Monday, June 14, 2021

How He Rolls!

 It’s a pretty accurate saying  “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” The last wild ride of a year has taught me that. I didn’t realize how much I valued school for my children until it was taken away. I missed all my friends when I wasn’t allowed to actually see them. I longed for the freedom to travel when we were no longer able to fly. While I was proud of myself for staying pretty positive through the twists and turns of this nightmare situation, I am beginning to see the ramification of all we have lost.

Resentment is a useless emotion, yet it is what I feel towards some of the side effects of pandemic living. I am bitter about how much time was lost. I am sad that it has been over a year since I have seen my parents. They are already old so having one less year with them when time with them is already so precious makes me quite regretful. From the scant times that I was able to see them on a video call or zoom, I could see subtle changes in them, but it was difficult to really see how they were doing from so far away.

 My daughter who had a hard enough time adjusting to middle school finally got used to it when the doors closed at the school for more than a year. For her, going back after so long was like starting all over again socially. Already at such a challenging age socially these kids were forced into an unhealthy amount of alone time going from class to class in the solitude of their bedrooms to stare at teachers and students on a screen, most of which they hadn’t ever met. 

My son at eight wasn’t so affected socially, but the love he had for learning came to a screeching halt. The relationship we had from the moment he was born as mother and son had to be tweaked to teacher and student at times. That shift was neither smooth or welcomed. We lost our patience with one another often resulting in tears for one or both of us. The strain on our relationship was palpable. He deserved independence and privacy during his school days but it was impossible for him not to be witnessed by me because we were in such close proximity to each other. We came up with new strategies, new plans and made pacts with each other that we wouldn’t lose our cool with each other. We took deep breaths, tried to explain when something was frustrating without directing our frustration at each other. I tried to remind him as well as myself that it was okay to be angry, but it was not okay to be mean. 

After a few months of trying to dance between teacher and mom, I could see the toll it took on us. By the end of the day, we were tired of each other. This little boy who used to come to me and plant unsolicited kisses on my cheek would often walk right by. I organized a small PE class for the kids who lived here in our complex. The twelve other kids could hardly wait to have an opportunity to have a structured social activity, but because I led it, my son wasn’t as enthusiastic as the other kids. He too wanted time without a parent that allowed him some outdoor, physical activity with friends, but even there I was by his side. The occasional get-togethers with friends made such a difference but not always easy to organize. 

My kiddo had always loved skateboarding but things changed one day when I took him to the skate park to meet a friend who was visiting for a few days before moving to New Zealand. His friend had invited another friend too and the three of them hit it off. The father of that new friend reached out a few days later to see if my son wanted to skate and that was the beginning of a skating obsession. The two boys became close friends with a small group of other boys around their age and that little crew was inseparable. They could skate for hours on end together. I met all the parents while sitting at the skatepark. We all exchanged texts and a day hardly goes by where they aren’t meeting to skate. Any apprehensions I had about this sport, and I do have them, are outweighed by the positives. While the risk of injury is real, and even with helmets each boy has had a scare or two, they all wear every possible protective layer before getting on that board. The culture of some skate parks that I have seen was enough to have me researching little league, but I was proven wrong over and over by the amount of support other skaters give each other. I have witnessed some foul-mouthed teenagers that were pretty oblivious to younger kids skating around them, but there were far more serious skaters who didn’t miss an opportunity to encourage the younger kids when they nailed a new move.

Skateboarding was the best thing to happen to my son this year. He has made friends, gotten outside, and has been incredibly active. I may have to drive him and sit outside the park, but luckily for him, I can’t even enter past the gate. I don’t have a skateboard, know how to skateboard, or have a real desire to learn so his need to spread his wings to fly away from me has been met by a board, trucks, and four wheels. As soon as we get to that park he steps on and takes flight.

With the world slowly opening up, a lot of the pressure on the two of us had been alleviated. We still spend a lot of time together and I don’t get as many cuddles from him as I would like, but we have mostly closed the teacher-student relationship and are building back up being mother and son. He is more talkative with me. His mood is lighter and more playful. Lately, he will occasionally sit on my lap just to be near me which makes me want to stick my face in his neck to inhale him in, but most of the time I resist that temptation and take his lead. I haven’t had an unsolicited kiss on the cheek in a while, but I have noticed that through all of this, he has never stopped reaching for my hand when we are walking together. I will never stop noticing that and will deeply treasure it while I still have it.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

One Shot, Two Shot

Yesterday my daughter and I drove to a nondescript building, in the middle of a busy street, and lined up under the pop-up tents. We were with a lot of other kids about her age, all waiting to get her the first of two Covid-19 vaccines. After more than a year of everything in our world slowing down, the pace at which things are changing seems jarringly fast. If you asked me back in the winter if I thought I would be fully vaccinated, walking around outside without a mask and hugging my friends, I would have laughed at how nice of an idea that would be. At that point, I wasn’t sure how science could possibly figure out how to make a safe enough vaccine, how they would make it available to everyone, and if I would even take it if they did. I am not an anti-vaccination person, but I have always been overly cautious when it comes to vaccines. I read obsessively about mercury and thimerosal. I knew that although there were no vaccinations that used certain preservatives that were questionable, some flu shots still did. I didn’t want to let my children go unvaccinated and be at risk for diseases that used to threaten millions of lives, and are in check now thanks to science. I also didn’t want to give them more than one or two at a time, or give them any when they were only a few months old. Together with my husband, we decided the schedule of their vaccines -- we delayed some vaccines, and spread them out. At the time we had no potentially risky threats to their health, and we felt confident with our timeline. When I heard the vaccines were going to be given to eligible people early on in the year, I was glad I wasn’t one of them. It felt like those first groups were guinea pigs and I was a chicken. I wasn’t trusting enough to inject some newly invented concoction into my body. I started reading more and more about the way scientists made the vaccine and how it worked. I was impressed but I wasn’t sold. With three different vaccines from three big pharmaceutical companies I was skeptical of the different methods, ingredients and agendas. We were told early on in the pandemic to be patient because vaccines take years to develop, so I was thrown at the speed at which so many companies were able to roll them out. While I followed vaccines I also followed the staggering numbers of people dying in my community, in the country and all around the world from Covid-19. The infection rate of people was horrifying. The virus was taking wild twists and turns with new variants showing up threatening even more lives. Although our children weren’t in the same risk bracket as adults, we watched as their mental health suffered. We locked in, shut out and distanced to protect our families. We all spent way too many hours in front of screens and did what we could to get through each day safely. When the next tier of people was offered the vaccine, my parents and sister got their vaccinations. As more and more people became eligible many of my friends went to great lengths to get their shots. My husband and I sat back nervously, neither of us sure we were ready to get vaccinated ourselves. One day when he was on a work call with someone in Germany, he learned of how far behind other countries were with vaccine roll outs. This man and his family had no end in sight to their lockdowns because there was no option to get vaccinated anywhere. That is when we both had a different perspective on taking a vaccine. I went back to reading about the vaccine itself and how it was made. The mRNA injects a way for our bodies to make a protein that triggers an immune response in our bodies. This vaccine has been in the works for quite a long time, decades before Covid-19 and once the Corona Virus appeared scientist went to work tirelessly to make it ready and safe for the current health crisis. Once I felt that I understood enough about the vaccine I realized what a privilege it was that we had access to them so quickly and easily. The more people that were protected from the virus, the sooner we could help diminish its threat. Together my husband and I signed up for our vaccines and even proudly left wearing stickers that we got jabbed. The news a came out a few weeks ago that kids ages twelve to fifteen would be eligible as well. Again I took pause because it was one thing for us to get a vaccine but I wasn’t sure I was ready to give it to my kids. I went down another hole of research and after seeing very little to be concerned about, I was on board to have my daughter vaccinated. My husband was hesitant too though and after asking advice from a few friends and sharing articles, I read we realized there was nothing to gain from waiting except more possible exposure to her getting the virus, so we agreed to schedule a shot. Getting my daughter on board took more convincing, but for a different reason. She is terrified of needles and has always been. We have had many trips to the pediatrician in the past where I have had to get her a blood test or a shot, and we have had to come back another day because her fears got the best of her. With this vaccine though I explained how lucky we are to even have the option to get one. We talked about how some of the things in our lives that we have missed so much like going to friends houses, taking trips or doing a sleepover can come back when we are protected. She understood all of it and because she wants so badly to have normalcy again, she agreed that she wanted the vaccine, but confessed how scared she was about getting it. Since letting the butterflies take over her ability from going through with getting the shot wasn’t an option this time, we walked her through some tools to help ease her nerves. She was a trooper about going, and we made a little afternoon out of it. Although I was painfully aware of her growing nerves as we waited in line for her turn, it was impossible not to be moved by seeing all these kids lined up to change their world. At the beginning of the pandemic I felt the weight of the responsibility to keep my children safe during such an unsafe time. They had so many questions that I didn’t have the answers to. I tried to reassure them when they were afraid, but I was full of fear myself. I wanted to be able to tell them they would be okay, and that we would be safe, but I couldn’t offer anything that would insure them of that. Thanks to science, that is not the case anymore. Although it is too soon for my son to get the vaccine, I know it is just a matter of time until all four of us will be vaccinated. I never thought I would be in such a rush to get injections, but I am so grateful for them. It’s the beginning of the end and all of us are ready to get to the finish line.