Growing up behind a mask.

Two weeks at a time is no way to live. It’s also no way to be a father.

I bring this up because I feel like this is how we have been living since nine months ago when we all collectively decided to “flatten the curve.” Two weeks turned into two months, followed by the brief respite of summer and then here we are again. Now I have considerably less interest in criticizing the past than I do in developing a better vision for the future and that requires an honest assessment of the present situation. Whichever side of the political spectrum regarding the public health response to this pandemic that you take; the fact remains that we must navigate our existence within it’s confines.

Please allow me an anecdote involving balloon animals…

Last week, for my birthday, my wife gave me a package of “balloon creations.” It included 40 balloons, an air pump and diagrams on the box to make a bee, two dogs and a bunny. Come Saturday, my boys and I found some time in the afternoon to crack that baby open and let our inner, circus-clown, freak flag fly. As it turns out, we had zero interest in making the diagrams on the box and pivoted instead to creating inflatable swords, guns and mystical weapons of mass destruction. I did my best to craft these weapons and then compensated my lack of balloon manipulating ability for some clever storytelling. My youngest two boys were nonetheless enthusiastic about their floppy weaponry and compensated with their own creative spins. I made the older boy a nuclear bomb which made the younger one jealous so I made him one too. This posed the obvious dilemma of a cold war. The older boy asserted his dominance by declaring that his nuke was in fact a super nuke but to my surprise the younger boy went deafcon 1 and declared that his nuke was super magical, unbeatable and awesome.

“That’s stupid and you are dumb.” The older boy said.

“No.” The younger boy replied. “You’re stupid and my bomb just killed you forever times.”

Check, fuckin, mate. Only what happened instead was a fist fight and they both lost.

Welcome to virtually any adult conversation today.  We are too busy winning the inconsequential battles to so much as acknowledge the full scope of what it will take to win the war. That war being not only surviving this pandemic but actually preserving our culture throughout it.

We’ve been holding our breath for two weeks at a time for nine, damn months,  hoping that we will magically snap out of this nightmare and life as we knew it will resume, uninterrupted.

The time has come to acknowledge that that we are in this mess for the long haul. More importantly, we are in it together.  Part of this, unfortunately means wearing a mask. Personally, I dont believe that it will be going out of fashion for some time and so I ask the question; what does it mean to grow up behind a mask?

My youngest boy is a kindergartner. His only experience with school and consequently the building blocks of socialization are being developed behind a mask. Kids are resilient but still, I am unequiped to understand how this will affect his development as a human. What happens in 3rd grade when suddenly the masks may come off and it’s the only thing these kids have ever known?

Honestly I don’t know the answer but I know that these are the questions that we need to be asking.

Two weeks from now will leave us feeling the same as we did two weeks ago. The opportunity exists for us dads to do what we do best and assess the true lay of the land and make our own decisions about how to navigate this next bit. Forget the battles, we are fighting a war and our children’s right to a bright future hangs in the balance. The time has come to abandon the comfortable thought that this will be quickly resolved and instead take the long view for what it will take to navigate this storm.

Forget the battles and win the war.