Last week, on January 21, 2022, we reached a landmark of sorts. Exactly two years prior the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first known case of Covid 19 in the United States, in Snohomish County, Washington near Seattle. Last week, on January 21, 2022, that same day, my youngest grandson celebrated his fourth birthday, awash with“Avenger” gear, balloons, and new toys. The juxtaposition was jarring. He has spent half of his life in his personal version of a Covid cave, three of his four birthdays in the shadow of Covid. Reflections abound…
He is skilled and committed to mask wearing, has participated in the home schooling, isolations, and quarantines of his older siblings, smoothly adapted to an array of restrictions, changes in plans, and cancellations. He has navigated an unusual “normal” early in his life, and his parents have done an amazing job of guiding him though this experience. Once, while we were doing the fun things we do together, he quietly asked me “When do you think this virus will go away?”
He surprised me. I didn’t even realize he would use the word “virus”! While I was struggling to conjure up an honest but helpful response, he paused…”I know; we don’t know, right?” He is vibrant, fun, funny, and imaginative. He is affectionate and thoughtful. He lives life with abandon. I would describe him as a child of joy, a persistent, generous joy that shapes his days and brings laughter to those around him. And he also knows we are dealing with a virus that refuses to go away.
Others have stories like this, parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles…we all have watched our children contend with their personal Covid caves. We focus on the moment, on getting past the challenge for the day. Yet there is lurking a reckoning of sorts. We have yet to make sense of what these children of the Covid years have experienced, have learned, have unlearned, have imagined, have discovered, have feared. We have not yet chronicled the impact of Covid cave life on the unique dimensions of human development in the young.
This is, however, their early biography, a story unfolding for the young among us. As we emerge from our caves, I hope we reflect on this. I hope we encourage them to tell their stories, and I hope we hear them out. The adults appear to be having a good deal of difficulty just managing their own emergence. We will have to make conscious choices to ensure we attend to the stories of the young, to learn how their biographies have been shaped and altered, what they gained and learned, what they know they lost and what they can never really retrieve. There is celebration of their resilience and creativity; there is also healing work to be done. This is the first posting on that work.
“To lock down the delicate filigree of life in explanation is to lose it, but not to see it is disastrous.” ~Nora Bateson