Thursday was another pretty busy day. Erin had to head out early to take Asta to her breeder for a nice grooming, and our ABA therapist couldn’t make it, so it was me and Henry hanging out while I was working and Amelia was in school.

It’s always a precarious balancing act, the whole working while looking after kids thing. It went OK, but there were definitely some challenges. Henry had a few spicy moments, and Amelia had a few technological issues with school from time to time. My favorite came during some independent study time for art. I got her set up doing something with “Mo Willems Lunch Doodles” and was in my office, two rings into a phone call, when I heard, “Daddy! Daddy!”

I hung up the phone and ran into Amelia’s room, ready to deal with another distance learning snafu. I got there and she looks at me, excited, and said, “Dad! Did you know Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus was Mo Willems’ first book?!”

I did not know that. And in that moment I was equal parts irritated and impressed. Irritated about the interruption, but impressed that my daughter has the same passion for trivia that I do.

After work, I succumbed to the repeated “Dad, can we go to the park?!” requests and decided to take them to the tunnel park I wrote about a few posts ago. It was a beautiful day, and I had a hunch we’d have to work harder to navigate crowds than we had to the last time we went, when it was drizzling. Indeed, we arrived and saw a few groups of kids at the park, so we all masked up and proceeded with caution.

There was a small group of parents off to the side, and a herd of unmasked, feral looking boys running around. There was definitely a Lost Boys from the movie Hook kind of vibe going on, but we figured we’d give it a shot.

So what it amounted to was the kids and me playing in an area for a while until the herd came running back, and then we’d distance ourselves and go somewhere else. It was tricky, but I have to say the kids were pretty adept at it, and really doing the distancing automatically. That both was a relief to me, because I want them to be staying safe, and also surreal and sad to realize that this period has become such a part of their lives, they’re now naturally keeping their distance from people.

But so it is, and we did the best we could. The toughest part for me came when a little boy, maybe about 5, started hanging around close to my kids. Like the others, he was unmasked, but he clearly was both part of and not part of that group. I got a little nervous because I want to keep my kids safe, so I kept kind of running block an making sure they were a few feet away.

Before all of this, Amelia would take great pride in the fact that she would make a new friend almost every time we went to the playground. And I saw her struggling with that urge as the boy parallel played with them. I was looking after Henry, and he was near Amelia, and I could hear them start to talk.

Amelia introduced herself, and so did he. We were about to head over to this rope bridge climbing thing, and Amelia told him about that. I started toward them to try to make sure they were standing some distance apart, and I heard the little boy say, “My mom says I’m not supposed to play on that because it is too much for my heart.”

And ladies and gentlemen, that was too much for MY heart.

I had a talk with the kids, and just asked that everyone keep a little distance apart when playing so that everyone can stay safe. Henry and Amelia and the little boy chased around a little and played hide and seek. The whole time, I both fretted because I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to keep the kids safe, and felt deeply sad that I even had to let my mind go there. The more I watched this little boy, the more I wondered if maybe he isn’t on the spectrum like Henry is. The group he was there with was clearly pretty rough and tumble and he was on his own, and I was glad he got to have some fun with Amelia and Henry.

It also brings into focus something about Amelia that I admire so much. She is very often the one that finds that kid who isn’t quite running with the rest of the crowd, and she sees them, understands them, and values them. Maybe some of it comes from her experiences with Henry, but I think a lot of it is just who she is. I know it’s a cliche thing to say we learn from our kids, but I absolutely do and this is something I admire very much about her.

But after a little while, it was time to go and they had to say goodbye to their new friend. We headed back home and got on with the rest of our evening. I was proud of my kids for many reason. Proud that they wear masks without complaint and know what to do to stay safe. I am proud that they see the special part of everyone they meet.

However, it also drove home to me how much this time is going to affect this entire generation. Having to avoid other human beings to stay healthy is going to have an impact on them. I don’t know yet what that means. Maybe it’ll be positive, and they won’t take human contact for granted the way previous generations have. Or maybe it’ll be negative in ways we don’t understand yet. At this point, I guess I just choose to think my kids will take something good from it. They always seem to, and I should have faith in that.