Parenting

Is parenting during COVID and the presidential election hurting our children?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

My beautiful boy, my one and only little offspring, the one I would go to Mars and back to make happy, just came into my office in tears. He’s a pretty sensitive kid. He feels very deeply. I can tell that even at 6-years-old he’s a people pleaser. Still, he’s a typical kid in many ways and is usually full of joy, playful, and extremely silly, so to see him upset like this is jarring.

Before entering my office, he stood in the hallway and said in earnest, “I’m so lonely. I just want to play with my friends.” I called him into the room and gestured for him to come sit with me. He crawled into my lap, placed his head on my chest, and just sobbed.

This poor boy, the boy my husband and I call “The Mayor” because everyone at his school knows who is, is a social butterfly. He loves making new friends and he plays well with others, despite not having any siblings; siblings he asks me for at least once a week; siblings my uterus refuses to house and grow. It’s one of the few things I can’t just give him, and it sucks.

When COVID started, he was doing well. He had the expected ups and downs of a kid who can’t go to kindergarten and see his friends, but for the most part, he seemed to be handling it all like a champ.

To be fair, I think my husband and I have managed to weather this pandemic fairly well. We are aware of our privilege and because of that, our son didn’t experience the hardships and pain some of his peers might have with parents might have lost their jobs or had to isolate because they are essential workers.

Stupidly, I thought, “He’s a kid. He’s resilient. He’s fine.”

My boy is not fine.

He’s sad and lonely. He deserves better.

But what are he and the rest of the kids in this country getting?

Some shit is what.

Like most people in the United States today, I’m watching election results pour in and seeing that fellow citizens have actively voted for a man who absolutely botched the response to this pandemic. A response that had it followed the science and data and not been focused on bruising the ego of a narcissist and politicized mask-wearing, might have allowed children to go to school safely. To see fellow North Carolinians voted for an incumbent senator who has blindly followed and supported this regime of destruction and while North Carolina has yet to be called for the presidential election, to see so many places around the country and so many groups of voters who support and tolerate the incumbent presidential ticket and the last four years it hit me.

Last night, I innocently went to sleep thinking my boy was okay. His little 6-year-old self was fine. He was climbing trees and scraping his knees just yesterday and building LEGO Transformers, some concoctiona right out of his imagination. I went to bed foolishly thinking that even if this election doesn’t go how I want my day-to-day life wouldn’t change much. And while I know this type of thinking comes from a clear place of privilege and is something I feel shame for thinking, it’s an illusion.

Kiddo’s day-to-day has been fucked since the March shutdown. My son, the mayor, hasn’t been back at school. Hasn’t hugged any of his friends or been on a playground or enjoyed playing fall baseball. He hasn’t met his teacher face-to-face or enjoyed the freewheeling fun of running around with his friends at recess. He’s been at home. A home, he told me this morning, “feels like jail.” Was he being hyperbolic? Of course, he’s six, and he’s my son, but his feelings of frustration and loneliness are very much real and not exaggerated.

When Kiddo crawled into my lap and said, “I’m just so lonely,” my illusion that things aren’t going to change day-to-day was shattered along with my I’ll-get-the-moon-if-you-want-the-moon heart.

If 45 is re-elected, the pandemic response isn’t going to get better. My kid is still going to be going to school virtually for his and our family’s protection. We still won’t be able to go to restaurants or participate in spring baseball. I’m not saying that if Biden wins everything will miraculously change; that’s magical thinking, and it’s stupid. It won’t, “like a miracle” suddenly disappear, but a plan will be put in place to mitigate and assuage the ravages of this virus, and maybe by the summer of 2021, things will be better than they are now.

The thought that children are resilient is a prevalent one. Now, I’m not saying that kids aren’t, they are, but maybe they shouldn’t have to be so resilient. This year we’ve asked a lot of our children. We’ve asked them to give up friends, hugs, family vacations, seeing their grandparents, playgrounds, and relearning how to do school. We’ve asked our children to tolerate us parents as we navigate the way COVID has completely upended our way of life while also living through one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history.

Our children have been watching us cope (some of us better than others) and maybe as they’ve watched us, they’ve seen that we too are lonely and frustrated.

I was telling a few friends that I thought I was handling the stress of this election and the pandemic fairly well. Then this incident with my son happened and I realized how much rage and sadness has taken over me. I’m angry because we still don’t know who is going to be president come January 20, and it wasn’t a landslide victory for the man with the plan to help make it better. The man who was decent and good compared to whatever horrible adjectives I could say about the incumbent. I’m angry and sad that fellow citizens are tolerating all the terrible events, scandals, corruption, speeches, tweets, lack of empathy and the utter incompetence of the last 4 years, and well my baby is suffering because of it. Your baby is suffering because of it. You are suffering because of it.

However this all shakes out, I just hope my happy-go-lucky kiddo gets to hug his BFF’s at school soon because it sucks, and doesn’t he deserve better? Doesn’t your kid deserve more?

Writer, wife, mother, amateur movie critic, wannabe foodie, lover of coffee, wine and books. Check out my work at gloriapanzera.com and twitter @gloriapanzera.

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