Garvey: The pandemic is over but the sickness has just begun
The pandemic is over.
How do I know?
Not because COVID has gone away — no, I realize that many are still getting sick and even dying from the virus — and not because we no longer mask up or get booster shots (in fact, I just wore a mask at the doctor’s office today and am scheduling family boosters for next month).
No, I know the pandemic is over because fall has, once again, become an unbroken string of sicknesses working its way through the inhabitants of our house for months on end.
These minor but annoying illnesses disappeared for years. After all, we were mostly isolated, only venturing out when everyone was masked, vaccinated, outside or (during the worst of the pandemic) all three. During those halcyon days, the kids didn’t have so much as a sniffle, let alone the parade of weirdo childhood illnesses like roseola and fifth disease.
Now we’re back to explaining to the grandparents that, no, hand, foot and mouth disease isn’t something farm animals get but is instead one of those childhood illnesses that they and everyone else probably had by the time they were 2.
For the last couple of years, kids have mostly been sheltered from other kids, who carry germs home the same way they transport leaves and rocks from the park.
But I’m remembering now what it was like in the Before Days, when our oldest went to day care for the first time. I’m remembering how he was sick, almost nonstop, from November to April, one time even simultaneously getting strep throat and hand, foot and mouth, and I’m dreading something similar this year.
We’ve already been through a metric ton of COVID tests (all negative), popsicles and children’s Tylenol. We’ve been to urgent care and the pediatrician’s office and (during one particularly rough night) the ER at the children’s hospital.
We get messages from school and where they used to only warn of COVID outbreaks, now they talk of strep and RSV and flu — even lice (shudder). In the spring of 2020, the chances that your kids would get close enough to a non-family member to catch something like lice were nil to none.
But the pandemic is over. Those days are gone.
I realized when we sent the kids to school this year that we’d be in for it.
“They’re going to get sick,” I warned my husband. Their immune systems, particularly our younger son’s, whose early childhood has been spent sheltered by the umbrella of COVID restrictions, just hadn’t gotten the workout they needed. But they’d have to be exposed to the world sooner or later.
It’ll be like ripping off a bandage, I told myself. A couple of months of runny noses and a few days out from school and then they’d be fine.
Instead, they’ve spent so much time at home that they now thrill to hear that they’re running a temperature, knowing it means a day away from school, one full of TV and eating whatever they want.
I told the younger one that he’d be going back to school after his second timeout in three weeks.
“I’m going to be sick tomorrow,” he said with a smile.
He coughed artfully at breakfast and made sure I took note.
“I’m coughing!” he hollered while I was in the kitchen packing up their lunches.
“You’re still going to school!” I hollered back.
For like a march through the muck, there’s no stopping now.
We must continue, no matter how long our trip through The Land of Kid Disease takes, no matter how bedraggled we are when we get there.
After all, we should be happy. The pandemic is over.
What a relief, right?
To learn more about Georgia Garvey, visit GeorgiaGarvey.com.