His Third Pandemic Birthday


His Third Pandemic BirthdayMy son Joshua turned seven on March 16, 2020.

I had already bought cake, decorations, and everything else for his March 14 party before everything started shutting down on the 12th and 13th. In the midst of all the panic, I decided to go ahead with the party. He and his friends had seen each other at school the day before, after all.

What was one more day?

Not everyone agreed with me. A few kids came. And through the whole thing, we parents stood around, shaking, anxious, unsure what was coming next. We all know now: two years of turmoil, almost a million American deaths (and likely more), a ragged divide in our country, and the fear of more time spent in this terror we’ve called a pandemic.

I’ll forever associate my baby’s birthday with the beginning of quarantine and a pit in my stomach. And now, as he turns nine this week, I can’t help but reflect on the last two years, especially how it’s affected my children.

My youngest child, who is now five, didn’t see anyone her age for an entire six months.

One of my children’s anxiety skyrocketed, leading to other issues and a whole lot of counseling, psychiatry, and medicine.

My oldest child’s first year of middle school and church youth group was shadowed by masks, virtual meetings, and six feet apart. Don’t get me wrong; I am so glad for the measures we knew would help diminish the virus. In the meanwhile, though, my kid lost an entire year of lasts and firsts during this transition…and it’s still having repercussions.

I have a kid with speech issues who has had to make his friends and teachers understand him through a mask for a year and a half.

If I start to think about all these things, a heavy weight lands on me. I’m not sure we will ever heal fully.

And yet.

I look in my now nine-year-old’s sweet, freckled face and I remember all the extra time we’ve had together to play games and read and cuddle. My family watched the entire catalog of Disney animated movies in order, and then went on to Pixar ones.

We’ve done cooking lessons and science experiments and crafts out the wazoo. My older two kids were able to ride bikes around the quiet campus where we live to their heart’s content, given the complete lack of traffic in spring and summer of 2020. We planted bulbs and watched them grow into tall, brightly colored gladiolus. We visited llamas, sunflowers, and farms we might never have seen in other times.

A hardcore optimist, I can’t help but hope we’re through our last wave of virus. That this feeling of life as normal will continue. And given another two years (when my kids will be 15, 13, 11, and seven, someone pray for me…), who knows how I will reflect on these pandemic years?