We call it the germs.

“Can we go to the playground today?” one kid will inevitably ask each morning.

“Sorry, honey, but not until they clean up all the germs.”

“Can we go to [insert so-and-so’s] house today?”

“Sorry, love, not until all the germs have gone away.”

We haven’t left the house, except to go on a bike ride, scooter ride, or walk around the block or in the nearby forests, for almost a month now. My kids have no idea what it’s like out there.

Out there, there are people wearing masks. Out there, there are lineups to get into the stores. Out there, is a ghost town of closed stores and empty sidewalks. Out there, is definitely not normal.

For better or worse, I’ve always had a no-news-in-the-house policy. I personally don’t watch it, and my husband only turns it on after the kids have gone to bed.

Of course, my older son gleans much of it from messages from his friends, and formerly, from classroom discussions, which we follow up with our own explanations at home.

And while he knows about COVID-19, his younger brothers and sister only know it as “the germs.”

Still, there’s anxiety. When one of the twins blows their nose and I ask if they have a cold coming up.

“No mommy,” they’ll quickly say.

They know to wash their hands thoroughly the instant they step into the house. They know it’s important to dress warmly outside, even though spring is here and it’s tempting to abandon their jackets.

They know we can’t let germs into the house, and that their dad is vulnerable, because he’s susceptible to pneumonia.

They also know they’re lucky to have both parents working, and that’s why we buy extra groceries each week for the local food bank.

I’m not sure when they’ll stop asking to play with their friends. But as annoying as it can be, I also hope it doesn’t happen.

Watching TV last night, it almost felt strange to see people on the streets. Without masks. Like it wasn’t normal. I caught myself and reminded me that it was.

Despite the casualties, I’m one of the optimistic ones. I want to believe that this scourge will bring us together. That it will make us better as people.

We all want a better for world for our kids. I like to believe this is simply the wake-up call we needed to create urgency behind that.

In the meantime, my kids and I, we play. We chase each other outside. We do chores. Online classes are starting up this week, too, thankfully.

As much as I hope this brings change for the better, I want my kids to feel like everything is the same. Like nothing’s changed. Like everything is normal. Until one day, it is.



Cat Margulis is a Toronto writer and super (tired) mom of four. She's working on her first novel, launching her own podcast The Passion Project, and generally trying to do and have it all. You can see how she does it @catmargulis and @passionprojectpod on Instagram.

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