Pandemic parenting: How a parent manipulates children’s quarantine
The cotton swab climbed up his nose and Thomas came out of my lap with a strong snort, almost tearing a 6-inch swab from the pediatrician’s assistant’s fingers. I came out bent, but the sample was usable, and when I put it away it asked a question I already knew the answer to.
“So we’re in quarantine?” She nodded. She said it would take about 72 hours to get results.
The next day, 4-year-old twins Anna and Karen started coughing and sneezing like their brother. They were already under orders to stay at home after their classmates tested positive for Covid-19, but they were also slapped in the new quarantine while awaiting test results.
We already experienced the Covid-19 quarantine and the closure of summer camps in August. In September, our family accomplished a new milestone in our epidemiological journey: the twins entered the quarantine within the quarantine, at the same time into the quarantine of their brother.
“I just feel bad”
Remember the lockdowns that marked Spring 2020 for everyone? We parents still live it in 10-day increments. When we are not in quarantine, we are preparing for the next quarantine.
My wife, Bijan, and I now fail every time we see the school number on our phones caller ID. Are they closing again? Will our superiors understand this time? Can we find part-time care at the last minute? Are we even allowed to bring in that outside help if we’re in quarantine?
Here we are, just three weeks into the school year, drained. Began and I spent most of August and September trying to manage the kids and our jobs. How bad could it be when cold weather forced us all back indoors?
On top of that, we found out that the two kittens we adopted from the local shelter had ringworm. The fungal infection spread to the whole family and the dog.
My wife summed it up neatly: “I feel like a bad parent, bad employee, bad husband, and crappy pet owner. I just feel bad.”
Unvaccinated children face increased risks of contracting Covid-19
I feel weird when I’m one of the few masked patrons or employees at the grocery store, or my kids are the only ones in the kids’ science museum. So I asked Dr. Lauren Wilson, president of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, if I was being overly cautious.
Wilson said parents of unvaccinated children are right to be vigilant, not only because their children may catch Covid-19, but because they can bring it home and spread it to vulnerable family members. It is also important to strike a balance between protecting children and providing for their needs, especially their mental health, she added.
Potato chips for breakfast
This can be difficult, she said, when parents suffer from “decision stress” with the dozens of choices they face every day about the safety of their families. It is difficult to assess the risks when so many people ignore public health recommendations.
The waiting period for test results extended from three days to five days. On the last day, I wrote this article in between tea parties, subsided in fistfights, played Frozen on TV for the umpteenth time, and gave in to my son’s demand for chips for breakfast. Negative Covid-19 test results for children have arrived towards the end of the day.
Then we found out that our 7-year-old son could soon join the ranks of vaccinators if the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech syringe for his age group.
This is going to be a big day for us, along with the twins’ fifth birthdays in the spring. Meanwhile, I started coughing and sneezing. Given that the kids’ tests were negative, I think I’d skip getting one — hoping to break our quarantine streak.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and survey, KHN is one of the three major drivers in KFF (Caesar Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.