On Sunday afternoon, I hit send on one of the most heartbreaking emails I’ve ever had to write.
After only six days back in daycare over the course of three weeks, we decided to pull the boys out. Again. Because sometime in those six days, they got sick. Runny noses, sneezing, coughing. And then Kristian got sick. In normal times, we’d pull out the Nose Frida and go on with our lives, riding the wave from one cold to the next like we normally do nine months out of the year. But, you know, these aren’t normal times.
They all tested negative for COVID-19, thank goodness, but for a few anxiety-filled days, we weren’t sure — we analyzed every cough, rationalized that they didn’t have fevers yet, worried about whether we’d accidentally brought this terrible virus to my in-laws when we headed north to visit them just before the symptoms set in.
We had to take our 27 month old and 13 month old into a medical lab, and then I swabbed the insides of their noses myself, for 10 seconds on each side. Ten seconds have never felt longer than when my kids were wailing and writhing in my arms, as a lab tech stood as far away from us as the room would allow and counted.
The first time we took them out of school, back in mid-March, the decision was easy. We figured we’d be home with them for a few weeks while this thing blew over.
Those few weeks turned into months. For 90 days, Kristian and I tried to balance full-time parenting and full-time work, working in two-hour shifts throughout the day and while the kids were asleep. Then we found out we were both being furloughed indefinitely, losing 100% of our income in 24 hours. We felt so entirely defeated. The daily positive test count was low, things were opening back up in Michigan, and we had to find some kind of balance between doing our part to keep our family and community healthy, and giving our kids the socialization they need (and us time to figure out what’s next for our careers). We decided that balance would include a couple days at daycare each week. So after 15 weeks at home, they went back to school.
This time, the decision to pull them out was so much harder to make. Logically, we knew it was the right choice. The daily positive test count is on the rise in Michigan, and exploding across the country. Several of our family members are considered high-risk for complications if they were to catch the virus. So when the boys got sick so quickly after returning, we knew that to keep sending them would mean cutting ourselves off from their grandparents and other family members. Not worth it. The “will they get sick again” and “will it be COVID next time” anxiety was also not worth it.
It’s the right decision, but sending the “hey, so they don’t have COVID, but they’re also not coming back” email to the daycare director broke my heart. Because this time, we don’t have any illusions that it’ll just be a couple weeks until this thing blows over and life goes back to normal. This time, we’re not continuing to pay their tuition to keep their spots, we just can’t afford to. This time, it feels like finally admitting that our routines, our day-to-day lives aren’t going back to the way they were — like we’re finally absorbing the enormity of it all.
I believe that when your heart breaks and you muster the strength to stitch it back together, it expands and becomes stronger, more resilient. It becomes more capable of finding the opportunities in your setbacks, of helping you grow, of finding gratitude for all that remains and all that is to come.
Almost nothing about 2020 is what I had envisioned for our family. I’d wager a guess that you feel the same. The last four months have offered up plenty of heartbreak, plenty of opportunities to stitch ourselves back together. For our family, this is just the latest. And while I still feel sad, I’m also hopeful and excited to see what we can make of this next chapter — however long it lasts.