Dealing With Kids in a COVID World

I’ve got four and I’m starting to get a little bit of Corona fatigue.

It’s kicking my ass right now.

I have a semblance of a daily routine. I wake up and get the little ones ready for the day. I do normal stuff like feeding and dressing them—according to the weather forecast. I’ll take them outside at least once a day to ride bikes or go to the park. Most of the time it’s twice a day. I’ll put them down for naps after lunch and spend some time with the older kids after that.

I do fine with all the little things I can control.

But Harrison, just under two months away from being age 4, calls every kid he sees outside that comes within 100 yards of him his friend and wants to chase them down and play. I love that about him. I doubt I was ever like that. From the birth of my individual memory until now I never remember that being any part of my personality. (My best friend growing up lived right across the street from me, and we hated each other. We yelled and threw rocks at each other for months, and I learned the meaning of the middle finger from him as he flipped me off constantly. His mom finally brought him across the street and forced us to meet and be friends.)

The cloud of Corona is always hovering somewhere around me when I take the kids outside. It’s supremely frustrating. What is a parent like me supposed to do?

First off, a little background about my beliefs when it comes to what’s going on in the world today. I don’t believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, although they have all cost me a lot of money the past few years. I believe in science. I believe in wearing masks, washing your hands, and social distancing. I have no idea why college football stadiums are filling up in the state of Texas, or any other state, on Saturdays right now. Nor do I have any conceivable notion as to why a sitting president would be hosting multiple rallies, that cram hundreds of people together, after just getting Covid-19 himself, and why anyone would attend such an event. I have no clue why a motorcycle rally of over 500,000 people in Sturgis, South Dakota was allowed to take place during a global pandemic. I could go on and on, but you get the point. And any presentation, in any way, shape, or form that opposes these views comes through to me as mere static in the background. I don’t argue, and I don’t force. I’m secure in my belief. My eyes and ears work, and as far as I know I have no clogs in my brain.

In short, I’m a realist.

With that in the background, what exactly am I supposed to do with four kids (two little ones), a wife, and a 62-year-old mother in law, all living in the same house, who can get coronavirus if I make an irresponsible life decision? I already quit my job because being in and out of grocery stores for ten hours a day didn’t seem too responsible. Now I’m put in a position where I constantly have to evaluate each individual occurrence and situation every single day and act accordingly.

For example, Harrison and Mara want to go play on the playground…For the first few months it was always a definite no. “Let’s just keep riding our bikes and I’ll explain it all to you later,” I’d say. Or “One day you’ll understand why, when you get a little older.” And Harrison would just repeat everything I said right back to me, with a smile on his face, and keep riding. Then after a few months I’d let them play on the playground only if no one else was there, and smother them in hand sanitizer when we decided to leave. Now there are a couple of families with kids from the neighborhood that I’ve gotten to know a little bit and their parents think along similar lines…so Harrison and Mara are allowed to play on the playground with them. It’s so funny too because every time they show up Harrison will coming running up to me and say “daddy my friends are here! Oh I have to be nice to them when we play? Oh I can’t hug or kiss them? Oh they can’t ride my strider but otherwise I still share with them? But we can do everything else? And we can have a lot of fun together…?” Basically just repeating everything I’ve told him since all this shit started. Heck of a memory he has…He’s such a good kid. If there are too many kids, or children we don’t know, they’re not allowed to play. Poor Harrison doesn’t know the difference. He just wants to play.

That’s what pisses me off the most. He’s just a great, active, fun-loving little kid. He has no idea what’s going on. If he sees a friend or someone his age while we’re outside he should be able to run right up to them and start playing. He shouldn’t be conditioned to have to look back at me for my approval. Mara loves playing along too and doing her own thing while occasionally checking back in with the group and hanging out. She’s much more independent, especially for a two-year-old. I shouldn’t have to stop her from what she wants to be doing either. I don’t want her thinking what she’s doing is wrong. She’s so quick to say hi to everybody when we are out and about.

And words can’t begin to tell the story of how much I hate being put in the awkward position of here comes someone, what do I do? And it happens almost every day, or at least 3-4 times a week. The kids always see it coming and love it. For me, it’s a feeling of knowing I lose either way and it is unbearable. Not because I have any issues with telling my kids no, I gladly do it all the time when they’re misbehaving or doing something bad, but pounding that word into their skull when they’ve done absolutely zero wrong and have nothing but good intentions, while just wanting to be kids, burns me at my core.

I see them coming and now I gotta make a decision. Gather up the kids and take off before they get there or save some face and leave them to play for a few minutes and say something like ‘Ooop, you mom just texted, we gotta go, almost lunchtime, c’mon, we said five minutes 10 minutes ago..’ All of it being bullshit.

No idea why it feels like it’s always on me. Hey, other guy, go the other way…Leave us alone. Why is it always on me?

It bothers me that I’m the only one that really seems to care or worry about it. Everywhere I go when we walk around the neighborhood I see Trump signs, big front lawn get-togethers of adults with golf carts parked along the streets, and kids playing together after school. I’ve heard countless tales from people I barely know, who have kids the same age as mine, who have grandparents flying in from somewhere outside the state and/or are already staying with them for awhile. (Who is dumber in that scenario, the parents or the grandparents? Let’s go to the airport, get on a plane, and go see the grandkids, stay in Texas for a couple weeks and fly back home. Great idea! You know the only state with more Covid cases than Texas in the United States is Florida right? You know kids can get it, feel no symptoms but still pass it on right? My home state of Montana has less total cases than the county I live in right now. And we drove up there, stopping for nothing but gas when we went. We never stopped for food or went in any buildings. The kids and I peed on the side of the road. And I still felt a little off about coming.

Meanwhile, I’ve had people here try to shake my hand after making small talk. Come on. Have some respect. Oh now you think I’m an asshole because I pretend I don’t see your hand there? Would you rather have me explain to you why you’re an ignorant sumbitch? Or maybe I should just shake your hand, knowing absolutely nothing about you, except that you are stupid enough to voluntarily want to shake hands with someone you just met, and put my kids and family at risk while doing so, all in the spirit of avoiding awkwardness. You put me in that position, by sticking your hand out. I was perfectly fine just talking from a distance over here about little Johnny, little Susie, how long you’ve lived in the area, and what a nice day it is. When you break it down, what the hell does shaking hands accomplish anyway?

Let’s go there for a second: Hand shaking. I’ve had a bad relationship with shaking hands ever since I was 13 and my dad taught me how to do it. He said when you shake hands with another man you don’t wanna squeeze too hard, but you don’t wanna be soft either. You don’t want anyone to shake your hand, crunch your fingers and think that you’re a wuss. You wanna be nice and firm. And don’t hold on too long or release too soon. (Then we practiced a couple times.) What? So when I get done shoveling the sidewalks for this friend you have, who graciously offered me the chance to do it for 10 or 20 bucks, afterwards you want me to say thank you and shake his hand? And not only do I have to do this stupid ritual, I have to execute it a certain way without getting it wrong? I can’t just stick my hand out there? What a stupid social contract society maintains with handshaking. Seeing ‘friends’ over the holidays I hadn’t seen since going off to college was always the worst. Why? Because I kept in touch with all my actual friends, and when I saw them again we’d always just hug or say what’s up to one another. Both are ten times better options, being that they’re genuine. In my later years, I’ve hugged all my friends after I hadn’t seen them in awhile. Nothing like a good ‘guy hug’ where you ‘bring it in.’ But seeing non-friends or acquaintances is awful. There is always a stare-down, an awkward handshake, and a terrible conversation. There’s a reason we haven’t kept in touch, why are we shaking hands? Or when you go to a dinner party, or a company meeting, and you’re introduced to a bunch of people all at the same time…you go around the circle shaking a bunch of hands one after the other…It’s heinous. It’s disingenuous. It’s phony. It’s door-to-door salesman-ish. Even shaking hands with the random two golfers you didn’t know until the round started at the end of playing 18 holes always pissed me off. Now-a-days you can always find me acting like I’m frantically looking for something in my golf bag, back down by the cart, giving a big wave back to the guys on the green yelling —Oh yeah nice playing with ya!—, when the round was over and those handshakes were taking place.

And I believed in of all this is before Covid. What the hell makes you think I’m gonna shake your hand now? Oh nice to meet you Frank, let’s be friends, I’m sure this meeting between us, discussing all these epic things is the gateway to a long-lasting and meaningful friendship, of which can only be officially sealed with a good solid handshake.

God damn it. The frustration that boils over my bones as I’m typing all that…C’mon people. We are knocking statues of civil war generals down in southern states. We’re hopefully reforming education, police training, and addressing systematic racism in our country. And God-willing our president will be voted out in November. Let’s get rid of the hand shake.

I can do without all the small talk as well, but one step at a time.

So back to this Covid with my kids thing…it sucks. Texas is no joke. One of my neighbors had it a few months back, and our family seemed to be the only ones on the block in quarantine when we heard the news. I guess most of the time I’m just wondering where the consideration is for humanity and other people. I say to myself I’d hate to be older right now, or in the danger zone. Then I lay in bed and think Shit, I am older. I’m realistically probably on the back nine of my life.

I’ve basically been living the last 6/7 months saying ‘I care about you’ and in return my family and I are getting a big ‘Fuck off’ in return everywhere I look. My older kids don’t go to school, some of their friends do. I can’t imagine in 6-8th grade or 9-12th grade being told you can’t go to school anymore. They deal with it mainly because they don’t want to be a part of something that puts themselves or others in jeopardy or possibly pass along terminal illness. If everyone else had that preventitive mentality we would have been done with all this bullshit months ago, or at least had it way more under control. But nope…everyone in America is gonna do what they want to do. We all think the rules don’t apply to us. And the rest of the world laughs and laughs as we wallow and wallow.

I’ve committed to being safe and keeping my family healthy, but if by the time Harrison turns 6, and he still can’t go to 1st grade safely, I feel like I could be one of those postal workers famous for going crazy.

I don’t mind if they need to follow certain safety guidelines that every other kid follows, and a ‘new normal’ exists, to make school possible. In fact, I’m assuming that will be the case.

But I’m not here for the home school and seclusion while they see every other kid rolling around the neighborhood like it’s nothing outside their window.