I’ve never liked it when strangers squeeze and snuggle my son. And now, there’s a pandemic thrown into the mix. As stay-at-home orders begin to ease up in favor of social distancing, I’ve noticed that adults are quite respectful of my space. But they’re feeling surprisingly free about sashaying into my baby’s.
When the quarantine orders were issued, I took them pretty seriously. I wanted to be respectful and careful when it came to the well-being of others. I also wanted to do all I could to protect myself and my son from the dangers of COVID-19.
It hasn’t been easy keeping quarantine. I’m a single mother by choice who is very much supported by wonderful family and friends. My people often provide me unsolicited breaks so that I can run errands, take showers, or simply eat a warm meal. Since quarantine began, it’s been me and baby Wyatt against the world. If I were the kind of person who kept track of these kinds of things, I would estimate that I’ve been the only soul who has changed my son’s diapers for the past 1,272 hours.
1,272 hours is a serious commitment to doing anything, most especially the right thing. We don’t go to stores, and we don’t visit with family or friends. Minus a pile of hard-to-reach Cheerios, our 1500-square-foot biosphere is as contaminant-free as we can make it.
Rationally, I know the science suggests that if either of us were to get sick, we would probably be fine. Rationally I know that. But I am a rookie mom now. I can hardly spell “rational,” let alone harness it. I once googled “can you feel tumor in baby’s head” and dragged my son to the pediatrician only to have her tell me that I had discovered what a lymph node feels like. So take a rookie mom mind and heap a worldwide pandemic on it. Ain’t nothing rational about that.
So we keep our distance. But we’re not shut-ins; we play in our front yard almost every day, we go on walks, we wave at our neighbors as they pass by with their fluffy “please pet me” dogs. We love breaking out of our bubble for fresh air and sunshine. But lately, these moments are coming at a cost.
As I mentioned, no one is really interested in getting close to me, but you dangle a chubby 23-pound, blonde, smiling carrot at them and all bets are off. Over the past few days, while on our afternoon walks, sweet neighbors have brought him presents, gotten close to him, and touched his chubby sock-less toes. Normally all of this would be fine, if annoying — but things are not normal.
Normally, I’m a social person. It’s not in my nature to be distant. I want to give and receive hugs. I want to shake hands. I want to borrow a cup of sugar without being paranoid that the sugar is laced with an unknown COVID-19 strain. I hate having to keep my son at arm’s length from anyone and everyone. He’s a joy, and I am happy to share that joy. As much as I loathe having to keep him at bay, being put in the position of asking people to keep their distance is equally as painful.
I don’t want to be the person who has to ask the kindly 80-year-old neighbor not to touch my kid. I don’t want to be the ogre who says “please no gifts at this time.” So out of “politeness,” I say nothing. I let the gifts from near-strangers come. I let the chubby sock-less toes get squeezed. I begrudgingly hurry my son home to scrub his hands and feet, hopefully before he puts them in his mouth.
I do this, all the while torn with feelings of thankfulness for so many people who care about my son — and resentful that I am being put in another uncomfortable position I simply don’t want to be in.
The whole world is stuck in what seems like a never-ending dance lesson with no right or wrong steps. There are only steps — ones that, on occasion, might be a little less painful. No one is enjoying this, and I don’t want to make it any worse for anyone. But it is a global pandemic, and people can’t keep pretending it’s not. I just wish folks would be self-aware enough to heed the wise words of Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing and respect my son’s “dance space” — without having to be told.
If you’re also quarantining with a baby, here are the best toys for 1-year-olds to keep them occupied.
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