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The year we did a lot less

I wondered if it was worth writing about a year with COVID-19. It has taken over our lives and has dictated our activities. I’ve also thought about how different we are from the start of the pandemic in 2020.  The uncertainty and nervousness from March 2020, to now – freezing in Alberta February, 2021.  Almost a year later from our initial lockdown and still no parties, sleepovers, no kids sports, no boozy girl nights (we could gather outside but -25 isn’t my jam).

The global pandemic didn’t stop our life, but it was the year we did a LOT less.

Fewer gathering, fewer people, fewer parties, and instead of the big family reunion this summer, we did day trips in Alberta. More family time, more time alone, more time realizing I’m a terrible baker. More gardening, more time in a hammock. More ordering in from restaurants and giving into buying from Amazon.

The latest big lockdown in December made me reminisce about the March 2020 lockdown – the first one. The Alberta COVID lockdown happened at the same time as millions of people around the globe. Remember the singing in Italy? Remember the virtual concerts? Museums and art galleries turned to virtual tours and suddenly you were able to visit galleries around the world. You can go and take a virtual tour of the Sistene Chapel in Vatican City RIGHT NOW – no expensive plane trip necessary.

While this was amazing to think about how the pandemic opened some opportunities (assuming you had an internet connection) and forced us to think outside of the box, it closed our personal worlds. When the second lockdown happened in December, we were more the wiser. Yes, virtual tours are amazing, and visiting and discovering local attractions is cool. We visited Banff this summer and the only people there were Canadians. It was really cool visiting an international tourist hotspot to realize it’s only Canadians that are there (it was a very polite experience).

Decembers lockdown reminded us that our kids are missing out – again. They’re missing out on what we consider (from the time before COVID-19) normal social interations. That our 13-year-olds aren’t out in the world being awkward and practicing social skills that will help them in high school. That our kindergarteners aren’t able to have playdates, and our high schoolers aren’t hanging out at the mall and congregating in little packs or going to high school parties and getting in trouble for missing their curfew. After school activities where you meet new friends and learn something new are gone.

Kids with additional needs aren’t getting the therapies that would help them, or they are and they’re modified to help get them through the pandemic as safe as possible. The Glenrose in Edmonton was asking for toys a couple of weeks ago for their inpatient kids, the toys needed to be for individual activities so they could keep themselves occupied because of COVID restrictions. That made me very sad.

The lockdown in December reminded us that teachers, health care workers, front line staff are doing their best to help us have some kind of normalcy.

The lockdown in December was a loud internal groan because we knew the drill. We knew the personal toll it takes to stay away from families that we love and rely on. The toll takes on those that live alone. That free virtual concerts are cool, and virtual life helps fill the gap but it’s not the same as having grandparents around the table on Christmas day.

The pandemic is interrupting our current life. For some, the pandemic has interrupted in devastating ways with loss of loved ones and loss of income and security. We have been talking about mental health a lot more because we’re collectively realizing more than ever before that mental health IS health and mental health concerns affect everyone in a family, not just the patient. It’s making us re-think, and re-learn and make changes. It’s helping us appreciate what we had when we could have parties at our homes or children can have friends over or play basketball after school.

I would like to wax lyrical about the positives of living in an era where a pandemic is happening. I mean… science… because obviously… thank God for science. But also from a privileged point of view where I didn’t lose my job and we had world-class health care providers keep my kid alive despite the pandemic (that’s another story). I have access to the internet and my kids have supportive teachers. We have food (albeit I made it so it pretty lack lustre) on the table.  I feel safe and secure in my home that is keeping me warm when it’s so flipping cold outside.

But there is a toll. The toll that parents have when we worry about what kids are missing. The toll of staying employed while trying to make sure your kids are learning online. The toll of not seeing anyone in real life except the wonderful people at the grocery store. The toll of knowing your friends and the local businesses that you love are struggling.

Despite not wanting to rattle on about the positives of living in an era where it’s unsure and hard, anxiety is high about the future – we have to look to the positives. We don’t have a choice but to look for the positives. Isn’t that what Mr. Rogers wanted us to do (look for the helpers), and there are plenty of things we can be positive about. I’m thankful that the majority of Albertans are doing their bit to keep the numbers down. That there are so many dedicated teachers, health care professionals, and front line workers doing their bit every day to keep us healthy and keep the economy going. I’m thankful I live in a place where it’s safe to go for walks (soooooo many walks), and mostly for my kids. While we as parents worry and worry and worry, kids just seem to carry on. Resiliancy seems to be a child’s natural default.