The year is 2040 and our children are now adults. We all survived the Covid-19 crisis, yet survived is not quite the word we should use. We made it through. We are still alive. However, we did not leave unscarred. The children we raised during the health crisis and pandemic have questions for us. After all, we were the adults at the time. They were just the children of the pandemic, following us, trusting us. They did what we told them to, because we were the parents at the time. Now, they are adults and they have questions for us. The young children see pictures of themselves during the Covid period of time and the older children have questions for us based on what they remember from during that time. One of their questions burns through me when they ask me.
“Mom. We wore masks for TWO straight years in school. TWO years. You didn’t wear a mask! You were at home during the day and you mostly didn’t wear masks unless you went to a store or were traveling.”
“I know, honey, I’m sorry. I know that two years in a mask all day at school was hard.”
“But, we were just kids. We trusted you.”
“I know. We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought it would stop the spread of the virus.”
“But, Mom, what did you do to stop it? Did you fight the mask rule at schools?”
That is when I stand there silently. I have nothing to say.
“We trusted you! You told us we had to wear the masks, because it was the rule and there was nothing you could do about it! There was nothing you could do about it, because you didn’t do anything!”
“I wanted to…I just…I didn’t know what to do.”
“Did you even try?” They will ask me. “Didn’t you want to help us?”
“Of course, I wanted to help you!” I am silent again. I am thinking of the days when I was so grateful that school had started again after having the kids home for six months that I dropped the kids off happily and I did, indeed, tell them to please wear their masks. We were nervous that if the kids didn’t wear masks then the schools would get shut down like they did in New York when the Jewish day schools were trying to get around the mask rules. I just needed them to be in school, whatever the cost.
I remember that as the year went on and I would do school drop-off, I would cringe and look away when I saw the little kids going into school with masks. The five year olds putting on their masks and skipping into school as if this was normal. What did they know? They were only five. They were just doing what their parents told them to do.
The year went on and school stayed open. Parents and teachers got vaccinated. Some kids stopped wearing masks. Then the mask rule was unofficially over and the kids didn’t need to wear masks anymore, but it was already May. During the summer of 2021 anyone over the age of 12 could get vaccinated, which included my daughter at the time.
“But, you told me when I got that vaccine that summer that I would never have to wear a mask again! I was so sick. Remember after the vaccine I was in bed for two days! You lied to me!”
“I didn’t lie. I didn’t know. I thought you would never have to wear a mask again.”
The new school year started, and along with it, the new variant of the virus. The governor made an indoor mask mandate for the entire state of Illinois, whether vaccinated or not. But, I worked from home. I didn’t have to wear a mask all day like they did.
The second year of the mask mandates at school, my almost 4 year old started preschool and he had to wear a mask all day.
“But, Mom, I was tiny! Look at those pictures of me in preschool wearing a mask! How could you put me in a mask!”
“I didn’t know what to do! You had to start preschool.”
Why didn’t I fight harder? My kids will ask me. They will ask what we did, how we fought. They were the kids. They trusted us. We were the adults at the time. They did what we told them to do. And, we told them to wear masks for two years in school, because they had to go to school and that was the only way they would be able to go to school.
And what did I do? I did nothing to fight it. I want to have a good answer for my kids when they ask me in 20 years what I did to fight the mask rules, because they will ask me. And, I know that when we look at pictures of our small children in masks all day at school we will ask ourselves why we didn’t fight more. I know this, because school just started today and I am already wondering why I didn’t do more.