The Summer of COVID: 5 Questions To Ask To Protect Our Kids

Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again.

Pau Casals, by way of Brainpickings

Listen 7:44

Having kids is the best reminder of this. When they’re little, so much for them is new and exciting and marvelous. Just a simple ladybug on a leaf is cause for wide eyes and glee and shouts of “Mommy, COME!” The little humans want to share in their excitement, and who better than with someone they love.

The most lovely thing is that you find yourself actually getting excited to see something as mundane as a ladybug on a leaf — because you know how incredible it is to your littles. And something incredible to the littles is something incredible to the parents and everyone else who loves those littles. It truly is a marvelous thing. Kids are a lot of work, yes, but, man, do they make the mundane marvelous.

Pau Casals was a child once and later became a famous cellist who had the opportunity to play in the White House for John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy and guests in 1961. A marvel to behold — for both Casals and the Kennedys. And not a mundane marvel. There is something transporting about good music, and to say that Casals produced good music would be an understatement. The President was so taken with Casals and his music that two years later, he awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award not often given to foreigners. But days before the ceremony, Kennedy was assassinated.

Casals was devastated. As was much of the world.

I think sometimes when you find a good friend, a kindred spirit, you are transported to the childhood wonder of the ladybug on the leaf. Interestingly, after Kennedy’s assassination, Casals felt compelled to write about . . . children:

Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two makes four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body — what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work — we all must work — to make this world worthy of its children.

Joy and Sorrows

Two and two makes four, and I want my kids to know that. But I need to remind myself that learning is so much more than that. I want my kids to learn about who they are — that they are a marvel, that they are unique, that there is no child in the world like them. I want my kids to learn to cherish one another (a lesson they force upon themselves every day as they seem to always default to fighting with each other). I want them to grow up doing everything in their power not to harm one another.

So what message are we communicating to our most cherished children when we are in a pandemic, there are no vaccines for the young kids, and yet everything seems to be life as normal? My kids got COVID from going to church, a place where you wouldn’t even know there was a pandemic still happening — no masks, crowds of kids, and, come to find out afterward, unvaccinated adult leaders. But in the States, this seems to be pretty normal. Kids church and sleepaway summer camp and indoor trampoline parks and indoor birthday parties (because it’s too hot outside, of course) and various other crowded events.

The message I most often see these days is that if kids get COVID, they will either be asymptomatic or their symptoms will be super mild.

My kids’ symptoms were not mild: they experienced fevers, lethargy, body aches, coughs, general discomfort, and trouble sleeping at night. My nine-year-old spiked to 104.9o F a couple of times. It was scary, and I wouldn’t wish it on any kid. Two full days of sickness and then the lingering cough that persists as I write this (over two weeks later) — no, this was not “mild.” And my kids (ages 9, 6 this Sunday, and 2) are healthy and active.

What audacity we adults have to live life as normal during these very much not normal times. Just because we can get vaccinated, we think “Oh, the kids will be fine.” And for the adults who haven’t gotten COVID, choose not to get vaccinated, then work closely with kids without wearing a mask, and then give kids COVID, I say this: you are negligent and reckless.

So how can we live a full life and attend events in a world where kids aren’t vaccinated? My advice is to be keenly observant and ask questions:

  1. The of-vaccinated-age humans who will be working with the kids: are they required to be vaccinated? Will they be required to wear masks?
  2. How much of the event will be indoors? Will we know the vaccinated status of the people who will be in attendance?
  3. Will the guests be asked and advised to remain home if they have symptoms, even if they think it’s just a cold?
  4. If someone from the event does contract COVID, how will I be notified?
  5. What, if any, extra precautions will be taken for the kids to prevent their contracting COVID?

And don’t forget to be observant. I wish I had been that fateful day at church. If anything feels off to you, just leave. Remember: the world is still experiencing a pandemic. You are absolutely justified to work in the best interests of your kids. And the preceding questions are reasonable. If you are met with hostility when asking any of these, just remind yourself: You love your kids — period.

Let’s treat our children with respect. They are marvels. They are unique. They are to be cherished.

And to my sesame seed baby: I love you already. You are a fighter, sticking around through my having COVID. I am hoping that you’ll stick around all the way until March. Sesame seeds may be mundane, but you are anything but.

Let’s work to make this world worthwhile for our children. That may start with protecting them from COVID.

Church in the Time of COVID

The evangelical church fears that recognizing women’s leadership will mean bowing to cultural peer pressure. But what if the church is bowing to cultural peer pressure by denying women’s leadership?

Beth Allison Barr, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth

And in other words: what if we’ve gotten it wrong? Barr acknowledges that in her work as a historian and as a teacher, asking the question, “What if I’m wrong?” has enabled her to be a better listener and to keep her humble.

If only we all could ask that question.

And while this particular book is about how we got it wrong in terms of women submitting to men, I can’t help but relate it to so many things I grew up believing about what it means to be a Christian. It is humbling. It is enabling me to be a better listener to people of other faiths and to people who are, simply put, different than I. And while I am moving in this direction, I feel an undercurrent of hostility towards me from The Church. No, not anything direct. Not any particular person. But hostility nonetheless. I sometimes think that if The Church knew what I really believed, they wouldn’t think I was a true Christian.

But I am not renouncing my faith. I hold firm to identifying myself as a Christian, but man it’s been a rough year to be a Christian. I have been embarrassed and ashamed of so many things The Christians have been up to. And when I get embarrassed and ashamed of a group of people I somewhat associate myself with, I start asking them questions.

I’ve always had a problem with getting shut down when I question things, whether it be as a member of a Bible study or as a teacher in a meeting. Have you experienced this? It’s frustrating. I like to discuss, challenge, and disagree with popular opinion. But when my questions or comments are seen as undermining The Faith or threatening the powers that be, they don’t go over well.

I remember being stuck in yet another English department meeting, slogging through the meeting to-do list. One item was to go through these gosh-awful, beastly, 3-ring binders and talk about how what we’re doing in the classroom is meeting blah blah blah particular standards. Listen: Standards are good. They can keep people accountable. But when you teach at a small school where department and division heads actually do visit your classroom and students do fill out teacher evaluation forms and in general The People do know what you’re doing in the classroom, taking 15 minutes for each teacher in the meeting to turn pages in a binder and describe what, in my opinion, was a very contrived, rule-following-robots type of classroom was a colossal waste of time. The first teacher finished her Goldilocks just-right curriculum, then the second, and then I couldn’t take it any more. I spoke up.

And that has always been my problem.

But its being my problem is The Problem. Why can’t I politely make a comment that perhaps this isn’t the most productive use of our time? Why is questioning the meeting to-do list met with such hostility?

Because it was. My department chair was MAD.

During a Bible study at The Church on a Wednesday night a couple years ago, I challenged the pastor’s take on a passage in Hosea. After I asked some “why” questions, the pastor said that Max Lucado says that it’s OK to ask “what, God,” but it’s not OK to ask “why, God.” I tried to look this quote up, to no avail. So I’m not sure if it’s even accurate, but there it was, stated to me from the pulpit. I shouldn’t ask why. Another elder spoke up to say that I was just struggling with my faith right now.

Well, what? (I can ask that, right?)

So when it comes to our being in a pandemic and things getting political about *all the things* and The Church having to vote on a president based on a single issue (why?), I can’t help but ask if we’ve gotten it wrong about some things.

When Steve and I went to church on Sunday, hardly a soul wore a mask. In our neon green ones, we felt like swamp monsters. None of the kids or kids’ leaders (that we saw) wore masks. We (naively? stupidly?) assumed that the adults working closely with the kids had been vaccinated.

When we got a text on Tuesday that someone who had worked with our kids that Sunday was unvaccinated and had tested positive, our first thought was “Wow, that was reckless.” But we thought we’d be fine. We had gone a year and a half without getting COVID, and Steve and I were just a few weeks out from being fully vaccinated (we got our first shot literally the first day we got to the States, which happened to be the day before church).

SPOILER ALERT: We all got COVID.

And I’m writing this in my COVID fog because I want to capture how my brain is working right now. I hope my writing is bearable. I hope I’m getting my points across. But I’m hazy, I’ll tell ya.

I’m disappointed in The Church. I’m disappointed that we can’t ask why. That doing something to protect others is seen as a political statement that comes with its own judgments.

And I have my personal regrets as well. When we got to church and saw the dearth of masks, why didn’t we hightail it outta there? I don’t know. But that’s our fault. We take full ownership of that.

Coming full circle, I think it’s time for The Christians to start taking a little look inward, asking some “why” questions, and definitely asking if maybe they’ve gotten it wrong on some things. As I am a Christian, I will be doing this as well. To take it one step further, I think it’s what God would want us to do. On the podcast The Faith Angle, Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt talk about how doubting things about God and the Bible and religion means that your faith is alive. What an interesting perspective.

So maybe you fear wearing a mask or getting a vaccine will communicate to people that you are a Biden-idolizing, abortion-loving liberal.* But what if wearing a mask or getting a vaccine is how you can show Jesus’ love — by communicating that even though you might not want to do this, you’re doing it on the off chance that it might help others.

Because my understanding of Christianity is that it’s about others.

*To those people who choose not to get vaccinated and live a stay-relatively-at-home-or-around-a-few-designated-people kind of life, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the people who are living life in a pandemic as “life as normal,” or treating life in a pandemic as some political thing, or treating life in a pandemic as a way the secular world is trying to undermine God.

And another note: if anyone from this particular church reads this, please contact me directly and let’s chat. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I felt I should be candid in relaying my experience.