I saw a friend yesterday from the safety of our respective cars, and when I asked her how she was doing, said she’d been making stupid choices. I was intrigued, I love hearing about other people’s stupid choices. It puts one’s failures into perspective, “well, at least I’m not that stupid.”
“Yeah,” she continued. “I gave Amazon my social security number. But of course, it wasn’t Amazon.”
This seemed mild. When I think of my stupid choices, well, let’s just say the stakes have been much higher.
“Oh,” I said, “I thought you meant really stupid, like you hooked up with a stranger, had sex with no masks.”
Which must be the new definition of unprotected sex.
“Yeah, I could have done that.” she said, looking off, almost like she was sad that she hadn’t thought of it.
“No,” she said, “just the social security number.”
She had spent the entire day on the phone, cancelling things and changing cards on her accounts.
“Ha,” she laughed, “Imagine all the kids born nine months from now, they’ll all be the result of hook ups, cuz no one would plan to have a baby during this.”
I got thinking about kids who were slightly older. Toddlers I guess you call them. Imagine all you know is that you have to stay indoors, avoid other humans whenever possible. When you do go out Mommy or Daddy or Grandpa or Aunt Judy or anyone else who might care for you puts on a mask and puts your mask on, too. Ok, now let’s jump to whenever this thing gets settled, meaning there’s a vaccine and we all know it’s ok to come out and not be suited up—that toddler, who’s only ever known this present we’re living in, they’re gonna freak out! Where’s my mask! Are we creating the most neurotic generation of children ever? How do you teach a child context?
I know there are parents who come to the daily shows—some of you have young kids, some of your kids are older. But what the hell? You finally get the kid into school and you can sort of breathe, finally, ok, we made it to 4 or 5, whatever, there’s preschool, maybe there’s daycare, you think: I can do other things or get back to things I did before the kids but now, here they come! They kids are back!
I can’t imagine.
For some families it must be sort of nice. To have the kids back, under one roof, like a long holiday break. And, they can’t really run off after dinner to go hang at Chad’s place or go the movies with Janelle because everyone is a potential assassin. For other families and for lots of kids, I’m sure it’s pure hell. That feeling of being trapped at home.
Are kids angry—they already had a ton of nasty stuff they were going to have to deal with: environmental crisis, late stage capitalism, the rise of authoritarianism, our divided country, but a pandemic?
Do we hand things off to our children? I guess so, but I don’t remember this being defined in any way, I just sort of slid from baby to toddler, kid to teenager, young adult and then, bam, tossed into the sea of humanity. And I’m lucky; what if you live you’re forced into child labor or some other horrible existence?
I long for things to be specified—this is this and that is that. You’re a child but now, with this honored tradition, we’re going to mark your transition into teenager. Some cultures do this—Jews have their mitzvahs, Latin Americans have the Quincinera, And native American tribes had ways of transitioning the newer humans from infancy to adulthood.
I saw a show once, a tribe in Africa holds a ritual whereby a boy is inducted into manhood. The boy, looking to be about 12, 13, stood in a clearing, his father stood at the edge of the clearing, some 15 or 20 feet apart, perpendicular to each other. The father held a long narrow spear. The boy stood very still with his mouth opened as wide as it could be. The men of the tribe played drums and sang—the sounds built to a crescendo. And then, the father threw the spear across the clearing and it pierced the boy’s cheek and went through his face. He stood with the spear through his face. The men of the tribe cheered and danced around the boy. Welcome to manhood!
Imagine the trust the child must have had, and the confidence required of the father?
We have different notions of what makes a good child. Does terror help children? I don’t mean abuse, but does exposing children to the fears of the world help?
Do you say to a young child right now, it’s all going to be ok, we’ll get back to those things you used to know as your life in just a little while, while moving the goalposts every couple of weeks as necessary? Or do you say, “this is a very strange time in the history of human civilization, we’ve never ever had to deal with this before, and neither I nor anyone else has any idea what’s going to happen.”
I’m not a parent, all I have are opinions, and I bet parents just love when people who aren’t parents have ideas about how they should be raising their kids. My perspective is that of a former child—sometimes I can remember how it used to feel. The constant newness, everyday fear and excitement. The desire to name things: what is that? And why is this thing this way? Or who decided this would go like that?
Facing this moment, we have the same amount of information the kids have. We may have more opinions but we’re all untried, longing for answers—even when there weren’t any.