Last weekend, we walked over to a park near us where a tree was about to be lit, because as you already know here in month #21 of this thing, any outdoor activity is something. And it’d been a day where we could all really use a something.
I looked around as we stood there, at all of the rest of us, and actually said out loud to my people, “Ohhhhhhhh. It’s not just us.” Because all the parents with a kiddo under five years old just looked So. Effing. Exhausted.
Like maybe you, too, feel a hundred years older than you did two years ago. Like maybe this worn-out vibe that can’t be shaken is actually more shared than it feels. You’re still trying with everything you’ve got to bring some intentional fun and wonder for the kids, who’ve given up so very much to keep the rest of us safe. And now that they’re the last ones left to benefit from the protection of a vaccine, and folks were too tired of it all to extend the same giving-up-of-things courtesy back to them, things are just open, but you and your littles are not on the inside of any of that.
We all looked a lonely kind of tired, standing there masked and cold and six feet apart, half a block away from restaurants where adults were sharing a meal and a bevvy and breathing together in the warm inside.
If you’re a COVID-cautious household with someone who can’t yet be vaccinated among you, it means you’ve probably already declined a few friend gatherings or holiday parties that you were surprised to realize are even happening this year. Or maybe you’re feeling like the giant turd for telling your extended family you’re not doing indoor festivities with them AGAIN this year, even though everyone else is ready, and Grandma is really sad. And you’ve probably wondered about half a dozen times in the last 24 hours, as you’ve watched the crowds lining up for concerts or turned down free tickets to a game or said no to a coffee with friends at a cafe, if you’re actually maybe the only people left who are still doing this. People are gathering? Weird. Not us.
And if you’re globally conscious on top of it, you’re also mad at yourself for feeling sorry for yourself, because for crying out loud, you live in a country that’s 80+% vaccinated with free access to healthcare, and here you are depressed about your skincare routine, and that your kid hasn’t been to a trampoline park in two years, and about your one swollen eyelid that looked a hundred years younger two years ago.
It’s true, there’s always someone on this planet with a harder story. That’s real. And we do have a place in that. But isolation is a crummy reality no matter your privilege. So the thing I wanted to say to you here is, you’re so very not alone. We may not all be in this together anymore, but you’re very much not in this alone.
Maybe you jumped into spring of 2020 with all the energy of a team player determined to get their family through a crisis and come out the other end of it still believing in magic and feeling the sunshine. And now here you are, a lot more alone than when Italy was singing on balconies and Toronto was banging cookware on porches, and when the path you were walking felt more shared. You and your peeps are still there, just with less company and more tiredness, staying safe in a pandemic until every single one of your people can join back in with the extra layer of protection that a vaccine offers.
The last part of a good wait is the hardest. You’re almost there.
In the meantime, a toast to you. You’re incredible. You’ve done almost two years of attending to the gentle needs of wee ones at the same time that you’ve steeled yourself with a kind of formidable strength that you wouldn’t have thought possible of your own self two long years ago. Do you even realize how beautiful and rare that makes you? You’re doing something hard and awe-inspiring, this being soft and strong and warm and brave, and you’re staying there while your friends and neighbours start tasting the before-times life again. You and your fam are doing this very hard thing for longer than most people could. You’re quiet champions.
But these days will soon be memories, and you’ll look back and remember the moments of hard, mixed in with the slow-motion doing of puzzles on the living room floor and having a schedule empty of practices and obligations, and it will all blur together, this one season. It will be behind you. You’re going to make it.
As you do this last stretch, I just wanted to tell you that others are indeed around you, with you even. And that there is still a togetherness you’re part of. And that you, long-lasting Pandemic Parent, are actually amazing.
We’re in the last leg of the longest run you’ve ever done. Lots of people are finished, walking it off way over there somewhere, eating a banana with a medal around their neck. You can see the balloons in the far distance and faintly hear the announcer, but you can no longer feel your legs. Just like the fantastically messy lot of folx around you still in the thick of it (like that one with the cringy chafing going on, and did that one just pee themselves…?) What an end-of-something-big mess. It’s so horribly awesome. I see you. Let’s do this.