Thank Your Kids and Teenagers Today for Their Essential Service!

I’m so glad you’re in my bubble, said Varjak to Cleo.

We are collectively holding our breath here.

Over the last 3 weeks or so, we have physically distanced ourselves for the good of our fellow citizens. We have been told by the prime minister of Canada and the premiers, chief medical officers and health ministers of all provinces and territories to do this, and most of us are doing it. And now we are waiting, to see how well it works.

There have been memes floating about which compare the sacrifices of past generations to the sacrifices of this one: “Our great-grandparents had to go to war, but all we have to do is sit on the couch.” It’s funny, it really is, but it’s disparaging, too.

We are all starting to realize what the sacrifices are, and they are huge. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge the strength that is being shown by so many.

We have asked our teenagers to stay away from their friends and activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for an unknown period of time. For most kids this isn’t easy, but they are doing it without complaint, because they know the stakes.

People on the internet are saying this is easy. But it isn’t. It’s really hard.

A teenager I live with

We have asked our children to digest the news that there is an illness being spread and they have to stay home in order to avoid contracting it and passing it on to people they care about. No matter how carefully we choose our words as parents, no matter how nonchalant our children appear in the face of these conversations, they are thinking about it on some level.

What’s up?

I’m wondering how long this is going to go on for, and how many new people got infected today.

A conversation with a teenager I live with.

We have asked our parents and grandparents to maintain physical distancing, which sometimes means spending a whole lot of time at home without the usual family connections and social interactions and support.

Normally I would be making Sunday dinner for the family right now.

Nan

We have asked many of our small business owners to shut down, and a large part of our workforce to accept a lay-off or reduced hours at work. Yes, our federal and provincial governments have responded with financial support to individuals, families and businesses, as they should. But surely this support will not make up for all the revenue and income that will be lost. And we, the tax payers, will shoulder the burden of debt that our province and country will amass during this time, as we must.

We have asked our health care providers and first responders to potentially expose themselves to a devastating virus, again and again, in order to care for our sick.

We have asked our essential workers, some of whom do not make a living wage, to report to work every day and interact with possibly infected members of the public as they complete their essential tasks.

Almost everyone has risen to the occasion.

The whole scenario that is playing out in our country is a testament to the good of humanity. We are watching, and waiting, and most of us are doing our parts. We are teaching our young people that sometimes you have to do the hard thing in order to do the right thing.

We are not wavering, and our leaders are not wavering, and we have managed to mostly put aside politics and embrace the common good, as we can see from the unlikely friendship that has been forged between Chrystia Freeland and Doug Ford. If you haven’t read about it, google it. It’s really sweet.

The word sacrifice implies that something will be lost as something else is saved or gained. I do not want to even begin to reflect on the losses that individuals and families and businesses will tally during this time, in terms of money or mental or physical health. But it has struck me that, although capitalism is alive and well here, we still can see a bigger picture. The elderly and the vulnerable – our people – are the most important thing.

Many of us have lamented the fact that so many decisions in this world are made as a result of the view through an economic lens. Well, the lens has flipped for now.

Most of us right now, in our concern for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones, are seeing the world through the lens of humanity and compassion and genuine care.

By thanking health-care providers and essential workers loudly and publicly, and by adhering to their pleas to stay at home, we are opening our hearts to the good.

Let’s keep up this trend and give our teens a pat on the back when they wake up this afternoon. They are doing their part for the common good of their fellow human beings, and it is a worthy lesson to learn.

Want to get lucky this year? Drink your beer at home.

Some of my girlfriends and I recently ordered St. Patrick’s Day shirts from a local clothing company. Our plan was to paint the town green as we took in some local entertainment. This St. Paddy’s Day, we were going to celebrate life!

Of course, things have changed in the past few weeks, and we will not be venturing out to any pubs tonight.

I did have occasion to wear my special shirt, though. Our hospital, like so many others, is in preparation mode for the anticipated spread of the covid-19 virus, but I was fortunate to be one of the last elective surgeries completed when I had my port-a-cath removed. I wore my special shirt to the hospital and joked with the nurses that it was my St. Paddy’s Day outing. Atavan instead of green draught beer… I mean, really, what’s the difference?

T-shirt by Meghan Ashley Designs

Yesterday, as I recovered from the procedure, I watched my daughter and her friend play “Family.” This is a game they play with dolls. Sometimes the dolls fall victim to terrible accidents and the game transitions to a more disturbing one called “Hospital.” I have often seen these girls wrangling dolls wrapped in slime-soaked gauze casts and intubated with drinking straws into a makeshift ICU. Sometimes extra orange-crate beds must be brought in to accommodate the carnage. The girls have also discovered that our unusually relaxed cat, Varjak, enjoys being dressed in a tiny housecoat and tucked into bed between the dolls. He is always the most popular patient in the ward and the girls can be seen transporting him about the house on a stretcher.

I listened to the kids as they played, my ears perked to see if they would mention covid-19. They didn’t. I was glad. Their imaginative play was the perfect break from the world around them.

This can be a stressful time for us and our children. As parents, we talk to our kids about the virus and about how to stay safe. We teach them to wash their hands properly and maintain a safe distance from others. We encourage them to be good citizens by explaining that they have to protect their elders and other people who may be susceptible to complications from this virus. These are lessons that will serve them well throughout their lifetimes.

We also have to find a way to help children deal with the anxiety they may be feeling. It is important to be honest with them while keeping things light and manageable where possible. My kids have had to shoulder some terrific burdens in the past year or so. It helps when they know that they are not helpless in the face of pain, suffering or difficult circumstances. So, when I was sick or recovering from chemo or a procedure I tried to give them ways to help me. They would bring me some water or a blanket, or we would watch a show together or read a book. We all feel better when we can be of assistance. Activity eases our fears and helps us to work toward the good.

So, what are we going to do now? What actions will we teach our kids to take as responsible citizens in the face of a global pandemic?

Our job right now is to listen to our public health experts. They have told us that we must avoid large gatherings to limit the spread of covid-19. Kids will stay home from school and adults will work from home when possible.

Let’s be honest, this is not going to be easy for a lot of families. Child care issues and economics aside, I’m not even going to pretend that my kids are going to gather happily around the table daily to pursue their school lessons before engaging in a quiet but fun-loving game of monopoly.

If you are lucky, the worst things you will deal with are cabin fever, cranky toddlers, and grumpy in-laws. You will try to make silly dad jokes while your teenagers roll their eyes and sullenly crash about the house. The family walk to get some fresh air that sounded like such a great idea an hour ago will leave you feeling like the last one voted off on an episode of Survivor. You will break up sibling fights and cancel your spring break trip. All of this will make you long for malls and movie theaters, pubs and airplanes.

But, hopefully, these measures will keep you and your loved ones healthy. If we slow the rate of the spread of this virus so that we have a flatter curve, lives will be saved. And if there’s something I’ve learned in the past year, it is that health is everything.

So let’s do this small thing and distance ourselves from one another for a while. Sometimes the tiniest acts remind us of the importance of our place on the wheel.

And if there’s green food colouring in the cupboard and beer in the fridge, well, even better.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my dear readers! Stay safe.

Varjak and the kids send their thanks to our
ever-important healthcare providers!