An Ode to Parents in the Pandemic

Ryan Masa

My wife and I had to sit down and have the talk. Not the one about the birds and the bees. Luckily, we have a couple years to prepare for that one. We had to decide if we were going to send our daughter back to school. She’s in preschool so distance learning was not a viable option. Many of you know my wife Lucy. We are both educators. We certainly do not need any convincing about the joy of learning, the importance of socialization, or that learning is a social process. We love school. And yet, we still needed to have the talk

We changed our minds a couple times (sometimes within the same day). There is a wise maxim in counseling - anxiety often seeks out confirmation. And I was “buying trouble.” 

What if she gets sick?” We’d never forgive ourselves.
What if she brings the virus home and we get sick?

What if I get her sick and she takes it to preschool?

But, she needs adults in her life to teach her besides us.
We see such growth in her when she’s at school.
She needs to be with more kids her age.
Can we do our jobs and still give her what she needs if she stays home?
I started rationalizing with Lucy.
“Did our daughter really even like school? I mean, remember that time she said she didn’t want to go? Remember when she said that girl was mean to her?” 

I ask my daughter if she likes school. (Emphatic yes)
Do we trust the school? (For the record, we do)
Should we try to homeschool her? (Quick no)

In my role as Head of Assets, I had been monitoring all the Covid metrics for Hawaii. I knew all the CDC guidelines, in addition to the ones from multiple public health departments and children’s hospitals. As an administration, we had a Google drive full of Covid research papers, guidance, and protocols. I felt like I knew more about Covid and reopening schools than just about anyone I knew. And still, what was best for our family? 

How could we know so much and not know what to do?

It’s difficult because as the psychologist Rob Evans once explained, anxiety is information without a cure. And there are a lot of stressors with no clear answers right now. We love our children more than anything. We desperately want our children to be safe, healthy, and thrive. We desperately want to make the right decisions for them, but we are not prescient and we can’t guarantee where our decisions will land. Even the most experienced and accomplished parents among us are stricken by moments of insecurity, because insecurity is an inherent element of being a parent. On top of this, we are trying to navigate the most uncertain time of our lives. So, we are left to make as informed a judgment as possible, and hope.

There is another reason this is hard, and it involves a secret that us parents hate to acknowledge. As the psychologist Michael Thompson puts it, we parents are amateurs. We may all be experts on our children but we are amateurs at parenting. Who is an expert at something they have only done once, or a couple times at most? We may be experts in our professions, but that doesn’t prepare us for the most profound relationship we will ever have with another human being. 

There is good news though. Parenting is not a form of work (though it can feel like that right now). It is a form of life. To be a parent is to be in a relationship with our children. That means we have the most important tools we need. In my experience, love has a way of helping us find our words, listening ears, and guiding our hands and feet to know what to do. Whatever school decision you made, I trust it was the correct one for your family. Same goes for your decisions on what’s for dinner, what constitutes a clean room, and what an acceptable amount of screen time is right now.

Let us stand for reality. The reality of science, which tells us to wear our masks, wash our hands, and watch our distance. But also, the reality that the Parenting in a Pandemic Playbook does not exist. You don’t have it. I don’t have it. Your friend on Facebook certainly doesn’t have it, and neither does the parent of your child's best friend. None of us have done this before. So take a breath. Be gentle on yourself, and your child. Take care of yourself. Ask for what you need. Know that Assets is your partner. 

Let’s take care of each other. 

For our children,