I’ve always thought of myself as a person who doesn’t really like kids. I mean, I have two of my own and I like them most of the time. I’ve also got a bunch of nieces and nephews I adore and a few close friends whose kids I would absolutely fold into my family should tragedy strike.
But kids in general? Not my bag. I’ve long been the kind of person who would see people posting photos of their own kids on social media with the caption “Love this kid!” and think to myself, “Yeah, not so much.”
I’m joking, of course. Your kids are all great!
So I’m kind of joking, yes, but it’s also kind of true. For example, a couple of months ago when I had eight 9-year-olds in my house for several hours for my daughter’s birthday party, I was happy to see the last of them leave when the festivities were done.
Little did I know, that would literally be the last I saw of them—or anyone, really—for months. The week that followed was when our city started comprehending the scale of the coronavirus crisis and abruptly shut down. Everything about my 9-year-old’s normal life went away and that party—a Harry Potter one, of course—now feels like a weirdly distant magical memory.
At the start of this, I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss other people. Especially other people’s kids.
So these days, when I hear the tiny voices of other people’s children coming through a phone via Messenger Kids or FaceTime, my heart bursts with emotion. I go out of my way to say hello.
Little do they know, these kids are helping us keep it together. They’re a bright light for my daughter in a moment of darkness.
These days, my 9-year-old has drawing playdates with Beatrice, a spirited 5-year old who lives around the corner.
She’s study-buddies with June, whose parents I barely know but who are happy, like me, to let the girls keep an open channel while they do schoolwork together.
She bombards Charlie from her musical theater class with emojis while they chat.
She’s illustrating a book that her classmate Elettra is writing, and choreographing modern dance numbers with Evelyn. (Hi Elettra! Hi Evelyn!)
A few weeks ago, there were several days in a row when any number of the children in our lives indulged my daughter in her virtual tours of the city she built out of Dixie Cups on the living room floor. (“That’s the town square. It’s empty because of social distancing.”)
I honestly feel eternally indebted to each and every one of these children—my own included. They’re handling this whole period of time with grace and resilience, and maybe most of all, solidarity and creativity.
So the joke’s on me, I guess. Because other people’s children are saving our sanity as a family, and I’ve never loved them more. I feel like I suddenly see all their quirks and unique, special personality traits and I understand—like I never would have before if we weren’t all socially distancing—the way their relationships with my daughter work. I understand why she’s chosen these awesome kids as her friends.
Today she’ll play Battleship with Skye—and they won’t have to be separated like they sometimes are in real life because they just won’t stop talking.
She’ll shout directions on where to find the pizza on the game she plays with Jason (a friend who has the added bonus of also being a cousin).
We miss Skye and Jason and June and Beatrice and all the other children and people out there who are trying so hard to stay connected to our lives. I miss them. And I’ll invite them all over someday. I promise.