Five months ago I had to tell my three year-old she couldn’t go back to school. She couldn’t play with her friends or her grandparents. Because of the germs. A few months after that we drove past a Black Lives Matter protest and I had to try to explain why people were holding signs and standing in the rain. I can’t say I ever planned on tackling a pandemic and systematic racism with my kid before she turned four.
So what did we do?
We started working from home. I made sourdough bread and cloth masks. We’ve perfected hand-washing. We Zoom. We’ve seen deer, turtles, and millipedes in our yard and in the park. We’ve talked about why some people may judge us or our friends because of the color of our skin. We stopped wearing real pants.
It hasn’t been easy. But it also hasn’t been the worst.
My conservative, male-dominated workplace was booted into the 21st century when it comes to remote-working and work-life balance. A pandemic with working parents has made our challenges a hot topic. It’s no longer out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Our children are literally attending our Zoom meetings with us. And shockingly, we’re still productive!
Elsa, our sourdough starter has spawned Anna, Kristoph, Olaf, and countless others. Not only do we have fresh bread weekly, but I still get updates on how Elsa’s brethren are doing from friends and former strangers. We’ve gotten such joy spreading joy to others with a little flour and water.
Pre-pandemic it was easy to let errands and activities divide us up as family on the weekends. Now, we spend nearly every weekend singing together at Tot Shabbat and hiking through the woods of Maryland. Andrew is learning songs in Hebrew nearly as fast as Lulu and Rosie. Lulu is teaching Rosie about sharing and singing really loudly. Rosie is teaching Lulu about patience and sometimes throwing caution to the wind. I learned to like hiking and am kvelling in it all.
Representation and race have become common topics of conversation within our family, friends, coworkers, and even distant acquaintances. I had a conversation about representation in books with Lulu’s preschool teacher and later found out she had taken it upon herself to ensure her classroom would have a books that accurately reflected the diversity of the children in her class. My coworker hosted a panel about African-American’s views on systematic racism and ended up having a productive conversation with someone who Zoom-bombed the panel declaring All Lives Matter. The individual subsequently showed up in a respectful manner to another panel on micro-aggressions.
It’s been five long months. I’m tired. I want a break. I want our country to move forward in acknowledging and repairing the racial inequality that is ingrained in our culture. I want a vaccine. But those things take time. If I hinge my outlook on those things happening, I’m going to be holding my breath for a while. So for now, I’m measuring progress in the small things. In the connections that we’ve made and strengthened. In the conversations and growth I’ve seen in myself, my family, and others. Because if I can see positive change in just a few individuals, that’s a few more people making our world just a little bit better. And right now I’ll take a little.