but occasionally took off masks with vaccinated people outside, when we knew we could socially distance.
That came to a screeching halt when the Delta Variant made it’s appearance. It was a big step back and a major let down. I had set up a COVID cautious play group – all vaccinated adults who wore their masks and did outdoor group activities with. But when Delta came we knew we had to change to protect our family. When Delta came I felt like several factors changed with our friends, too. We were all on this ship together and I think the summer brought them joy to open up. They wanted to live like they did before COVID and not feel so cooped up, and for their mental health they all needed it.
Although I didn’t know how the kids and us would handle it, we rolled up our sleeves and took a big step back. I hit a low point and really had some very challenging times. I knew my husband and I were doing our best, it was so hard to take things away from my children. They were ok with masks, but not seeing their friends, or not going inside anywhere was tough. We had to figure out what can they do, what do I do?
I told my husband we needed to make a decision on where our comfort level is with living with this virus. I’m a stay at home mom and I can’t just stay away from everyone again, that was too hard. After some research and discussions we came to the decision that we are ok to do social things outside with our masks on, where others are masked and vaccinated (if possible). When the kids are old enough to be vaccinated we can start doing indoor things with our masks on.
Having these guidelines gave me some hope, but my five year old needed and wanted to go to school, she wanted social interaction with kids her age. At this point in the pandemic it was hard to find anywhere that met our criteria. I spent hours researching and looking up places that might work for her, and thankfully a friend mentioned Sienna Ranch. I called them and found out they were an outdoor ranch with smaller class sizes for ages 4 and up. All staff was vaccinated and everyone was required to wear a mask. I couldn’t believe it! I actually found a school! The price was high, but with children’s vaccines coming soon it was temporary and so important for her mental health.
We signed up, and while nervous, she loves it and has stayed safe. It felt like a big victory. Then came my three year old, now what can she do? The majority of our friends decided to still attend preschool, but the indoors weren’t an option for us and I couldn’t find an outdoor option. Our virtual preschool teacher opened up the possibility for a parent and me outdoor tot time. While it wasn’t a class just for her, it was still a social setting, outdoors, with masks, and she could socialize with other kids. Her older sister and her litter brother and I could come along to make sure she was safe but most importantly to enjoy some safe outdoor fun.
Without these two options I don’t know what we would have done, but attending over the last few months has helped us feel more normal. We have been fortunate enough to also join soccer with the city and all the kids wore their masks as well.
Now we have come to a new chapter, my oldest, who is five, just got the authorization to be vaccinated for COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. My heart has been yearning for her chance. I want her to experience kindergarten; a time in your life when you enjoy school, and she is also a very social and intelligent child who yearns for it. I waited as patiently as possible for her appointment and snagged the soonest available. The day came and we were all on high nerves. She is terrified of shots, but she wanted to get vaccinated because we had been talking about it for months.
So when it was her turn, she still freaked. It was quick, and she felt minor pain. I couldn’t help but cry. All the anxiety and fear just hits you at once, but I was also so proud of her. She was determined to take that step forward to lead a normal social life. She wanted to attend school, she wanted to go inside grocery stores and help us pick out groceries. And while so many have gone down their own path, and may judge us for our choices, we were and are only doing what we feel is the best for OUR family. That has been the hardest but biggest takeaway from all of this.
While we have some mandates, and there are guidelines from the CDC, not one person, friend, family member, political party or doctor can tell you what is best for YOUR family. This is where you need to take your stance on what’s best for you. You have to be ok with the fact that you might be alone with your choices, judged and maybe even spoken badly about. That’s so hard. We lost friends but I’m truly grateful for the friendships we have and the new friendships we’ve made. I couldn’t have done it all without their love, respect and support.
My kids mean the most to me and I’ll do anything to protect them and find healthy socializing with friends to have fun. So although I don’t think I’ll ever be back to “normal,” I’ve learned that I’m ok with it because regardless, I have to stand up for what’s right for my family. I can’t give myself a timeline, but I know we will take it one step at a time. I’ll do whatever it takes to support my family and find things that we feel are safe. We may not be living like some, but I know we are living, COVID free, as best as we can.