Pandemic Parenting.

It’s all been said already: the Zoom fatigue and failures of remote learning and how insane it has been to handle everything and how our planet is actually burning and black bodies are being killed and how little CBD gummies help.

And how f**ed up our President is.

And how much I miss going to the movies. Not that I went that much anyway. But now, there doors are shut. 

I saw a mom I sorta know at Trader Joes the other day, by the pasta. She was pushing her baby in a stroller and said that the baby is smiling now, even at people who are masked. 

It’s too much to ask of a baby to do.

The months when my daughter’s preschool was closed were hard and closed in on me, reminiscent of the first winter when I was grappling with postpartum anxiety.

In the beginning, we didn’t know if it was OK to hug my mom. So we didn’t. And it hurt so, so much. I didn’t know how to see her without diving into her arms. My daughter and I awkwardly stood outside, shivering under our coats and waving to her outside the door. It felt so unnatural. I sobbed in my car afterwards and I knew she was sobbing in her kitchen too.

And we now wear our masks and going to Trader Joes doesn’t feel as overwhelming. But the longing for how it used to be remains, blanketing the vibrant Vermont Fall.

This season is usually my favorite. But now it’s couched in something else: It’s the prelude to a dark winter that promises not much social interaction and the ending of outdoor dining. 

I went to a funeral in COVID and it was devastating. Everyone looked wary and uncomfortable, standing apart and clutching the arm of their partners. I watched two little girls run across the cemetery, their blonde hair trailing in the wind and seeing them run free juxtaposed to the masked mourners was overwhelming. 

“I don’t know how to do this,” a friend lamented to me over Zoom. I said I didn’t either. She looked tired and we were each holding wine glasses. The days at home loop together, beginning with coffee and ending with wine. 

The Jewish High Holidays came and went. We honored Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I prayed with a delightful congregation in Los Angeles after my daughter was asleep. I was glad to have been able to mark the holiday, but I wish it could have been with others. I wish we could have collectively chanted the al chet, the prayer of collective repentance, in person. Judaism is big on community and I am often struck by how the liturgy isn’t about the individual: it’s instead a communal response to becoming more loving and asks communities to grow together. 

And yet, the loneliness of this pandemic persists. 

The images of concerts and music and celebrations in person flood my Facebook memory section and seeing them hurts a little. How innocent it all seemed. How naive it all was. How we didn’t know it all could end. 

When the independent bookstore opened up for in-store, socially-distant masked browsing, I almost wept. One afternoon in the height of COVID, I drove to a small farm about forty minutes away to pick up a prepared meal. The kind farmer with dirt on his hands passed me the brown bag filled with nutritious food and said that in tough times we all have to eat.

I saw that a lot of community groups were giving away free meals to kids and their kindness softened me. 

But then later I read about more violence and the local paper reported that a bunch of migrant workers recently all contacted the virus as they picked apples.

“My kid is so happy to go back to school on his in-person days,” says a friend as we take a socially distanced walk. 

The contradictions are everywhere – the good and the hard. Some days last for years and others pass by quickly. 

“I wonder how we will look back on this,” I said to my husband recently. He works in the basement now and sometimes wears his coat when it’s cold.

I hope that our hearts aren’t hardened by what we went through. I hope they are softened and I hope that the first time that we get together in a crowded audience, we do so with deep joy. And with deep understanding of how necessary it is to be together, how much of humanity exists in and depends on these gatherings.