Parenting Ourselves During the Pandemic
by Christine Davis
17 March 2020
For Americans facing the Coronovirus, the thought of slowing down is overwhelming. We pride ourselves on being busy, exhausted, overworked. The American mother never sits. This may be a time of reckoning in more ways than one. Your faith can only be found strong if it is tested. Your society can only be found strong if it is tested. There are some ugly aspects of our culture coming to the surface.
We clearly value individual family units over the community. Stockpiling more items than necessary for a few weeks, and leaving nothing behind for the next customer, is a cruel assertion that you matter more than they do. On a recent trip to Sam’s I noticed folks with huge carts mounded full of paper and canned goods. The shelves were bare. What about people who live paycheck to paycheck? They can’t afford to hoard items, so they will have to go without. Is this selfishness what we want to teach our children?
We ask our children to help their friends if they fall down, but our healthcare system isn’t built that way. People don’t have the money to get the help they need. Imagine our kids telling their friends, “Oh, you fell down, it will be $5 to get you up.”
I constantly remind my toddler that he has to listen to me because I’m on his side. “Mama is here to help you make the right choices. You need to put socks on so your feet don’t get cold.” And yet, our world is so broken that adults can’t make the right choices. We can’t trust our leaders to provide for us.
I keep seeing posts about keeping kids home from school. Nothing mentions what happens when a parent misses work for too many days and gets fired. Or that parents will have to go to work sick because they will use up their sick days caring for their children. Or that missing a week of work might mean there’s no money left for power or food. Any mention of these problems leads to negative comments about how parents (read, moms) should be prepared with babysitters willing to watch sick children, and a healthy savings account.
Really? When women bring up the problems they face in a pandemic situation, problems which stem from participating in a workforce that wasn’t built for them and doesn’t care to accommodate their children, everyone’s first instinct is to accuse them of poor planning. How the fuck do you plan for a global pandemic? Would you ask a man what he did to prepare?
Our total lack of empathy comes from the “boot strap” ideology this country was built on. Mind your business. Plow your own field. See where that gets us? We will die this way. If not a real death, at least a spiritual one.
This pandemic is a teachable moment. Not so much for our children, they already love grandma and grandpa, but for the adults who have lost our way. We need to value the elderly and those vulnerable to illness as much as we value ourselves. Looking out for them should be a top priority. We need to protest and change systems that prevent our citizens from caring for their families and seeking treatment for their medical issues.
We need to hand out toilet paper instead of hoarding it. I have 16 rolls. Maybe I took too many. Come over if you need some. I have extra elderberry gummy vitamins. They are as much yours as mine. Why did I suppose they weren’t? When we fail to share our resources, when we fail to empathize, when we fail to fight the good fights just because they don’t apply to us (I have insurance), we lose our humanity.
There is a lot at stake in how we react to this pandemic. When people are selfish, I often hear the insult: “You are acting like a child.” Well, in this case the inverse is true. Children would never act this way. By the time toddlers are three they can stand in line, say please, choose one toy to bring in the van, and share at the park. My son invites everyone he meets to our house. Maybe we should watch and learn from them.
In 6th grade Justin Davis had a dream that a girl in his class was waiting for him outside his house; she was just standing there in his cul-de-sac in Lewisville, North Carolina. The next day that girl, Christine, turned around on the bus and started talking to him. They’ve been together ever since. In addition to being a cool part of her husband’s premonitions, Christine Davis works as an English instructor in Flagstaff, AZ where she now lives with the afore mentioned hubby and their two children, Jett and Cadence. She writes for the local Flagstaff Mom’s Blog, attends MOPS, goes to church, screams a bunch about the various failings of the current presidential administration, and most days seems pretty normal in public. She is also working on her first poetry collection. Her poetry can be found in Paragon Press’ special political issue, Snapdragon Journal, Clarion literary magazine, Four Ties Lit Review, and more.