The only time I would see masks in Target was when they put the Halloween décor out too early, but life has a way of surprising you! Fast forward to a pandemic! Covid-19 has changed a lot of things but one of the bigger things has been mask-wearing. I’ll never forget going into stores in March and how the scene changed from one of relaxed shoppers browsing clearance aisles to that of stressed shoppers swiftly grabbing necessities and leaving.
In our home, we quickly jumped on-board with mask-wearing. I used bandanas at first, because it was all I had on hand. Tutorials on YouTube taught me how to fashion one with hairbands into a fairly effective mask. Trips to the grocery store started to look very different with face coverings and frequent hands sanitizing. I’m a single mom and didn’t want my son in the stores with me without a mask so I also started using store pick-up options more frequently and making good use of that Amazon Prime membership! A kind family member also graciously sewed many a cloth face mask so we could be safe.
My son, Mason, is 8 years old so he has been very aware of all the changes in our world since the pandemic started. I believe he is like many children: aware, resilient and capable of adapting to our new normal. We spent a lot of time talking about how our role in this pandemic was to be “Germ Busters, not Germ Spreaders.” It was an entirely cheesy way to approach a very serious situation, but kids love to be heroes so I gave him a narrative to do just that and battle the virus. This definitely helped with hand-washing, social distancing and minimizing surfaces touched… because kids touch everything. (I mean, EVERYTHING.) Heroic victory was often celebrated with a spritz of hand sanitizer and ice cream at home.
“Superheroes wear masks and if we are battling a virus, well, then we should too,” I’d say. Mason is old enough to understand that I’m being a little silly with my approach, so there was some occasional eye-rolling but he played along. He’d don his mask because he knew he had to but that didn’t mean he loved it. At first, he would stretch the elastic as far as it could go when looping it around his ears. After many a reminder, that habit stopped. For the longest time, he would repeatedly stick his tongue out until there was a prominent wet spot visible on the front of his mask. In between sticking his tongue out and smirking with pride for his stealthy acts, he would say, “Bet you can’t see what I’m doing under my mask!” Did he look silly? 100% yes but I’ve learned to pick my battles and a goofy looking wet spot on the front of his mask is not my hill to die on. We still play a game called “Guess what face I’m making under my mask?” The answer is almost always a silly one.
Frankly, the trickier part was explaining to him the necessity of wearing a mask without frightening him. Mason is a very inquisitive little boy and I knew that questions would come my way. “Why?” is his favorite query. I wanted him to understand the importance of wearing our masks without instilling fear of the virus. I reminded him that the incidence of Covid-19 in children is not high and when children do get it, they are most likely to be asymptomatic. This is good news for kids but dangerous for others. He understands that he could have the virus, spread it, and not even know it. We talked about how it impacts the elderly and immune-compromised much more often and more severely. Mason knows that I am immune-compromised but I’ve assured him that we can mitigate risk so very easily by wearing our masks. Children are inherently compassionate creatures so the very notion that he could potentially worsen someone’s life by unknowingly passing along Covid-19 to someone’s beloved grandpa or grandma was all he needed to wear a mask. If you ask my son why he wears a mask, he’ll tell you it’s to keep everyone safe… especially all the nanas and papas of the world.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge that I’m aware that wearing a mask is more difficult for some than others. My family’s experience is not every family’s experience. I share mine because I believe we can make this a positive moment still. I’m all-in on silver linings but I’m not going to sugarcoat everything. This is hard. Pandemics are hard. I never in my wildest dreams imagined parenting in a pandemic, as I’m sure none of you did, but little eyes are watching our behavior and little ears are listening to our rhetoric. So as for me and mine, we’ll continue to be “Germ Busters,” make silly faces and wear our masks.
Stay safe, stay well.