I have witnessed quite a few things in my lifetime. I have tried to keep at the forefront of my mind at all times the need to “always expect the unexpected.” Even in doing so, life sometimes throws me curveballs that knock me flat on my face and takes away my very breath. From my experiences, I know all too well that what is considered normal to us can change at any time. A perfect example is the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic that changed everything as we knew it and continues to affect us even today. Yet never in my wildest or scariest dream would I have ever imagined that our kid’s chances of having a normal childhood would be hanging in the balance. Our young children’s innocence and purity have been marred by matters that should not be their concern so early in life. They are fully aware of how vulnerable they are to sickness, diseases, and even death. I cannot remember any moment in my life as a young child growing up in which I was aware or concerned about matters of such a severe nature. I didn’t even know that they existed; there was just beauty and perfection all around in my young eyes. A lot has certainly changed over the years.
Sometime this week, I took my son with me to run a few errands. My first stop was at the car wash. As I pulled into the complex, I began to gather all the things that I needed to remove from my car before I handed over the key to the attendant. My son, seated in the back, noticed that I was about to get out of the car without him. I also had my mask on because I try to ensure that I exercise precaution when coming in close contact with others. I went to the side of the car, opened the door, and asked my son to come out. What he did next shattered my heart into a million pieces. My son outrightly refused to come out of the car unless I put his mask on. These were his exact words, “Mommy, mommy, please put my mask on now because I do not want to get sick.” I quickly placed the mask on his face and only then did he get out of the car. He was in a complete state of panic and I could tell that he was scared. At that moment, I could not help but think about how cruel life could be. A few weeks before this incident, my son, hubby, and I entered a food establishment. As soon as he became aware that he was not wearing his mask, he began to tug at my dress with much urgency while shouting, “mommy we have to leave quickly, I am not wearing my mask.” He further said, “let’s go now, hurry before I get sick.” I had no choice but to go back to the car to get him a mask. I am just saddened by everything that is taking place in our world today. A three-year-old child should not have to worry about these things. He should not have to cover his face to walk around outside. He should not have to deal with the ugly side of life so soon. His only care should be playing, having fun, and annoying the heck out of us. Unfortunately, this is not so and I can’t help but to wish that I could protect him from it all, and to be honest, I feel helpless at times.
Before these two incidents took place, I never really considered to what extent has the pandemic (COVID-19) affected and continues to affect our children. We have gotten so caught up in the nightmare that we can’t seem to wake up from and how much we have been affected that we inadvertently forget to consider what our children must be going through. Certainly, they too had to make a few adjustments like staying from school and daycare. I now realized how much of a big change that must be. For this reason, we have to be vigilant as parents and guardians because younger children may not be able to explain well how they are feeling but through careful observation of their behaviors and actions and interacting with them we can know what is going on.
It unsettles my spirit greatly that my toddler cannot venture outdoors as freely as he desires. It hurts my spirit that he cannot attend school, social gatherings, play with his friends, or even run wild and free at the park. Instead, he has been forced into a way of life that restricts almost everything that a child should do. Before Corona hit, I have always valued modern technology as a great advancement in human civilization. It has undoubtedly made life so much more convenient. However, we have allowed it to invade our children’s lives a bit too much. Our children have become way too exposed to countless things that they have no business learning at such a vulnerable age. It has become their friends, playtime and for some of them their parents sad to say. Our children are being robbed of their innocence, purity, and everything that makes them so corny and cute.
Many children today tend to act more like grown-ups; it’s like they do not know how to be a child. Some are even made to dress and carry themselves like adults and interestingly enough, we allow this. When it comes to socialization, forget it. They have zero clues about how to socialize with their friends without a cell phone. I am always so taken aback when I observe my daughter with her friends, it is the strangest thing to me as hanging out means she is on her phone doing something and her friends are on their phones doing something completely different. Mind you, this is normal to them.
What happened to getting together with friends and talking as if they have not seen each other in years? What happened to the cute little dresses, bonnets, ribbons, baby dolls for our girls and the little knee-high shorts, toy fire trucks, and police cars for our boys? Why have we allowed this to change for the most part? And I say we because I am holding myself accountable as well. Nowadays, as a baby exits its mother’s womb, a technological device is placed in front of them. They struggle with interacting face-to-face or playing together and sharing. Their idea of playing together means both sitting within proximity of each other and watching their tablet or cell phones. They no longer play with little toys, scribble on furniture/walls (even though we could all do without that part). Where are the cute little paintings and drawings that crowded the refrigerator from the week’s activities at home? What happened to the many loose pieces of paper with artwork? The cards for special occasions done in school that were so much they drove us crazy because we did not know where to put them? When did being outside become such a chore for most kids who have grown so accustomed to spending hours indoors in front of screens? And most importantly, who is to blame?
My three-year-old toddler would often complain of being bored. As I write this piece I can hear his sweet little voice saying, “Mommy, I am so bored.” What does he know about boredom? And how is it that he cannot find anything interesting to do when there are countless toys, books, and games all around him? Where did we go wrong as parents that our kids do not know what to do if not holding a phone or tablet? However, when my son said, “mommy, I am tired of this, I need friends,” regarding the quarantine, I understood exactly what he meant and that is exactly how he should feel as a child. His comment assured me that all hope is not lost. My little sister got married a few weeks ago hence we visited the lovely island. While there I was having a conversation with my other sister about our year-old daughter when she told me that her daughter said that “Auntie Jes will soon have a baby now because she is married.” Even though I was dumbfounded upon hearing this, we had a good laugh. Not that she is inappropriate for saying this but it is a perfect example of how much they know. I feel like we are caring for and raising “adult toddlers” because there is just nothing kiddie in these kids sometimes, especially when they open their mouths to speak.
Our children are being robbed of their childhood, their youth. Their innocence is stolen. Where do we go from here and how can we fix it? How do we safeguard our children during this unpredictable and frightening time and still foster an environment where they can be kids?
Here are a few suggestions of what we could very well do:
- We have to be intentional as parents. Our children are our responsibility and we must protect and guide them mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And I said spirituality because the powers that be may want us to believe otherwise but children need to know about God. Technology cannot replace our roles and functions. Only we can do it and do it right.
- Allow children to enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as being wild and free, making messes, saying the strangest things that cause us to laugh our heads off.
- Limit the amount of time spent on tablets, cell phones, & video games. Monitor their activities, especially when using these devices. They need friends not just gadgets to learn how to socialize with their peers.
- Expose them to age-appropriate content and situations. Shield them from the behaviors and actions of a graphic nature. Do not corrupt their beautiful minds.
- Teach them to be active and productive. Encourage their talents and abilities in the old fashion way, nothing is wrong with it. Create daily activities for them to do such as painting, drawing, writing, reading from books.
- They are never too young to learn healthy lifestyle habits, for example, diet and exercise. Sitting all day eating and not doing much movement is no good for them.
- Re-introduce them to the great outdoors; there is so much to learn and explore in nature and the world around them in general. They should be in settings that encourage them to use their imagination.
- Most importantly, be the example that they can follow. Remember, “children live what they learn.”