My Sister Isn’t Ready to Re-enter Society, But I Am
By Quentin Janes
Photo © Anikona_/Twenty20
Oct 5, 2021
Though I have seen many things in my life, there are still moments that haunt me for seemingly no good reason.
I will happily blowtorch copper pipes, or even connect live wires.
But should a plate of spaghetti fall on a rug, I run from the room screaming. Because I fear I might vomit.
I once shouted down a rabid coywolf that happened to stumble upon my path. I even laughed about it. Yet when I took a simple plane ride in perfect weather, I had nightmares for a year.
Like Father, Like Daughter
My daughter is the exact same way.
She will proudly brave the most ridiculous ride in a theme park, yet she thinks that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a horror movie.
She will walk up the highest peak you will take her to and jump into the water below.
But just watch what happens if you leave her in the dark.
We all have different triggers — things that make us nervous, anxious, scared or all of the complex, stupefying emotions that make us stop dead in our tracks.
So when people I know, and their loved ones, were hesitant to return to the society we abandoned, I understood.
No Lockdowns, But Emotions Still High
I realize how vicious and relentless the news has been.
What we are being asked to learn and unlearn with such immediacy is overwhelming and confusing.
Two years ago, if you had asked someone what a lipid nano particle was, people would guessed it was the name of a new Matrix movie. (Oh that Keanu — hasn't aged a day!)
"I sometimes wonder if it's all gotten a little out of hand."
Now, you can get shockingly detailed and fairly accurate answers from many people who have spent the better part of a year in their own heads and online.
But here's the thing: all of this information, loneliness and stress is a lot for everyone, let alone an entire family, to cope with. For example, why does my nine-year-old know what an S-protein is?
I sometimes wonder if it's all gotten a little out of hand.
Many Happy, And Not-So-Happy, Returns
Our family was infected very early in the second wave. We were some of the first few people in Canada to contract the B.1.1.7 variant.
We are vaccinated as well, so for us, this pandemic has been over for a while.
No matter what we do our family is just paying lip service to the regulations.
Despite this, I found the re-entry plan for Ontario to be very realistic.
"I can tell that when I take something seriously it is much easier for her to."
I felt it was important to remind my daughter that even though we are in the clear, that doesn't mean we can't spread it. It certainly doesn't mean everyone else is in the clear with us. I can tell that when I take something seriously it is much easier for her to.
Alternatively, my sister was not pleased at all with the recent guidance. And this has been difficult, because my sister has been an essential part of my daughter's life since she was born.
One of our greatest joys is having our birthday dinners together.
But when the restaurants reopened for indoor dining, she still did not feel comfortable.
And she isn't alone in this.
My daughter's beloved grandfather also has no confidence whatsoever in Ontario's reopening plan.
In fact, they both have no confidence in the government's ability to keep us safe.
"He says that when people are protesting ambulances driving dying people into a hospital, it's time to stay inside."
My sister blames a lack of proper study of the delta variant. It's hard because there is no way to refute the notion that we still lack clear research-based evidence in many essential aspects of the pandemic. (Specifically, her concern is aerosol transmission inside restaurants between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.)
And Grandpa is very clear about his disdain. Along with a complete lack of confidence in the government plan, he also maintains a healthy lack of faith in the general public.
He says that when people are protesting ambulances driving dying people into a hospital, it's time to stay inside.
He's not wrong. And this is a widely condemned practice for many good reasons.
Raising a Kid in a Pandemic
For my daughter's sake, I do what I can to be as accommodating as possible.
In these extremely trying times I need her to know that people move forward at their own pace. But most do move forward — everyone in their own time.
I make sure to remind her that from person to person there are different limits, and you can't ever expect people to jump off a cliff with you, nor join you on the park's scariest coaster.
I explain how there are people who happily watch Raiders of the Lost Ark in the dark, over and over again.
Everyone's approaches are different, but our goals for the most part during this pandemic remain aligned: moving out of the darkness, and into the light. Together.
The 'F' Word
Yet I fear fear itself.
It is just too easy to transfer my fear onto my child.
In my mind, it spreads as easily as the virus.
I worry, because as the great sage Yoda pointed out: “fear is the path to the dark side.” He was joined by Frank Herbert who said in his brilliant series Dune: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.”
"I can't tell her these people are wrong because they are not, yet I can't say I agree with them, because I don't."
But as much as I fear fear, and my daughter inheriting it, fear has a usefulness. It's important that we have it.
Because more often than not, where there is smoke, there is fire.
So when my daughter wonders why we have to eat outside when we see her aunt, or why she can't go over to her friend's house, I make sure to strike a balance.
I can't tell her these people are wrong because they are not, yet I can't say I agree with them, because I don't.
Keeping Myself Honest
Though I am the lowly caregiver of but one child, I have found what many before me have already come to realize: that honesty is the best policy.
At her age, she is starting to understand the subtleties of reasoning. I do whatever I can to keep her off of that diametric spectrum where every issue has one right answer and one wrong answer. It was harder, earlier in life, because it's a skill we have to learn. But it is a skill that I hope every parent takes the time to teach their children.
Life is not a maze of binary choices, it is a vast spectrum of possible outcomes. I make sure to change the concept of “wrong” into the concept of “not right for me.”
We love our family members and the last thing we want is for them to be uncomfortable when we are around.
To make someone uncomfortable seems to me to defeat the purpose of everything we have done to this point as a society.
So we compromise, because at the end of the day, for our mental health and the health of the world, surviving everything is the most satisfying together.
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