Illustration by Collin Wethington, 2nd grade
This has been a weird year for all of us. Health care workers have proven that real heroes wear scrubs, not capes. Essential workers have earned our respect, even while many are also earning only minimum wage for their valiant efforts. Small business owners have scrambled to find innovative ways to serve customers and keep their operations afloat. Teachers are digging deep to create engaging, meaningful lesson plans … and parents have learned just how difficult teaching really is.
And kids have watched the world change right before their innocent eyes.
Sometimes we forget that little kids have a way of processing reality that may or may not be entirely real.
Their families have a routine, they have a “normal,” they have people and places and schedules in their everyday lives that they just take for granted. They don’t stop and think about the how or the why; it just IS.
But then IS became WAS.
Everything changed a year ago. I mean, it ALL changed.
Suddenly our children were not seeing their grandparents, teachers, babysitters, neighbors or friends.
They weren’t going to school, daycare, church or out to eat.
Their parents may have been working from home. Or maybe not working at all. Everyone was stressed. Everyone was worried.
And everyone was wearing a mask.
We adults have talked among ourselves – from a safe distance of six feet apart, or through a Zoom chat, or via text – but has anyone asked the kids what they think about all this?
Well, I have to admit: I had not, until just recently. So I emailed a series of questions to each of my four grandchildren: Briley, age 10; Lyla, 9; Brody, 6; and Zeke, 5.
Here are excerpts from their responses, just as they were reported back to me. (Pretty sure Brody and Zeke had help with spelling.)
We started with the obvious: “During the past year, we have done some new things, like wearing masks when we go out, washing our hands more often, staying six feet apart from people and eating at home more than usual. Do you know why we are doing these things?”
Three of my grandkids said the same thing: “Because of the coronavirus.”
Lyla added her insight regarding the WHY as well as the WHAT when she said, “We do the things we do to stay safe.”
Asked to reflect on how the way we go to school or church, or the way Mommy/Daddy go to work might be different, Briley shared her observations in noting: “School is different because we have to wear masks. We have to sit six feet apart. We can’t use the water fountains. Some restaurants you can go inside to eat and some you can’t. You have to wear a mask in all of them. We go to basketball games and they only let a certain amount of people in. You can’t sit by other people or their families.” But at least, she added, “The concession stand is open.”
All four children noticed that holidays and celebrations were significantly more subdued last year. Zeke lamented, “I didn’t have anybody at my birthday.”
Nevertheless, kids can be more resilient than adults, and in this case, all four of my grandkids quickly responded with observations about things they actually enjoyed when everything was closed.
Zeke’s family moved during the early stages of the pandemic, to a bigger house with a pool. Swimming became a daily source of enjoyment for him and his family. Lyla explored new skills, noting, “I liked to cook and try new things.”
And Briley said, “We have been able to play more games because normally we have a lot of stuff to do, but since everything was cancelled, we had more time.”
Her little brother Brody got to the heart of the matter when he simply said, “I like that we spend time together.”
Asked to reflect on their feelings when the world began to change, Zeke indicated he had made the best of things, saying, “I like staying inside all day and watching TV.”
His older cousin Lyla said, “At first it was weird, then sad, then it stopped bothering me.”
Briley shared her thoughts about how the virus affected her family and the greater community: “I have felt angry because we had to quarantine when my Dad had COVID because you can’t play with your friends or leave the house. I feel sad because I know COVID spreads to other people.”
All four children listed people they have missed and whom they are looking forward to seeing again. Brody wistfully mentioned his cousin Zeke, as well as his two grandfathers: “Papa with the white beard and Paw Paw with the bald head.”
They are all looking forward to the day when things return to normal.
All four children specifically mentioned “not wearing a mask anymore” as a highlight of the future.
But in the meantime, they are making the best of things. They all offered their own responses when asked what they do that helps them feel better, but perhaps Lyla had the best idea:
“I just pray.”
Thanks to those prayers—and time, and vaccinations, and responsible behaviors in the meantime—our current situation of what IS will eventually go back to what WAS.
And when it does, everyone is invited to my grandchild’s dream: “I just want to have a party.”