543 Days

543 days ago we pulled this kid out of daycare as the outbreak picked up steam and shut huge swaths of the country down. She has not been back in a classroom until today.

Over that span, Kate and I have done the best we could to teach her, to play with her and to challenge her – even as the two of us have also been working full time jobs. Jobs that – at least in Kate’s case – were made far more challenging by the pandemic.

Restricted to half day shifts, a lot of my clients got used to email arriving well after midnight. And unsurprisingly, a lot of the rules we lived by as a family pre-pandemic – no TV or movies during the week, for example – were suspended as we struggled to balance childcare with our professional responsibilities. This was particularly true in the pre-vaccine world where we were often isolated from family and friends that might otherwise have been available to lend a hand. For large stretches there, we were on our own.

Net net, I know a lot more about the Octonauts than I ever expected to.

While this time has been taxing, I have tried to appreciate the unexpected opportunity to spend more time with my kid than I ever could have in the pre-pandemic world. I got to spend hours watching her learn to ride a bike, to read, and to devise ever more complicated games that I then got chastised for not knowing how to play in spite of the fact that she never explained the rules to me.

Due in large part to selfishness and ignorance, we’re not where we might have been as a country. I have no idea how long she’ll be able to remain in school, and I remain terribly conflicted about sending her in spite our community’s excellent vaccination rate. I’m grateful, though, that for however long it is she at least has some opportunity to be with all of her peers, because that’s the one thing we could never duplicate that every child needs.

I’m also grateful for the help and assistance we’ve gotten from our friends, family and coworkers. From the pod friends following the same protocols we did who took her in for periods in the early days to the grandparents that have been only too happy to tag in post-vaccination to the aunts, uncles and cousins who’ve babysat her over this summer to my colleagues who’ve put up with almost two years of limited and unpredictable availability from me, we could not have done this without all of you. Same to distant friends – shout out, Colorado – that have kept me sane over these last seventeen months.

Most of all, though, I’m proud of this kid. The pandemic has reshaped all of our lives, and given her formative stage I worried in the initial days of the pandemic that it would damage her irreparably. Instead, she has shown adaptability, a positive attitude and an undiminished desire to dunk on her dad at every opportunity.

If anything, this period has made her tougher and more resilient. It’s a truly awful way for her to have to learn these lessons, but if this is all we can salvage from it, it’s something.

I’m proud of you, Little Bear.