Let’s kick this off with an apology to Jim! I’ve been meaning to write down some thoughts on COVID life for the past few weeks but when I think, “yeah, tonight I’ll do it,” COVID life takes over. Before I know it, the kids are asleep, I’m desperately trying to crank through extra hours of work, behind on tidying up the house so it still looks like a toy-craft-laundry bomb went off in it, and then before I know it, my brain is fried. Sound familiar?

As some readers may recall, I’m navigating COVID in Washington, DC with a 2-year-old boy and a slightly foul-mouthed 4-year-old girl. We’re smack in that age range where at-home schooling consists of basic life lessons about how to exist in this crazy world. Lessons like trying not to pick your nose ALL. THE. TIME. Or no, don’t eat that off the floor! Also, see: anything that might roughly be addressed in a Daniel Tiger song. One of the most-covered lessons is sharing, which means I’ve also been dipping into lessons on compromise.

The idea of compromise is one of the biggest challenges of being a parent in COVID times, no? To date, we’ve been taking COVID pretty seriously on our end, minimizing contact across the board and keeping a really small circle of exposure. When lockdown first hit DC, we pulled our son out of daycare pretty quickly. Once schools shut down shortly thereafter, our kids’ social circle shrunk to a party of four: them, me, and Dad.

But, as we slog into month 6+ of this new reduced social capacity, I’ve been wondering: When do you compromise and perhaps trade off a little risk for some much-needed interaction? Do you compromise?

On one hand, I’m pretty squarely in the little-to-no compromise camp: COVID is no joke and once it’s in our house, it’s pretty much guaranteed that all four of us will get it. We don’t have a huge support structure in DC that could help if my husband or I got sick. We’re both working full-time so if one of us goes down, that means immediate leave for the other parent (COVID would mean isolating from the babysitter we’ve hired to help out for a few months). Even a mild case would obliterate our delicate daily balance.

We’ve kept our distance from all the kids in our neighborhood as many need to go to camps or daycare and that’s been too much exposure for our comfort. We haven’t seen our friends in months. We’ve seen my parents once since last Christmas. It’s been isolating, yes, but also has felt like the right thing to do for our family.

On the other hand, there are times like these: The other week, I decided to make my first big trip to Target since March because we needed some basic supplies that we couldn’t order online. So, I sucked it up and took the kids with me. I talked to them about the need to keep their masks on, not touch anything, and stay in the cart at all times.

I went with a list and aimed to get in and out as soon as possible (for both health purposes and the safety of my wallet/bank balance). What I didn’t expect was that every time someone walked anywhere near our cart (like, say, within eyesight), the kids would yell “STAY AWAY FROM US!  GET OUT OF OUR WAY! DON’T COME CLOSE!” The store wasn’t too crowded, but it was crowded enough to say they yelled it a fair bit.

We kicked off the all-virtual school year by transferring into a new school where we know no one in our class. It was a rare opportunity and we figured a bit extra rockiness in this already crazy year was worth it. This past weekend, my daughter told me she didn’t want to start small-group Zoom calls with her Prek 4 classmates because she didn’t want to make any new friends since she doesn’t even get to see the friends she already has. Oof, tug on the heartstrings, why don’t you?!

While our first day of small group calls actually went ok, I can’t help it but wonder: Are we being too strict? Should we be compromising a little when it comes to social interaction?  By “a little,” I mean maybe a few outdoor playdates with everyone wearing masks? Our attempts at forming a playpod thus far have been unsuccessful and so, while we’re very much in the camp of “do what is best for your own family,” the longer this stretches on, the hardest it is to figure out where to hold the line for ours.

I’m still working through this but one thing I do know? It’s that parenting is hard and super-duper hard these past 6+ months.