Growing up, I patiently waited for my turn on the colorful Apple computer at school to play the pixelated Oregon Trail game. I worked so hard to win the game without getting dysentery. The game carried over into pretend play with my siblings as I was always trying to keep them and my stuffies healthy and avoid dysentery. Now, I see a similar struggle as my kids play with their stuffies, all of whom seem to be getting COVID. While part of me is sad about this, I have realized, it’s truly their reality.
At least that’s true for two of my kids, who likely don’t have many memories pre-COVID.
My twins turned 3 in May 2019. They were too young to realize they missed out on a big blowout birthday party the following year, or why COVID prevented us from taking any big trips that summer. They didn’t know what they weren’t able to do (except for what big brother liked to rub in a bit), but of course, they were happy well-rounded kiddos. They went to preschool where they always saw their teachers in masks and had to deal with quarantines and testing and extra hand washing. As now 5-year-olds, they’re getting to do things for the “first” time, which is really their first-time post-COVID lockdowns and COVID restrictions, as we did many things when they were younger and stroller stuck.
Now that they’re both in kindergarten, and pretend play has evolved a bit more. I’ve been able to overhear the storylines they’re creating and it is so reminiscent of those days on the Trail. They’ve had animals who have the sniffles and need to sit out from activities with the family. They’ve had dolls who have had to go to see the doctor to get checked out and get their nose swab (using q-tips to do this). And they’ve brought their stuffies to see “Dr. Mom” to get their COVID shots.
While I never had a real personal connection to the Oregon Trail, they 100% have a personal connection to this experience of COVID, as it’s undeniable. While part of me is sad, I’m also proud. They recognize the issues and struggles, they have been patient as we’ve waited for results, and have been kind when we’ve had friends sick and have dropped food and toys to help them feel picked up. They haven’t been nervous to be with people and have dealt with it all, asked questions and wanted to learn how to get past the moment.
What I’m realizing is that COVID has taught my kids that we aren’t on some journey all alone into the Wild West, but rather one together as a greater community – and as a globe. We have family overseas, and getting to hear how they’ve dealt with COVID (the same masking, vaccinations and lockdowns as us) has helped my kids to see just how small the world really is, and how connected we truly are.
Looking on the bright side, I hope when we finally get past COVID, we recognize the steps to take to mitigate something like this in the future, but more importantly, we notice how our kids have resiliently pushed through the many ups and downs. It’s been such a challenge to see and parent through – I’m sure you can all relate.