My four-year-old's resilience, adaptability - Denny Scott editorial
Over the past year I’ve watched in wonder as my four-year-old daughter has proven time and time again that she (and likely her entire cohort) is stronger and more adaptable than most adults in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She’s rolled with the punches better than most and words like COVID-19 and vaccine have quickly become part of her lexicon.
It wasn’t long after Mary Jane started class that we started to realize just how much she was picking up at school. After quickly learning how to write her name, one of the other lessons she learned early on – don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry about it happening, just angry that the world we live in requires it – was that of COVID-19.
We never tried to shelter Mary Jane from the reality of the pandemic at home during the first lockdown. As a matter of fact, we were pretty open and honest about it: we couldn’t go to the park, or visit her friends, or see our relatives because there were a lot of sick people in the world and we didn’t want to get sick or worse, pass it on to anyone else.
It wasn’t until she came home from school one day asking to go to the park again that I realized while we weren’t trying to hide the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic from Mary Jane, we had never named it.
We had always talked about people being sick or there being a virus we could catch. Every time we said no to visiting the park, a friend or a family member, her first response was to ask if it was because of the danger of getting sick.
When she got to school, a name was finally put on it and, without missing a beat, it became one of the most repeated words in her vocabulary. Now she knows if we say we can’t go somewhere, it’s likely due to COVID-19. As a matter of fact, that’s the first question she asks whenever we say no to something. “Is it because of COVID-19?” she’d ask in the early stages, looking at me and basically begging for any other answer that makes more sense than this invisible threat.
I admired her strength because I don’t know if, when I was a student, I would have been able to persevere through the educational experience she has. That wouldn’t be the only time that COVID-19 proved that Mary Jane is already stronger than I am. I’m sure those examples will keep coming, even after the pandemic ends.
A few weeks into the second lockdown, she asked when she could start seeing her friends again, and I said once COVID-19 is more under control. She then asked when she could see her GG again (my grandmother, her great grandmother) and, being the absent-minded father I am, I said not until she got two needles.
Saying “needle” to a kid is the second stupidest thing you can do. Saying the plural, “needles” is the most stupid thing you can do. She ran to her room and closed the door, saying she wouldn’t get two needles.
I understand her. I’m not great with needles. Actually, that’s an understatement. I sometimes pass out from needles. My best case scenario when getting a needle is that I sweat through my shirt while trying to convince my body this isn’t an appropriate time for my “fight or flight” response to kick in.
After two or three days, however, she started talking to me again, and asked when she could get her needles. I asked her why she wasn’t scared of them (another stupid thing to do is to remind children of something they don’t like or are scared of, but I lucked out this time) and she said she wanted to invite her friends to our house for a sleepover. If she had to get two needles to do it, she would roll up her sleeve, once again proving she’s a lot tougher than I am.
After a long chat explaining that there aren't enough needles to go around (using Lego people and blocks as a visual aid), she went on her way.
While I was happy the exchange had ended with her not inheriting my intense phobia for needles, I’d be lying if I said I was happy that she had to deal with any of this when this whole situation could have ended a lot sooner. If people were more responsible and followed the rules, we may have been able to get out of this with fewer kids having to “get used to” pandemics, needles and viruses. But I guess, for those who think it’s “fake news” or “not as bad as the flu”, my daughter’s innocence is just a casualty in their war against having to wear a mask.