“One Impossible Thing At a Time.” Sheltering Children in the Midst of COVID-19.
March 22, 2020
I binged 10 hours of Star Trek: Picard yesterday. I haven’t binge-watched any TV since being on bedrest over a decade ago https://drplasticpicker.com/covid-19-social-distancing-is-like-bedrest-kevinmd-version/. I was making myself sick from worry because I thought I may have COVID-19. I won’t go over the specific symptoms, but I talked to an adult phyisican I trust yesterday over phone, and I am less likely to have COVID-19 than anything. It was been a trying time for the country and for parents, and for me.
In order to watch Star Trek: Picard, Mr. Plastic Picker bought the CBS Streaming Service that had commercials. I don’t mind watching the same Hyundai commercial repeatedly. Even the Hyundai commercial mentioned COVID-19. as they were offering a lease protection payments in the event of jobloss. Mr. Plastic Picker was working from home yesterday and he was sick and tired of hearing me read him off every little detail about COVID-19. After I purchased one last supply for another DIY mask which I’m not sure if I’m even going to need, I turned COVID-19 off. I turned it off and turned on Star Trek: Picard. And during those commercials, I thought about the collective children in the world. Our daughter was upset that I was still self-isolating, because I was not sure yet if I was infectious or not. Hearing her cry, make me wake up and realize – half of this is ridiculous.
I am still practicing good hand hygiene, social distancing, but I am sitting at the kitchen table again. My in-laws are 10 feet away and eating their breakfast. Star Trek: Picard cleansed COVID-19 from my brain. My advice to myself and to you is this, at this time of great stress, shelter your children. Shelter their minds and their hearts. There are some things in life that they don’t need to know. When the various Amazon box supplies arrive, they don’t need to know the medical supplies I have purchased for myself. I have lost trust in parts of our government. When Mr. Plastic Picker and I shower after work immediately, they don’t need to know why. When I am discussing a new pandemic workflow for the department, I will do it upstairs with the door closed.
I am so emphatic about this. Children’s minds and their psychologic health need to be sheltered from the adult chaos. I have seen this again and again in clinic. Narcisccistic and self absorbed parents who involve their own children in every little crisis, create anxious children who do not know how to self-soothe and self-regulate. Just like you shelter your children from adults that you are suspicious of as child-abusers, you should shelter your children as well as you can from the part of this pandemic chaos that they did not need to know.
There is a picture of my eldest brother standing at the healm of a small boat at 3 years of age. He is wearing a life-vest, and his big eyes look out into the distance. Its a single static image, but you can see the wind has lifted his straight black hair and the joy on his face. This was in the 1970s when my family was on a boat along with thousands of other boats in the South China Sea. Vietnamese diaspora, a long forgotten penpal called it. My family was fleeing the Communist Party after the Fall of Saigon. I like to think of that picture and the innocent joy on that 3-year-old’s eyes. I like to think my parents sheltered him, their only child as they fled.
They continued to shelter me. We were so poor when we were young, yet I had no idea. I had no idea that the beautiful blue sweater I loved, and the purple pants with the white stripe down the bottom were from the Goodwill. I had no idea that my father’s business was help up at gunpoint until years later, because I was in the middle of Freshman college exams and my parents did not want me to worry. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents are similarly wise. Mr. Plastic Picker always thought he was the youngest of four children. I found out in a random kitchen conversation with my mother-in-law, that my husband was the youngest of five children. There was a little baby girl that died at 2 months of age when they were living in rural South Korea, back before many of the vaccines we have today. She probably died of pneumococcal sepsis. His parents never told him until he was 43. They did not want to worry him.
Perhaps it’s a very Asian thing to do, to surpress our emotions. It’s a very Vulcan thing to do. But I hear Vulcans were modeled after Asians? But it is how I was raised and how our family has overcome times of poverty, war, trauma and hurt. I remember finally after two-months of bedrest, and reaching 36 weeks and giving birth to our oldest. I was on the labor and delivery ward. With each wave of contraction, the labor and delivery nurse would tell me to push. I would push through the center of my body as much as I could to try to deliver that baby. This was in Boston where Mr. Plastic Picker and I were still resident physicians, and there were not a lot of women of my culture there at that point. I remember the labor nurse telling me, you can scream if you want. This lovely Irish nurse told me I could make sounds with the pain to try to make that baby come out. And I knew practically that I could, I could scream if I wanted to. I felt the pain. But something so deep inside me prevented any sound from coming out. The Labor and Delivery nurse told me that I was the quietest primip mother in labor she had ever seen.
I will shelter our children. It is impossible to shelter them from everything, but certainly I can shield them from my own churning emotions and day to day struggles as a physician. So yesterday my daughter baked bread. We had our first virtual Girl Scout Troop meeting, and our daughter was smiling and wearing her khaki-colored Cadette vest. She is so quiet when she is with her friends. The kids played Pictionary with their father. And this Sunday, we will repot some succulents I have been trying to propogate. I want to try to sand the wooden bunny ramp that I have that is outside and weathered. We’ll go for a walk and look at the ocean.
As Picard said yesterday during my 10-hour marathon TV bingeing, “One Impossible Thing At A Time.”