Other People’s Children

(Photo from Evanston, Illinois, 2018 when social distancing wasn’t a thing.  Henry on the right and Jedi on the left hanging with the neighbors.)

Thoughts about our children during the Era of the Coronavirus March 18, 2020.

While waiting for the flu and pneumonia shots at the pharmacy, a child comes to look at my iPad.

I work at keeping a “safe” distance, and I am not at all happy about it.

I want to engage with this kid as much as she wants to see what is on my screen. I want to put her in my lap and let her know she is a good kid, and life is friendly.

We have already compromised, at a distance, and with body language over who should sit in the chair remaining unoccupied or who should take the stool at the blood pressure station. The choice just a few weeks ago was simple, sit wherever you please. Now it is complicated. I am a stranger, and, as in “normal” times, the child wants to be next to her mother, and but now as times are just weird and awkward social distancing has become a thing and another layer to the decision.  Social distancing is a concept this young child has already started to understand.

I take the stool, and she bounces up and off the seat more times than I can count. I think I would be jumping with her, next to her, laughing, giggling, enjoying the moment in a time just weeks ago.

None of us know where to position ourselves to be safe. We know the expected 6 feet. I imagine my dog’s leash stretched to measure that distance. The only other time I noted the length of my dog’s leash was at the pet shop a few years ago when deciding if I should get the 6-foot leash or the 10-foot leash and the choice was all about convenience, not measuring a safe distance between people.

The mother, watching her daughter do her bouncing, looks a bit confused, unable to speak due to a recent stroke.

She shows me she has had one by thumb-typing the word stroke on her phone.

She communicates she is unsure how much to let her daughter engage with me, with a shrug, and the look in her eyes is as if asking permission. I let her know it’s okay and I am happy for the energy she is providing, at the designated “safe” distance.

The shiny brown face sits over THERE, and I here, and we pull things up on our screens and hold them up for each other to view.

She pulls up monsters scaring children. Terrifying monsters, terrifying children, and me as well. I say those are too scary for me and shutter, “Please no more”.

I quietly think this is how it feels right now. Monsters we can’t control, jumping out of anywhere.

How do you help a child understand all of this? A stroke attacked her mother, just like a monster out of nowhere.

This virus could attack anyone…seemingly out of nowhere. Certainly invisible until it isn’t.

I pull up photos of my dog, Henry. She asks for more, and I, with a breath of relief from seeing anything scarier, gladly provide them.

Henry 3/2020


Other people’s children,

They are our children.

Other people’s children are our future,


How do you teach them not to cough or sneeze as they please? Not to touch or stand too close?

How do you teach them compassion and loving without a hug? But with a smile on their lips? With love in their eyes?

How do you teach them that their spontaneous joy must be withdrawn without affecting the entirety of the rest of their life?

How do you teach them that the Coronavirus is scary, but don’t be afraid?

How do you do this?

Really, how?