Pandemic Fatigue

A year in we’ve been through so much – but we’re still putting one foot in front of the other.

March 31, 2021 | | Headwaters Nest

The pandemic just keeps going. Even as the tsunami of the second wave recedes, we’re dragged back by the frightening undertow of virus variants from across the globe. Although many of us reading this in our cozy homes have not been hit head on by Covid, it’s fair to say that young and old alike have experienced an epidemic of loneliness and frustration, leading to family struggles and difficult decisions.

It’s not that we haven’t been trying to fight the isolation and to construct – in that overused phrase – a “new normal” for our families. Zoom calls have helped connect us to others, for sure. Outdoor hot chocolate dates and socially distanced hellos are within the rules. For our more vulnerable loved ones, grocery drop-offs are celebratory affairs – waves from the driveway, a surprise of baked goods tucked inside the boxes and bags, and a cheery but empty honk! as we drive away. Most of us are doing our best to conform to these fairly safe or “approved” outings and interactions. But now, more than a year in, there are days when, love them or not, one more minute confined in the house with “these people” could cause an implosion.

In the early days, my family’s best tactic for managing the madness was based on “one foot in front of the other.” We had a family meeting. An emergency had been declared, and I liked to think our family is pretty good at emergencies. We talked about Gramma and Grampa, how they have been through so much, and what we could learn from them, and their parents before them. Just take things step by step, don’t think too far ahead, focus on survival. Food, shelter, sleep? Yep, we’re good. Now repeat.

But what about when the emergency isn’t just about food, shelter and sleep? What about the disintegration of everything we know, and the feeling that there is no end in sight? The sadness of not visiting with friends and family, of not celebrating the joy of small road trips or skiing with kids and friends this winter, or meeting workmates we haven’t seen for a year (or in my husband Derrick’s case, ever, as he lost and gained a job during the pandemic and has only seen the screen version of his new colleagues). We really reached a nadir this winter and at times it’s felt eerie, sad and intolerable.

As hard as my family has worked to be vigilant, we also struggle with the rules and making sense of it all. I have many friends who are angry, out of patience with what they feel are poor official communications, mixed messages and reversals. As a teenager, my son, Adrian, tries so, so hard to pay attention to the numbers and obey the rules. But as many times as I say, “Maybe it’s not about us” to try to shift his perspective, it’s hard for adolescents in particular to carry on without taking it personally and wanting some relief – right now. It’s well understood their growing brains have not fully developed impulse control or the link between action and consequences. Instant gratification is everything. Novelty! Risk! Reward! Again!

So here we are in year two of the pandemic. Reports of high-profile people who have foolishly broken the protocols have led to swift public judgement. While I can’t condone their choices, I also can’t help feeling some sympathy for them – the public shaming, the destroyed careers and embarrassed families (and sometimes coming down with Covid themselves). I’m trying to remain human, too, and recognize the human pressures and temptations – the oh-so-human frailties – behind their folly.

Same goes for my son and his actions. I try to make allowances for his needs and his stage of life. I understand that getting out of this alive means something entirely different for him than it does for me. Problem is – it’s contrary to the rules.

My sense is there are many parents who, like us, are immersed in the ongoing and exhausting struggle to police their children, teens especially, whose every natural impulse is toward new experiences and social affirmation, and whose grasp of consequences is shaky at best.

There have been times when we have let go of the reins and our son has made decisions for himself – visiting his grandparents (who collude in the visit) or meeting up with friends too close with no masks. And for that I find myself sleepless with the fear of illness seeping silently into our home. It’s now a different kind of one foot in front of the other for each of us, so I’m trying to add to the mantra: Food? Shelter? Sleep? Kindness?

What I’m trying to say is that we as a society are not perfect. So we have to be as kind as we can, especially with our growing children and young adults. It goes against everything I’m made of, because I am a rule follower at heart. But we’re not good at this, nobody is. Let’s just hope it’s over soon.

More Info

Dance through the April break

Not quite sure what to do during April’s “March” break? With travel out of the question, it might be time to check out the expanding world of online master classes taught by national and international experts. Among those that caught our eye are the Zoom classes put on by instructors at Toronto’s famed National Ballet. Categorized for absolute beginners and up, they include the Children’s Spring Break Dance Intensive for students age 7 to 11 (with two years of dance experience). On Monday to Friday mornings, April 12 to 16, the course offers instruction in ballet, hip hop and contemporary dance. At $250, the fee is hefty, but cheaper than a ski holiday. national.ballet.ca/explore/in-studio

eBooks for the entire family

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled upon the Ontario Library Service download centre. It’s full of e-books and audio books available free, for the whole family. It’s carefully curated by subject matter such as thoughtful themes like Confronting Racism, or fun themes like Belly Laughs for kids and Page Turners for teens. Plus for parents there’s One eRead Canada – a book club you can jump into any time. Get an account by using your local library card info (Caledon, Orangeville, Grand Valley, Shelburne and Newmarket are all linked). odmc.overdrive.com

Free text support for kids – 24/7

Kids Help Phone never stops adapting to meet the needs of kids who are struggling with a variety of issues including depression, anxiety or navigating relationships. An innovative way to get in touch with a trained volunteer crisis responder is by using their free texting service. The first few texts your kid will receive will be automated messages from Kids Help Phone giving more information about the service and their privacy policy. Then they’ll be connected to a live person to text with. You never know what kids might be thinking or grappling with below the surface, so a sticky note with this info could help someone you know. Text CONNECT to 686868 (or call 1-800-668-6868).

Public art grows across Orangeville

Orangeville’s Utility Box Art Displays and murals are super cool! When you’re out on a family walk, have you ever wondered who created the beautiful paintings on the town’s utility boxes and buildings? These public art pieces are all created by local artists who submitted their visions and were selected to have their work come to life, sprinkled across the streets of OV. Artists 18+ residing in Dufferin County are invited to apply by May 28. (Could net your youth artist a cool $500 prize as well!) See orangeville.ca for details.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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