Like so many others, we recently made the decision to isolate our family for 14 days. It wasn’t an easy choice – it certainly wasn’t mandated due to recent travel. Our decision came at a time when the information available was mixed, and we weren’t really sure how serious this virus was.
Prior to having made this choice, we celebrated Robert’s 6th birthday. Before those feelings of uncertainty penetrated our lives, Robert was surrounded by a small group of friends and celebrated by a room full of people singing “Bonne Fête”.
He blew out the candles on his giant pull-apart cupcake-cake, and devoured his favourite flavour, ‘show-co-lawt’.
He laughed, was loved, and had the best night’s sleep following his Little Gym party.
The following day, we went over to my parents. It was the beginning of March Break, and Robert was going to camp “Grandmaman et Pépère” while Mom & Dad worked. Just days before, news had come that schools were to be closed for 2 extra weeks, but we had only learned that day that the daycare was closing. Everything felt surreal – was this an exaggeration? A knee-jerk reaction by our government?
The plan was for us to return on Robert’s birthday. We would celebrate as an extended family, watch him open a few gifts, sing his favourite song (“Bonne Fête”), and after cake, we’d take him home.
As the week progressed, each day seemed to bring with it more uncertainty.
I’m sure you all felt it.
One day, you wake up thinking “ah it’s just a bad cold or flu, we’ll be fine if we get it!” and the next, you find yourself obsessively washing your hands, cleaning everything, and physically avoiding people you pass on the street. Then you find yourself looking at the Government’s symptom checker, convinced that the tickle in your throat and the fatigue you feel is caused by this novel virus, and not the fact you are a full-time parent who is simultaneously hopping on conference calls, prepping meals, walking the dog, and scrubbing down doorknobs.
That uncertainty you felt? We did, too.
That feeling led us to make the decision to isolate. We would not leave our home or yard except to walk the dog.
We stopped bringing the littles to the playground at the local school and the nearby parks.
Days later, the City announced all public parks were closed.
The feelings of unease continued to grow.
We were waiting for the news to give us answers, to tell us when to expect normalcy to return.
All that came was more uncertainty.
That uncertainty led to our decision to stay home and isolate ourselves.
This meant that we would not be picking up Robert until those 14 days of isolation were over.
It meant we’d kissed our 5-year-old for the last time. The next time we saw him, wouldn’t be on the day he turned 6, but weeks later.
Since this is a global health-crisis, we understand why we aren’t able to be with him.
We, the adults, made the decision together. Our big boy is with two people we trust implicitly. He is loved beyond measure, he is well cared for, and, boy, was he celebrated on the day he turned 6.
And though I worried about how Robert would feel without his family party on his birthday, I admit, I never thought to consider the impact that this would have on Sullivan.
But recently, that impact became so glaringly obvious.
The other morning we walked the dog to a near-by wooded area, with the kids in the double stroller. Our dog-walking tradition has become one where Sullivan gets out of the stroller when we get to big paths or wooded areas. He loves nothing more than being able to “cours vite! cours vite!” (run fast! run fast!) in the wooded area.
He is so excited that he doesn’t know where to look as he runs along, occasionally falling down as his feet try to keep up with the momentum caused by his level of excitement.
If you’ve never watched a 2 year old run in the woods, giggling, you’re missing a truly joyful sight.
On this walk, as he was running along the path, we came by a woman and her toddler playing on the forest floor. Seeing us, they moved off the path to let us pass.
As Sullivan ran past them, he cried out “LES AMIS! LES AMIS!”. He was so thrilled to see other people, and another small child.
I realized in that moment that with daycare being closed, not only was he not seeing his daycare friends, he wasn’t seeing anyone but his mom, dad, and baby brother. He must be feeling so alone.
Later that same evening, after Sullivan brushed his teeth and put on his jammies, we began the bedtime routine.
As part of the bedtime routine that night, we read books, then I rocked and sang to him, as I told him I loved him and thanked him for a fun day.
When Robert first went to Camp Grandmaman & Pépère, Sullivan would ask to sleep in Robert’s bed. Sullivan and Robert, you might remember, share a bedroom. But these past few nights, he began to choose the comfort (and security?) of his crib instead. Not only that, he’s started to insist on sleeping with his bedroom door open.
That night, I ran my fingers through his hair as I spoke about how we’d get to spend time playing together the next day. I whispered good night, told him I loved him, and left his room.
Without thinking, I closed his door as I left.
He cried. And not just the cry of protest, but the sound of heartache.
When I went to check on him, I asked him if he missed Robert. He nodded. He calmed down in my arms, I told him I loved him, and put him back to bed. As I left the room, I was sure to check that his door was open behind me.
It was this moment that it hit me.
In that moment, I truly realized how difficult this isolation is on Sullivan.
As adults, we sometimes forget that our littles are acutely aware of what is happening around them. We forget how they observe, and try to process and absorb change.
I was guilty of this with Sullivan. I assumed that to him, this wouldn’t be much different than a long weekend, or Christmas break. He’d be able to run, play and cuddle with us every day.
But this boy, my little firecracker, feels things so deeply. I should have known he would notice. That Sullivan would feel a void in the place his brother holds in his heart, in our hearts, and the spaces he belongs in the house.
He misses his daycare friends. He misses his routines. Most importantly, he misses his family – his aunts, grandparents and his big brother.
We are doing our part, and it comes with a huge sacrifice of being separated from our son. We ask that you please do yours.
The sooner Canadians get on board, the sooner this will be over and the sooner our family will be back together.
We are all feeling the change and the challenges. The grief and the uncertainty. Your experience with these emotions might be different than ours, but we are all feeling it.
Please give yourself grace, give your neighbours grace, and most importantly, please #StayTheFuckHome.