The author, Jen Hyde, and her toddler son share a silly moment in front of their open refrigerator.
Jen Hyde

By Canceling Those Playdates You're Saving My Life — & I'm So Thankful

Dear fellow parents: Thank you so much for canceling your playdates. Please know that as a 34-year old immunocompromised mom of a 2-year-old, you’re saving my life. I have a congenital heart disease, which according to the CDC means I could develop cardiac complications from COVID-19. Figuring out how to socialize my own child at home has been rough, but knowing that we’re doing it together is really filling the broken heart I’ve got right now.

A few weeks ago, I began my Monday in Central Park where my son and I had gone to eat a pastry flecked with gold, and ended my Thursday teaching my expository writing classes on Zoom in my son’s nursery. Maybe like you, each day between, I had to ask at least one emotionally draining question: should I fly to Florida to see my 94-year old grandpa whom I may never see again? Should I meet my friend for happy hour in a half-empty bar? Should I even go outside?

These questions didn’t get easier to address, even if my answer was the always same. I’m concerned that even as services in our cities shut down, our commitment to social distancing will be tough to maintain as the weeks go on. Epidemiologist Dr. Carolyn Cannuscio reminded me that “if policy decisions are made, it eases the load on us,” but even so, I know we’re human. And as mothers of young children, we can get especially lonely.

Whenever you feel stressed in the weeks ahead, I invite you to ask a question Dr. Cannuscio offered me: what values am I basing my decision on? This single question could ease your mental load and the impact of your stress on your family.

For now, our "playdates" take place at home! Photo courtesy of the author.

I know playdates are healthy for our children, and that maintaining normalcy is necessary when the rest of the world seems upside down. Let’s make a collective choice to value one another in the weeks ahead. Let’s try to see this upside down world as our new normal, recreate structure for our children within a framework of social distancing, and call what we’re doing remote socialization.

When you’ve canceled your playdates, you’ve helped me believe we’re all doing our part...

I know this is easier said than done, and I’m incredibly grateful to those of you who have already made sacrifices for the sake of people like my little boy, who needs his mother. To help us all, I reached out to Marine Putnam, a former preschool teacher, and she offers these two actionable suggestions to help us and our toddlers embrace remote socialization:

Schedule formal FaceTime: With a few families, choose a song or story to teach your children then go online and sing or read together.

Teach each other: Agree that each of you will prepare an activity to share with your group. Go online to teach the craft to your parent friends, then go online again with your kids and share results.

The season ahead will be rough, so let’s collectively save one another from emotional agony by putting a pin in the life we knew and embrace the life we have right now. Hearing you’ve canceled your playdate has eased my anxiety. You’ve stopped me from pulling my own hair out trying to entertain my son indoors because you’ve reminded me that my emotional wellbeing isn’t more important than enabling my hospital to have enough ventilators for the people who will get really sick. When you’ve canceled your playdates, you’ve helped me believe we’re all doing our part to stop the spread of the virus as swiftly as possible so we won’t all have to be cooped up inside for too long.

For now, I’m keeping my family entirely in isolation because I worry going to a playground could cost me my life. I want to watch my son grow up, and I promise we’ll have playdates as soon as it’s safe. Until then, let’s all embrace our temporary way of life and take care of children like mine. Canceling playdates can help insure someone’s child won’t be motherless when this nightmare ends.