I am writing to you from a very specific vantage point of parenting, which is to say, the five-and-under crowd. I am one of those parents who could appreciate the silver linings of Spring 2020, but if you asked me if I miss that season, my answer would be a resounding ABSOLUTELY NOT. In March, when public life ground to a halt, my two boys were three-years-old and nine-months-old, and my husband and I began the exhausting task of spinning the various plates of our roles as parents, partners, and employees. We dropped a lot of plates. Like, every day. The ones that kept spinning, were sometimes wobbling and barely staying aloft, held up only by another takeout order or another 23 minutes of screen time or a pre-dinner walk around the block to stomp in every rain puddle we could find.
Like a lot of parents, I worry about any long-term effects that might linger after we all go back to normal (whatever that means). I hope my youngest child, who is fifteen months now, doesn’t miss out on language development because his caregivers have to wear masks. I hope my three-year-old doesn’t fall behind socially because he was stuck with two grumpy adults and a baby for months on end. I can go down a pretty dark path when I listen to the pessimistic part of my brain, but while I think it’s okay to grieve the loss of balance we all used to rely on, I try not to rest there for too long.
As a library patron, I’m grateful for the ways that our library still brightened our days. The many virtual storytimes gave us some structure and something to look forward to, and my toddler grew to love some favorites (shout out to Miss Holly and Fred the dog, and Miss Shannon!). Once curbside pickup became available, refreshing our library book collection was on the same level of excitement as a birthday morning. It eased the monotony and gave me some desperately needed bargaining chips to bribe my child into his room for nap time.
I’m also deeply grateful for my mother-in-law, who has dedicated a slice of her Sunday morning to a storytime with my toddler, every single week since this all began. It’s a gift I would not have anticipated when I first mourned the loss of face-to-face time with loved ones. I kind of hope my kids don’t remember much from this time in our lives, but if they do remember anything, I hope the love shining through those virtual storytimes sticks with them for years to come. Just because it was distant and remote doesn’t make it any less real.
Branch Librarian, East Grand Rapids
This article was originally published in the Kaleidoscope Winter 2020-2021 issue.