We are exceedingly comfortable
I'm working through something really tough this week. I'm trying to figure out the balance between fair and unfair, and I'm still not sure I'm entirely on the side of that line I'd like, but I've done a lot of thinking and seeking about it this year in hopes of finding balance between my fears and my truths. It's a more difficult question, I've found, than any I've faced since my days as a doula, when I ended up going against most of my peers on the question of whether or not it's appropriate to have an opinion on someone else's choices. In general, I err on the side of not; I trust people most of the time to make good decisions. But there are exceptions: I think you should always vaccinate your children unless there's a real medical reason not to; I think you should probably not circumcise your infant without giving it serious, self-challenging thought; I will not support a decision to have an unassisted home birth (please, for the love of pete, do not do this). I haven't, quite, come to firm ground on the question that's been bothering me lately, but I think I'm a lot closer to it than not. The problem is that, in general, I have a fairly strict value of validating others' decisions for themselves, and I really try to make sure that any exceptions to that value are ones I've given a lot of energy to untangling in myself.
On Monday, the announcement was finally made official that Toronto won't have trick-or-treating this year, and I found myself deep in a heady, seething rage. Not about the announcement, because I'd known since cases started spiking again in mid-September that trick-or-treating didn't make sense, but about the reactions I was seeing from people I otherwise mostly respect and expect to be more "with it" than that. I felt fury that they had waited this long to make that decision when all the facts informing the choice seemed very clearly on the side of do not do that. I shared those raw feelings with some friends, the ones I trust to tell me if I'm being totally unreasonable, and spent a lot of hours revisiting the last several rounds of similar events in the last eight months.
We've definitely been on the extremely cautious end of the spectrum when it comes to our household's responses to the pandemic. We rarely go out at all beyond a walk or bike ride in our neighbourhood; we took one trip to the zoo when citywide cases were in the single-digits and admission was strictly limited, but that's the only outing we've taken since March. I pulled Beans from daycare and gave up my coworking space about a week before anybody else started doing those things, and we don't even go for drives long enough that we might need to stop to pee halfway through. We've been home, almost without fail, since March. We are planning for that to continue well into next year.
In the episode of The Parent Rap that comes out tomorrow, our guest, Olivia, compares our feelings about Covid responses to feelings about traffic: everybody going slower than you is being ridiculously cautious, and everybody going faster than you is a maniac. I've been thinking about that since she brought it up, and I do acknowledge that there's some room for variation in what we're doing. There's room for varying comfort levels, and varying choices. But I can't help but feel like there's also a question of the breadth of that acceptable spectrum. My feelings on Covid responses have very, very quickly fallen in line with my feelings on vaccinations. There are, of course, some exceptions; if your choice is between danger (medical, economic, or interpersonal) and the danger of Covid to yourself and your community, I do trust you to make the best choice available to you. We're all balancing our needs and values against those of our communities right now, and all I can justifiably ask is that you do the work of trying to maintain that balance. Those of us who can stay in need to be staying in to minimize the risk of exposure for those who can't stay in.
But when the choice is between figuring out how to celebrate a holiday in a fun and meaningful way at home or choosing to go about things as if running around the neighbourhood interacting with a bunch of kids isn't an inherently high-risk activity right now, I'm not feeling especially forgiving. We acknowledged in April that our plans for 2020 were out the window, and instead we made new plans. Have we lost things, grieved things, had bad days and toddler meltdowns? Abso-freaking-lutely. But we knew those things were coming, and we've planned around them, and we've done birthdays and holidays and activities for months that have been meaningful and fun without adding risk to ourselves or anyone else.
I'm exhausted by people waiting for permission to break the rules. I'm exhausted by people just outright breaking them. I'm exhausted because we have been so careful, not only for ourselves but for the entire human population, and it seems like so many people are pressing their whole selves against the gates waiting for the slightest give, as if the rules exist only for their own sake and not as a way to keep as many of us as possible healthy and alive. We are being careful not because we're afraid, but because we love you. Most of the ways we love our neighbours in the modern western world are about respecting the rules that help us protect one another. And whenever that's the ultimate question, I struggle fiercely against the people who don't want to do it.
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