Our brave new world

Water bubble

I will always remember the day when my now twenty one year old daughter called me from the city in which she was residing for university to tell me that the proverbial s**t had hit the fan, that panic as a result of coronavirus spread was rising and that she was considering packing up as much as she could manage in a half hour, in order to catch a last minute ride back home.

She asked if I thought she was being hasty. She had work and social commitments she was reluctant to cancel. I didn’t know what to advise. This was all new to me, too. Ultimately, she returned home. And stayed home.

A week away from classes and normal university life was prolonged. News of online lectures and staying at home spread like wild fire until only a minority of students remained.

Like so many other parents around the globe, our thoughts turned towards how to quickly pivot from plans in place, to re organizing and re arranging our lives. Although I must admit to not envying parents having to manage young children at home, I knew that a return to living with a young adult would be no walk in the park either.

As the days passed, so panic continued to escalate. The urgency to get those closest to us inside and to shutter the doors and windows mounted. Suddenly, we were confronted with having to make decisions without any prior experience. A pandemic was what we had watched in movies, not unfolding in our communities.

We knew better than to lay down the law in regards to who we felt comfortable letting into our bubble. So, we talked with our daughter about the logistics of seeing her boyfriend of five years while being shut in. We acknowledged that going without being in each others company for goodness knows how long, seemed unreasonable. Ultimately, we decided to invite him to move in with us so that there wouldn’t be cross contamination, so to speak, by going back and forth between our bubbles.

During the time that we were isolated together, we created many wonderful memories, including playing board games and enjoying one another’s culinary creations. We were all diligent about staying put, washing hands and keeping our distance from others outside of our bubble.

A couple of weeks ago, ever so subtly, I felt a shift. A shift in mindset and attitude. An ever- mounting longing and restlessness to resume life as it once was. So, it was no surprise when my daughter asked me one evening if she could have a couple of friends over the following day, to sit outside together while physically distancing. When I said okay, she was surprised. “Really?” she responded with a hug.

And so it began. The flood gates were open. After the taste of having their peer’s physical company, they wanted more. A week later, I commented on how things had changed. No longer were they asking if we were cool with loosening the boundaries. Now we were being advised that they were heading over to a friend’s house to swim in his backyard pool. Once again, we were facing unchartered waters.

I get their desire to return to some semblance of normalcy and connection after months of feeling starved of it, but I wanted us to play our parts in flattening the curve and being sensitive to the greater sacrifices that others continue to make.

I felt reassured that they were not hugging their friends as they once did, that other friend’s parents were not allowing them inside – not even to use the washroom, that they were still being diligent about hand washing and following protocol and so, we made a conscious decision to relax just a little.

Navigating this new world is not easy for parents of children of any age. But living with teens or young adults has its unique set of challenges during a pandemic. Dating, socializing, shopping and chilling, sharing joints, drinks and kisses or even holding hands requires even more consideration than ever before.

And the more we expose ourselves to minimal risk, the more we are lulled into believing that the crisis is over, and that we will be okay, even when we step outside of our bubble – cautiously and consciously still making good decisions.

My suggestion is for you to invite your children to share their thoughts with you, and ask them to listen to yours, too. Then together, weigh up the risks and rewards of stepping outside of your bubble into our brave new world.