To be a parent is to feel guilty. For everything, for nothing – but all the time. It’s that little bitter taste, constantly: this feeling of failure, this feeling that we could have, that we should have done better. And being a parent in the midst of a pandemic means discovering lots of new reasons to feel guilty.
In advance, we do not cut it: it is surely my fault. I should have been more patient. I’m probably doing it wrong. Maybe I should have made some other decision. We love these little humans so much, we want to take them as far as they can go that we never want to go wrong and offer them the perfect parent they deserve.
But as if this were not already enough, to all these unjustified reproaches that are addressed on a daily basis, since last spring, a host of small blame has been added to hitherto unseen.
In the winter, in our case, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at school. Overnight, the school closed, the children were collected in isolation, and screening was highly recommended. There was then the guilt of having sent them to school despite the risk. The guilt of not having been able to prevent the inevitable. The nagging guilt, the one that twists inward, of seeing the tears rolling down their cheeks as they were thrusting a swab into their nose. I’m still gluing pieces of my heart that broke that day; I believe I have misplaced some for good.
The holiday break has come to an end, and since then there’s been the guilt of sending the kids back to this school ignoring the fact that, probably, the second episode won’t be long in coming.
To be a parent in a pandemic means having to make groping decisions in a world of chronic unpredictability and hope not to regret them. It is only being able to assess each other’s desirability after the fact. It’s not obvious, and it’s not over yet.
We still have a long way to go, and it will continue to be difficult. But, with a little luck, when we return to our little guilt of the past, they will seem to us by comparison very futile.