Twenty-two years ago on March 23rd, 1998, my son was 7 weeks old. Upon entering our apartment, anyone who visited us was told to go and wash their hands. Upon exiting the bathroom, they needed to go through me before they could see my son. “Do you or did you have a cold, a headache, any symptoms at all of being unwell? Have you been around anyone who was ill lately?” I was protecting my first born with the fierceness and authenticity of a new parent – in a way that felt unfamiliar yet critically important. Does this sound familiar? To some of you and particularly today, I am sure it does. At that time, my brother-in-law who is a family doctor, tried to remind me that a few germs are good for us, they build immunity – but I was having none of that.
Today, as the world watches together waiting for a cure, for treatments and for the sadness and the heartbreak of each day to subside before it starts again – we are regularly reminded that for this moment, even a few germs are bad. COVID19 can weaken, sicken and kill those with compromised immune systems and sometimes may even do so to healthy people with seemingly no underlying conditions at all. We are all “new parents” as we face this virus together – facing the unknown and unfamiliar as we strive to protect our children, or own parents, our friends, our neighbors and ourselves. There are few experts yet on this new and novel disease, so all we can do is the best we can. Listening to science, even as the science evolves is what we must do. For many of us who are asymptomatic or untouched by the virus, our job is to stay at home, to not mingle in groups, to wash our hands regularly. Science is showing us that this will and can help save lives. This seems something we each can and must do; something we must help our children understand and something we can do together as a family.
Today, my beautiful, strong and wise children – my 22 year old son and my 20 year old
daughter – are once again in our family home, as we “shelter in place;” a small blessing I am so thankful for as we travel this unprecedented and unplanned journey together. Life certainly has had its ups and downs for each of us – together and apart – but to be with my children at this moment, is a blessing I am holding on to. Amongst the many upheavals we face, one collective sadness is social distancing. This is playing out in my house whereby no one is allowed to touch one another –- no hugs, no kisses – a deprivation from a humane comfort that is ingrained deeply in most all of us.
My daughter recently returned from studying abroad in Ireland, and we are respecting a 14 day quarantine. My son may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, so we are being cautious as well. My husband – a doctor who treats cancer patients – is trying to be as careful as possible so he can continue to effectively treat his patients and so that they stay as healthy as they can too. We want his home to be a safe place where he can rest and relax – as the craziness builds for him, as he works hard to maintain calm as he cares for so many others, for himself and for us too. I am so thankful to be in the presence of my family; to hear their voices, to come together for meals, and be present for each other – even if it is from across the room. I have so many friends who are separated from their children and loved ones – be it across an ocean, a city or even because of the restrictions of gathering with those in a neighboring town – so I am truly counting my blessings.
As Climate Mamas and Papas, the similarities, the concerns and the understanding of impending and current climate disasters that we witness with increasing regularity and that we warn others about, seems to be playing out as a worst case scenario comes crashing down upon us in real time. COVID19 has opened a floodgate for many of us – we have been living with the knowledge that we have limited time to slow down our climate crisis, but this experience is showing us what NO time looks like.
As I have written in my upcoming book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change, Turning Angst into Action:
“Even as we acknowledge and allow ourselves to feel the weight of the sadness that our climate crisis (COVID19 crisis) has laid bare, I believe we must consciously validate and make room for active hope. We must find ways to build this, as we nurture the determination and resolve that we will move forward, so that these feelings can find a way to settle into our lives. Each and every feeling is real and must be acknowledged and affirmed for us to be able to take the next step forward. Accepting the depth of the crisis and action on this in a commensurate way – without losing our sanity, our hope or our resolve – is how we will keep going.”
Know that brilliant minds around the world are coming together to work on solutions, to fixes, to cures and to ways forward and through COVID19. Remind your children of this as you continue to remind yourself.
At the same time, show your children through your actions, how you are reaching out and connecting to your community, your family, and your friends – those close by, those far away, and those you may not have connected with in a long time and are now moved to do so. I think one of the important lasting lessons we can teach our children and that we all may come away with, is the recognition of the critical importance of community – both online and off. Community built by people who see things from different sides but are all connected by the crisis we face together.
Community builds our strength, our resolve and our active hope.
To all our dear Climate Mamas and Papas, thank you for being our community for all these years. Take care of yourselves, reach out and be in touch. We are all in this together.
Your Climate Mama