Below is a letter to my son (and perhaps myself) about COVID, the unexpected, and preparing for the unknown. It is about how the world suddenly stopped and learning to refocus. And, if possible, to savour the tiny bit of sacredness within the impossible circumstances around us.
A pandemic is outside our door, outside the safe walls of our little home. We’re both cooped up, inside two tiny rooms, trying to maneuver our way through another period of unchartered waters. Over the years, you grew from a small boy to a young man. And in this time, you began to build a life that was all your own—one in which I was no longer the center. All while I worked and sacrificed to make that possible.
And suddenly, we’re back where we started. Back to being the only person in the others life. Back to a time when it was just you and me, while the world carried on outside—not paying us any mind. You see, people only like babies in passing, not in real life. They have a funny habit of being too much work. As are the mothers who tend to them. Their attentions are elsewhere. And when women are not caring for others, others don’t have much use of them. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but you eventually do.
But here we are. You and me, kid. You were a baby the last time our worlds orbited each other. The last time I was forced to sit still and see something other than myself. And perhaps, it was the last time I took a long hard look at you. How did you get so tall? And your voice so low? You can even pick me up now. What year did this all happen? For so long, my head as been hunched down in books and papers, deadlines, and tons and tons of free labor that I barely noticed you growing up next to me.
We visit the park. Like we used to, when you were little. Instead of chasing you through the grass, we lightly stroll the meadows. You ask me questions, just like before, but these are different. You ask about ‘direction’ and ‘purpose’, rather than why ladybugs are red. You tell me of contentions and concerns, rather than kisses and hugs and feeding ducks. I listen to you more than I talk. My questions only circulate around your thoughts.
You’ve grown up. You’ve come to realize the world won’t see you through the lens I do—rosy though it is. And I’ve poured all my grit and optimism into you knowing it would come to this. It is my deepest hope your hands and heart will work through barriers placed before you, long before you or I ever came here. I know I can’t ease all of your worries, though I try my best to remind you that I’m there. I know my support won’t give you much needed answers. And you’ll eventually learn most adults don’t have these answers. Even me.
But, I’m here. Present. In the moment, again. It’s just you and me. And after this has passed, as all phases do, you’ll move on to whoever you’re going to be. And this… this will be the last time you sat down with me. When the world was just us. When we were all the other had. And I’ll be reminded, this was all I ever really had.
It’s funny, uncharted futures and such. They hold the same bits and bobs every kid your age confronts: uncertainty and hope. But mommies cannot solve these problems or fix new boo-boos. We can only do what we’ve always done, encourage you to confront your fears, hoping you’ll find your way. Just as we too will have to learn to find new ways without you. There is a mountain of fear, right now. More so than I can articulate or weigh. But this moment, in all its bittersweetness, is worth all the chaos outside… and even in.
Amy Andrada is a PhD Sociology candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on deviance, family, and gender studies. She is currently writing up her mammoth of a PhD while simultaneously raising her precocious 16-year old son. (Wish her luck in both.) She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.