Jasper, 13 months old, has no baby friends.
At this point, he has lived half his life in the pandemic, with no change in the foreseeable future. His mom, Chelsea Clinton, feels guilty about this, but like all of us, is powerless to change much right now. COVID-19 has upended normal routines, our expectations for our kids, and any sense of control we thought we had. “I am just hyper-aware of how different this part of his life is than his siblings,” she shares with Romper. “I tell him, ‘Some day you will have little baby friends.’ I don’t think that time is early next year, maybe it’s next year, maybe it's 2022, but it will come.”
Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, recognize the immense privilege they have in being able to work safely from home and spend extra time with their kids. Yet like so many moms, she is worried about the effects of the pandemic on her young children’s development. Jasper’s big sister Charlotte, 6, and brother Aidan, 4, are having a relatable pandemic experience: some boredom, some meltdowns, and some sweet moments in between. Clinton says Charlotte’s been enjoying a few masked, socially distanced playdates with school friends, and the whole crew takes advantage of things like virtual events at the zoo and online acting classes. The family of five also “podded” with Chelsea’s parents, Bill and Hillary Clinton, over the summer at their home in Chappaqua, New York. Grandparents have become the superheroes of the pandemic for many families with young children, and the former president and secretary of state are no exception.
“My mom did these Melissa and Doug weaving kits,” says Clinton. “She made potholders for so many people; it’s like, here is a potholder as a hello from COVID!” Meanwhile, her dad has played “lots of word games and math games with the kids.” Chelsea is “so incredibly” grateful for the extra set of hands allowing the couple to continue to work remotely, Mezvinsky in investment and Clinton as an author and global health advocate. “The heads and hearts are appreciated too," she says. "But as you know, the hands…” She trails off and laughs.
The Clinton Mezvinsky kids also love books and being read to, and have spent the months at home absorbed in stories. “My mom is on Chapter 7 of this story she started to tell my kids about a sea monster trying to find his way back to his family.” Jasper, Charlotte, and Aidan are also the first audience for the "She Persisted" children’s book series Clinton writes with illustrator Alexandra Boiger. She Persisted, She Persisted Around the World, and the newest installment, She Persisted in Sports, all highlight women who changed their fields by moving the needle — they were the first, the best, successes in a world that stacks the deck against them. “They are my most important clients and critics,” Clinton says of her children, noting that as her eldest begins to read on her own, Charlotte is able to give feedback on what makes sense or where a word is too big. However, Clinton laughs, the kids are wholly unimpressed that Mom doesn’t do her own illustrations.
I do hope families have those conversations about these women who haven't given up.
Despite the latest book releasing at a time when many sports are canceled, Clinton says the women featured highlight universal themes of persistence and hope that are important for young kids to grasp. “I do hope families have those conversations about these women who haven't given up. It may have been on a field or in a match or on the ice or a court, but life is just about persistence.” She wants kids (and their parents) to draw parallels to the current difficult season the entire world is in. “We have to persist through this moment. We will get to the other side of COVID-19.” Clinton misses being able to promote her book at libraries or public events where she can interact with her young fans; she loves to see their reactions and hear their opinions on the stories. Life will return to normal at some point, and she’s clinging to that.
For now, her family continues to bake, read, and enjoy some extended time together as best they can. They calculated that in the first three months of the pandemic, they each ate 100 chocolate chip cookies before branching out to muffins and other sweets — not necessarily a healthier change, but it at least added some variety. She’s given up Sisyphean tasks like matching marker caps to the right color. “I had to let that one go early in the pandemic. Just put a cap on.”
Clinton is a human mom, so her kids can drive her up a wall, but they also keep her going with their unique way of looking at the world. She says, “Sometimes when we are in a store and Charlotte has her mask on, she will look at someone and say to them, ‘I am smiling at you!’”