May 2, 2022

Freelance COVID parenting spring 2022

It’s so wonderful to know for sure – and finally – that old women get ignored. By pretty much everybody. I like knowing for two reasons: One, I’m not paranoid, it’s real. Two, you hear interesting things when you’re being ignored.

I was sauntering through the Village the other day and decided on a bagel sandwich for lunch. Yes, that Village. Forest Hill Village. Where lunchtime is a blood sport in the bagel place, thanks to teenage elbows and their apparent inability to actually notice anybody over 30. The lineup was very long, which gave me a golden opportunity to eavesdrop. Since they didn’t seem to know I was there, they clearly didn’t care that I could hear their every word.

“Ohmygod, you wouldn’t believe how annoying my parents are. They’re fully off the deep end. They want me to wear a mask all the f****ing time.”

“That’s wack. My parents are so chill about all that s***.

“Nice for you. Wanna chill at my place tonight?”

“Your parents gonna make me wear a mask?”

“Yah but in my room you can take it off.”

“But what if they find out?”

“Toldja they’re stupid. Thy knock before they come in my room.”

And so it goes.

Since Public Health divorced the good people of Ontario and told us we’re on our own with COVID, all notions of community solidarity are up in smoke. Being on our own means that parents have to choose how cautious – or not – their families will be.

Would that it were that simple. There are three broadly stated (oversimplified) strategies re COVID:

  • Parents are hard core careful. Masking in all indoor spaces except home, and in other’s homes with testing.
  • Parents have decided not to worry. No masks.
  • Parents are somewhere in the middle between 1) and 2): Going to indoor restaurants but masking in crowded stores…. A little of this, a little of that.

But these three game plans leave out the kids. Any child over 11 has enough freedom to do pretty much what they want concerning COVID precautions. Some of them think it’s fun to drive a truck through our expectations. And why not? They’re invulnerable.

Take the widely diverging COVID precautions found in any three families, throw in a dash of adolescent rebellion and a smidgen of “Rachel’s parents don’t give a s*** about your stupid COVID rules so why should I have to?” And what are you facing?


It’s not pretty.

The only solution is to put your I statements into heavy rotation, and to foster your kids’ use of I statements too. Every family is bound to have friends and relatives who are charting a different course through the sixth wave. It’s so tempting to judge and lecture – but we’re not going there. Instead, when our kids kvetch because we have stricter COVID rules than their friends’ parents, we’re going to say: “Tell me what you’re thinking about all this. I’m interested in what  you think. Really.” And then we use that time-honoured practice of sitting on our hands, shutting up and really listening. We throw in a Tell Me More whenever they go silent. We say uh huh a lot. We thank them for telling us their thoughts. We do not say what we’re thinking (They’re idiots, do they want to kill the grandparents?).

And when they’re done telling us what they think and feel, we ask if they want to hear what we feel. If – and only if  they say yes, we use our I Statements. We restrict ourselves to what we feel. I’m scared. I‘m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m worried…. We neither lecture nor judge. At least not out loud.

We then wrap this convo up with a red ribbon, by asking our kids: “Do you think we can come up with a family policy on COVID precautions for now? Do you want to do that together now? If they assent, let them lead the discussion. This will be hard. We do know more than them. But only they know what they’re willing to sign up for – and actually commit to.

When they bring up the difficulties of being with friends whose families roll differently, empathize: Yah, that’s really hard. And instead of lecturing, ask them to come up with a plan. The only plan they’ll follow is the one they create. So support them to do that, and the validate their good thinking.

A lot of Covid nowadays is about doing not what’s perfect, but what we can manage.

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