I was at CVS the other day and they were administering COVID vaccines. I had that euphoric, high-fivey feeling I get at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Atlanta United scores a goal and felt like dapping up everyone in there.
The sentiment will have to suffice though as I surmised touching strangers at CVS would be frowned upon these days. But have we singled out pharmacy workers for praise yet? In a year where a mildly sick person was essentially the third rail, these people are seriously heroic to me.
We’ve identified so many groups that rightfully deserve all the banging of pots and pans. The nurses, doctors, first responders, grocery store clerks, teachers, sanitation workers and so on. Even parents have gotten some accolades or at the very least permission to cut ourselves some slack. But you know what? It’s time to thank the children.
I know, I know, they’ve driven you completely bonkers this past year with their incessant habit of always BEING RIGHT THERE but think about it: a 10-year-old kid has spent more than 10 percent of her life in quarantine. 10 years old! At this point it seems cute that we used to stress about things like screen time. The monitoring app probably just reads “All The Time.” But I’m thankful that my kids could at least keep up with their friends through devices and gaming. To borrow a line from famous high schooler John Bender: “It’s sort of social. Demented and sad, but social.”
We need to start wrapping our brains around how difficult this has been for the kids. Ask any pediatrician. While there has been a decline in need for antibiotics there has been an explosion of other health issues for teens, tweens and even the younger set. Anxiety, depression, weight loss or weight gain — things we typically navigate through in adulthood are now facing your average 12-year-old. And this doesn’t even address those that lost loved ones to the virus, which is a significant number.
It’s like living in the upside down. Elliott and Margo are seven for seven each on clean COVID tests; do we celebrate? They are like mini-epidemiologists at this point. Do we congratulate them on the knowledge they’ve obtained? Basketball season being canceled this winter has torn Elliott to shreds he misses it so much. Graduations, proms, birthday parties and sleepovers were wiped out. Yet in many households, it’s the children policing the adults on pandemic protocols.
A hapless government response to the virus outbreak kept most schools closed for an eternity. This time last year there was heated debate about tattoo parlors and bowling alleys opening back up while it was assumed school would remain virtual. They are finally back in person for a masked half-day, but merely talking to a classmate carries the rule-breaking risk of a playground cigarette. Because the adults screwed up so much, the pandemic has been carried on the backs of children. Those yesteryear, five miles through the snow type stories we love to tell our kids about our own childhoods have been nullified. They have lived through a pandemic! Game over. They win by losing harder.
I don’t know how or if we can ever give them their due. For starters there should be lots of hugs and understanding. Maybe a special trip, a puppy or candy is in order if those things work in your household like they do mine. A mix of gratitude and apologies needs to be conveyed. I’m not saying we canonize them (I couldn’t get Elliott or Margo to help me clean the spring pollen off the porch today) but these kids deserve a mountain of acknowledgement. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your fortitude. Thank you for your leadership. And I’m so so sorry. You all grew up a little quicker than you ever should have had to.
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.