We’ve always followed that old 5-second rule. We remember when our toddler would drop a grape on the kitchen floor and it rolled under the counter. We’d get down on our hands and knees, fish it out, brush it off and hand it right back to him. We didn’t think about the germs. Sure, we knew the rule was arbitrary, but we risked it anyway.
In the past year, there have been a lot of new rules about germs. Some were clear and consistent: Stay home, wear a mask and only socialize with the people you live with. For months and months we obeyed – because if we risked it, we could die. Clear consequences.
Other rules were crowd-sourced: Let the mail sit before you open it. Wipe off the groceries. Spray the front door handle when you come in.
We disinfected our takeout burritos before we put them on the table because our friends told us to. We don’t do that anymore.
As more people are getting vaccinated and we’re thinking about the world opening back up, we’re looking for guidance. We want to know what’s what. What’s a risk worth taking? What’s a definite no-no? Who should we listen to?
We empathize with the COVID rule-makers. When we became parents, we had to make the rules, and we quickly learned that we had to be consistent. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” our mothers told us. We learned our partner has to be on the same page. We have to present a united front. When our kid misbehaved at a birthday party, we couldn’t threaten to leave if we weren’t going to follow through.
But our state, county and city did not learn this lesson. The rules change from place to place and from day to day. In our suburban neighborhood, we can go out for pizza with another family and sit at a table all together. Two miles away in the city, that’s not allowed.
So do we listen to the governor or the mayor? There’s wiggle room on what’s allowed and it’s confusing. It’s like when we used to say, “No more ice cream” and the kids ran to ask their dad.
As parents, it’s tough to make the rules. Sometimes you don’t know what’s right – and you feel like you’re making it up as you go. Maybe that’s why there’s no agreement about what’s safe to do.
We watch TV and think, thank goodness it’s not my teenagers frolicking on the beach for spring break without a mask. How many times did we say to them, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?” It looks to us like the whole state of Florida is jumping off a bridge.
What are we supposed to think when we see the Texas Rangers baseball stadium packed to capacity with 40,000 cheering fans? Our home team is only letting in 8,000 fans. We have to sit with our small group, keep at least 6 feet away from other pods, and wear a mask if we’re not eating. We see a loophole here: If we nurse a beer and slowly crack open each peanut in the bag, we can probably keep our masks off the entire game. But would we?
When we see scenes of life in other states (Texas and Florida, we’re looking at you!) it reminds us of when our kids would try to persuade us to allow them to do something they knew wasn’t right: “Suzy’s mom is letting her have a coed sleepover. Please. ….”
As our children grew and took chances, we had to create new rules to keep them safe. Can they chew that big marshmallow? Can they ride a bike in the street? Can we let them drive on the expressway?
For months now, in this lawless Covid Wild West, everyone has had to decide for themselves what risks they want to take and how strict they want to be. Do you want to parent like Danny Tanner enforcing bedtime rules or Linda Belcher dancing on the tabletop?
We can’t wait to hug our friends, invite all the cousins over for dinner, and take that first family trip but we have some safety concerns, too. Should we eat outside – and can we share desserts? Should we hold it in or can we stop at a rest-stop bathroom? Why is she still wearing a mask if we’re all vaccinated?
We need answers from an all-knowing parent. Hey, Dr. Fauci. Can you please write the definitive guide that tells us everything we need to know: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting . . . to get back to normal after COVID.” We would definitely read it.