Wild Things Escape

Middle kid elected not to be photographed.

After nineteen months, my kids have finally been reunited with their grandparents (my parents). My husband and I went to Italy in November 2019 and my parents stayed with the kids, and that was the last time they saw each other before the pandemic shut everything down. Now, with all the adults fully vaccinated, we have escaped our quarantine and traveled across the country to get some much needed hugs from Nana and Baba.

While we are super serious about the pandemic rules, we also don’t have much experience implementing them, since we barely left our house for over a year. I know that social distancing is key, and so is hand-washing and mask-wearing, but it’s still odd to see everyone in a mask or notice giant bottles of antibacterial everywhere. When standing in line at the airport, I’d realize I was too close to the person in front of me, having not stood around other people in a hundred years and forgetting what is socially acceptable and also COVID acceptable.

My oldest, flinging himself into the surf repeatedly

My parents unfortunately live in Florida, so we couldn’t just drive to see them and avoid the whole airport situation, and we were able to get a great visit in with my in-laws two months ago since they could drive to El Paso and limit their contact with others. Florida is a wild place. Since I reached peak immunity after my second shot, I started going in to grocery stores (though not at busy times), and every business I’ve visited in our city still requires masks. Obviously the people who insisted they didn’t need masks in the first place are not going to get vaccinated from a disease they think is imaginary, so I appreciate the places still requiring face coverings to protect others from contagious delinquents.

In Florida, mask wearers are the minority by far. I finally got a haircut and everyone in the salon had on a mask including me, but every other place we’ve been is full of people with their mouths exposed. Honestly, all people should wear masks all the time. Mouths are mostly disgusting and if they don’t have COVID they have colds and flus and coffee breath so just do us all a favor and tell the public to wear masks forever.

My youngest enjoying lunch on the beach

I’m not a big beach person. I like to see water, especially since we moved to El Paso and rarely see water if ever, but I hate sand and always get burned despite my SPF 50. Today we took the kids to the beach and there was a lot of crying. Mostly my middle kid, who has always struggled with sensations like sandy toes, excessive heat, strong wind, salty water, bright sun, and so on forever. Honestly, it’s a lot to go to the beach in Florida in June when you haven’t left your house for over a year. He was instantly miserable and I told him if he absolutely hated it, he didn’t have to go back when the family returned to the beach in a couple days.

That’s pretty much my parenting philosophy: if you give something a try and you hate it, you don’t have to do it again (except for necessary stuff like the dentist). Sometimes I will make a new dish for dinner that is made up of all his favorite foods but is otherwise unfamiliar, and I’ll be insistent that he try it, maybe even two bites worth, but usually one rejected bite is enough for me to agree it goes on the “no thank you” list. It’s normal to not like things. Have you ever met an adult who loved every single food? Or enjoyed every movie they’d ever watched? I have one kid that legitimately doesn’t like potatoes, except for fries. I’ve made them every way I could think of, and he doesn’t like them, so I don’t offer anymore. Another kid hates the snow monster in Frozen. He watched it, thought about it, and decided he doesn’t care for that scene. It’s okay to have certain things you dislike.

After attempting to deescalate with my middle kid, he said he needed a potty break and was mad we were at the beach where he couldn’t go to the bathroom. Luckily, this beach had a very nice bathroom and I walked him to the little hut while he sobbed and fretted about the sun and and the heat and the sand. Once he was situated on the potty, he looked around and stopped crying. He told me he was scared that there would be fish in the water and he would be allergic to them. His new allergy is scary for all of us, and it’s hard to know what is safe and what isn’t. It’s not like when we found out he was allergic to peanuts and we already knew he could eat other nuts and products labeled “made in a factory that processes peanuts” without any problems. This allergy is new, and all the rules have changed. Nothing we were able to do before is relevant now, because six months ago he wasn’t allergic to fish.

Leaving the house has been challenging for all of us. It kind of feels like walking on a tightrope without a net. The house has everything we love and everything we need and nothing that can poison us, like jars of peanut butter or cross contamination in the kitchen (we no longer eat fish with the kids at the table). When we leave, it’s difficult to remember all the things we need every day, like when I remembered to pack all the equipment to treat an allergic reaction (Benadryl, EPI pens, etc) but forgot the daily allergy meds the kids take for seasonal allergies.

My middle child, smiling at the beach.

My son was scared at the beach because of sensory overload, but also because he didn’t want to be in a place that might not have a bathroom, or dip his toes in water that might hurt him. And really, that’s completely understandable. He warmed up once he saw my mom building sand castles with his siblings, and I told him what we would do differently next time we went, like putting sunscreen on before we left the house so it wouldn’t get all sandy. He spent the rest of the time we were there drawing in wet sand and rolling in the water, so I’m hopeful he’ll give it another shot.

We are learning from each experience and trying to make it easier on the kids or easier on ourselves the next time around. Though I’m more of a pool person than a beach person, it was a stunning sight — so much open water when our world has been so small for so long.

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