When my daughter was born in 2016, I created an email account for her. I remember seeing the idea on Pinterest and thinking it would be great to hand her over the password to the account when she turned 18 only for her to log in and find a wealth of notes from me, her dad and her other family members. I don’t know about her dad or her other family members, but I know I’ve probably written to her twice in almost four years! I still think it was a great idea, I’ve just barely had the time. But right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world around us has slowed down, there are no birthday parties, no rushing to school and work or extracurricular activities. Time at home is all we have.
I took a few moments in between juggling full-time working and full-time momming, and wrote her an email, the first in several years, about the situation we’re living in right now. I left out the more terrifying details, like how by the end of this thing potentially millions of people globally will have lost their lives to a virus first presumed to be “nothing worse than the flu,” or how most people we know are currently bound to their homes, many figuring out how to fashion homemade face masks just to go grocery shopping. I wrote to her as if when she reads it, she will still be four years old because that’s all she is right now and writing to her what I wish I could say to her feels cathartic for me. She’s just a little girl, sick of being home, sad at night when we go to bed because another day has passed that she misses school, socialization and her young friends. I merely scratched the surface in here on how much my heart breaks each morning when we wake up and I know I’ll have to explain to her that even though she is, like all of us in the house, completely healthy, today will be another day we stay inside, or at least around our own property line.
What I left out is how hard I’ve worked to make the most of this time, the amount of time I’ve spent searching and planning for activities and crafts. And how much I hope these are the parts she remembers about this time we’ve had to spend weeks in isolation from the outside world.
So here is my letter to Zoe.
It’s been YEARS since I’ve written you. I’m so sorry!
So much life has happened in this time. We’ve moved houses, you’re going to preschool now… and, oh, yea, you now have a BABY SISTER! Lily is 3 months old now and starting to smile and “talk.” Don’t tell her, but she probably won’t get an email address. I just don’t have time to keep these up.
But there is a lot going on right now that I want you to know about in the future…
We’ve been talking a little bit about the coronavirus (COVID-19). I’m really not sure how much I should tell you, and how much I should not. After all, you’re not even 4… yet.
But as of today, you’ve been out of school (preschool) and your daddy and I have been working from home for more than 3 weeks now. Three weeks you haven’t been able to see your friends, your teachers have been preparing video conferences and almost annoyingly emailing your dad and I ideas of things to do with you at home. On week 1, I went out to Michael’s (it’s a craft store in case it doesn’t exist in the future) and bought 7 different crafts for you to do — one for each day. I knew when I got home you’d sift through the brown paper bag (oh yea, that’s another thing that newly happened recently… the state said we weren’t allowed to have plastic bags anymore and started charging us $.05 per paper bag…although I bet when you read this they’ll cost even more) and try to do all the crafts at once.
You were good, and we really did do one craft a day. But we had no idea then how long this would last.
As of late, the governor and president are indicating we could be stuck at home together through the end of the month. This is very stressful for your father and I. We’re currently waking up at 5:30 a.m. each day and figuring out a schedule of when to watch you and your sister and when to work. When we’re working, you are asking to “work with” us, not understanding that in addition to everyone staying home to avoid getting sick, thousands of Americans are also losing their jobs because all movie theatres, shopping stores and more are also closed. We have to work… although we wish we were just playing with you and watching movies all day.
More than anything, I feel really really sad I had to cancel (well, postpone) your birthday party. Just a week before all this started, I had already mailed out half of the invitations to your friends. The other half hadn’t made it out yet because I was short on stamps (bet you won’t even know what those are when you read this!). Then as that week went on, I held on to them longer not knowing what was going to happen with this virus or if we would be allowed to gather with your friends and their parents. I was right to hold on, because the closest thing we’re allowed to do right now is drive to our friends’ houses and say hello from our car in the driveway. In fact, we did that today when we went to Lucas and Harper’s house just to talk to them through the car window.
You don’t seem to mind when I tell you we’re going to have your birthday party in the summer, but it breaks my heart. Every single day I think about how I’m going to make your birthday special for you when you can’t eat cupcakes with your friends, or be sung to by your extended family. In the end, I know it will be OK, but right now it hurts, bad.
You’ve been SUCH a good girl this whole time, by the way. You’ve only had a few tantrums and have been extremely helpful when we ask you to let the dogs out (Izzy and Rocky, in case you don’t remember them later) or to put your sister’s binkie back in her mouth. You’ve been laughing and smiling and so sweet, when it would be completely understandable if you were bored and salty right now. You are such a blessing to us, now and always, and your demeanor has made it easier to get through this tough time, arguably the toughest extended time your father and I have ever faced in our lives.
There’s not much more I can say about the world around us that you won’t be able to later read in history books… or on tablets, if that’s what they’re using by the time you’re reading history in school. I guess I would tell you that the only time your dad and I have left the house at all has been to go to the grocery store, to take you and Lily out for walks… and, OK, ONE TIME it was ESSENTIAL to get a cup of strong coffee from Starbucks after Lily kept us up all night. Seriously, we couldn’t have functioned without it.
Going to the grocery store is not fun, but it’s sort of scary. The shoppers who are in there are wearing face masks, most people are wearing gloves. There are markers on the ground that tell everyone where to step, how far apart to stand. The entire experience is anxiety-inducing, which is hard to say considering up until a month ago I would welcome ANY opportunity to get out of the house alone for just a few minutes.
I constantly wonder what everything will be like once we are allowed to leave our homes and return to work and school. Will people be afraid to shake hands, to hug? Will we be ordered to keep our distance while trying to resume our daily lives? Will we all panic every single sick season from here on out? Will our economy recover quickly? Will my hands ever recover from being washed so much? Will you remember any of this?
I don’t think any of the answers will come easy. But I still wanted to tell you about this time and what it was like in case you don’t remember. More than anything, I wanted you to know that I did find a lot of good in it, despite my complaints about having to juggle you kids and work at the same time. I did get to spend more time with you and Lily, time that I wouldn’t have otherwise had and that I will forever be grateful for.