Last week, I actually had a legit mini social encounter, for the first time in MONTHS. I was walking with Baby R strapped to my chest while W rode her bike. A neighbor popped out to say hi and see the baby, and we chatted for a few minutes. She was SO kind and friendly and I realized how much I really, really miss…PEOPLE, for goodness sake!
Then she invited us inside to see her new puppies.
I hesitated for the briefest moment. Don and I had decided that we were willing to see anyone OUTDOORS, but that we wanted to avoid INDOOR gatherings, to keep Baby R safe. A million thoughts ran through my brain at once. “It’s risky.” “But PUPPIES. W would LOVE to see them.” “I look like a weirdo if I say no.” “R doesn’t even HAVE an immune system to defend him yet.” “The neighbors will all talk about how psycho I am.” “But I’m lonely.” “Is it really THAT unsafe for an infant?” “It’s only a quick minute.” “We won’t get too close or stay too long.” “What are the chances?”
And then, before I knew it, I was saying, “Sure! We’d love to!” and looking at THE MOST adorable, happiest, wiggliest seven little golden doodle puppies that you ever saw. They were just waking up for the day…some were happily playing, chewing on one another’s faces…others were still cashed out on their backs while Mama looked on. NOTHING could have been more precious. For a brief moment, for the first time in a long time…life felt amazingly, delightfully NORMAL.
But on the walk home, the guilt hit me for taking a risk, albeit a quick, small one. “He’s too small,” I thought. “I can’t do those things right now.”
And I realized, in that moment, that the loneliest part of the pandemic is yet to come, for us, and for a lot of families where someone is still vulnerable or immunocompromised in some way.
It’s EXTRA lonely because it’s the part where we technically CAN do things, but we are going to have to CHOOSE not to, again and again and again, in order to keep the littlest one safe.
This, my friends, is the really hard stuff. It wasn’t that big of a deal to simply do nothing when no one else is doing much of anything, either. It is a different endeavor entirely to avoid seemingly innocuous playdates and family reunions and neighborhood gatherings for fear of winding up indoors at some point. Even taking your kids to the goddamn grocery store is tempting and terrifying at the same time. You’re stir crazy and desperate for a little human interaction, but suddenly, overnight, no one is wearing any masks and everything LOOKS innocent and back to normal but, for the smallest of the small, the risk is still there. Even if my husband and I are protected, our kids are potential vectors to infect Baby R.
What risk am I willing to take with such a teeny, tiny life? What does it say about me as a mother that all it took was PUPPIES and a few kind words from a friend to get me to bend my “rules”? God forbid somebody offer me chocolate or beer. ?
So, yeah…just when I *thought* I was approaching the finish line, I’m realizing that I’m just getting to the HARD part. It’s on ME (and Don) to do this now. There is no village to help, no bubble to keep him safe. WE have to make the tough, isolating choices to keep R away from people for a little while longer until he has a chance to build his own immune system up.
So here’s my ask: if my choices aren’t always logical, if I get teary or quiet or appear to avoid you, if I seem inconsistent or unfriendly or even hypocritical in any way for the time being, be kind and give me the benefit of the doubt. I promise it’s neither personal nor political…I just am SO incredibly socially awkward right now. I’m trying to make good decisions day by day, minute by minute, and it’s not always clear cut or easy to do. It feels…embarrassing, honestly. Confusing too. I *still* want to be invited, to feel welcome. What’s good for the baby isn’t always good for the big kids, and competing priorities are hard to manage. We’re all feeling lonely and isolated, yet not quite ready to enter “normalcy” yet for the sake of Little Man. Sometimes we’ll be strong about our positions and sometimes we will give into temptation. We’re still struggling with this. We’re human.
I hope this helps others understand a little bit of the thought process that goes into our day-to-day….because EVERYTHING is a freaking process right now. We might be overthinking it all, but how can you not with someone this small and cute?!? We are so lucky to have a healthy little baby right now AND we are so lucky to have AMAZING friends and family! Hopefully we can hang on to both for a little while longer.
Thanks for being patient with us.