This spring, as Park engaged in distance learning, we asked the parent community to share their quarantine experiences: How are you doing? What have you learned? Silver linings? Surprises? What has been most difficult? Who or what has been especially comforting or helpful?
We’ve stayed sane by walking, and have become experts at going out in inclement weather. Additionally, I’ve been reminded just how important friends and family are.
Eliza Hoover (Sophie, Grade 4)
Who knew I could juggle solo parenting with quarantine and working in a hospital! My daughters have learned to be independent; I adapt in three-hour blocks. We’re alive, we’re together and never would have had all this togetherness. To be grateful and adapt.
Patricia Rea (Scarlet, Grade 3 and Avery, Grade 7)
I am so grateful for the work of the teachers & administration for our sixth grader. Obviously COVID has created a less than ideal situation, but it has given my child a chance to be more independent without requiring much in the way of parental involvement. Kudos to Park! This has been a huge relief.
Mike SanClemente (Mia, Grade 6)
The largest silver lining by far is the time spent together as a family. Biking, hiking, playing games, eating meals all together, watching movies, and making s’mores has been a gift that I will treasure forever as we slowly get back to the business of living busy lives. As much as I wish this tragic interruption never took place, I hope a lingering sense of togetherness and simplicity will prevail even when we are back to overflowing calendars and chaotic days.
Carol Batchelder (Christopher, Grade 7)
Spring break began with canceled travel plans – our first ever trip to a warm destination!
We dealt with anger, sadness, and, finally, acceptance over not getting to go on a family trip and see extended family and friends. Vacation would be at home instead. It was several weeks before we even unpacked and put everything back into our closets, and in fact, some things are still on the closet floor!
My 11-year-old daughter was very, very sad and down. Many tears were shed those early days. We reluctantly discussed her incessant requests for a new pet. We toyed with different ideas and after talking to people and hearing her persuasive arguments, we ended up with 13 bantam chicks. YES THIRTEEN. Their fifth grade caretaker has found nurturing these small creatures to be a source of comfort and I do not kid when I say that she really does thank us frequently for allowing her to get them.
In addition to caring for the chicks, she bakes ALL THE TIME. I finally had to say, ‘let’s do this every other day.’ Thankfully my husband had bought a Costco size bag of flour early on. She is even doing a virtual ‘create-a-cook’ baking class today! This same child has also: reorganized and creatively ‘updated’ her bedroom (removing items that she has ‘grown-out of’), AND, along with her quarantine neighbor friends, has turned our old, never-used and termite-eaten shed into a fully tricked-out ‘clubhouse’ (with collages, lights, white latex paint, pillows, blankets, and unused and repurposed household items). She has taken some, but not enough, bike rides. I would say she “made lemonade out of lemons” (not to mention a delicious lemon meringue pie!)
Caregiving and Parenting During the Pandemic: A Physician’s Perspective
Thursday afternoon in April. Room 565. As I was examining a 3-day-old baby boy, his mom gave me an apologetic look as she started coughing, admitting that she had had this new cough for the past hour. I froze, excused myself, spoke with the staff, and waited for the mom to get tested before resuming my examination of her newborn. She had not been sick previously, so I was surprised the next morning when I discovered that she was positive for COVID-19. I became numb.
Pandemic. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). N95 Masks. Coronavirus. Hand hygiene. Hydroxychloroquine. These are words that I learned in medical school and residency, which have now become ubiquitous in casual conversations and emails. There have been so many unprecedented (yes, that’s another word that is commonly heard these days) moments and ‘new normals’ since March, and one of the most visible changes is the necessity for what my boys call my “armor” :
- scrubs (which I haven’t worn since residency, almost 20 years ago),
- surgical mask (saving N95s for special situations because of limited supply),
- surgical cap (made by one of the nurses, with buttons to hold the loops of my mask because my ears developed abrasions),
- eye shield (which become foggy every time I exhale, because of my mask),
- gloves (at least that hasn’t changed),
- my clogs (which I keep in a bag in the back of my car, putting them on after arriving in the hospital garage, and switching back to my shoes before re-entering my car), and
- my hospital badge (also unchanged, but I now make sure to flash my photo ID to all the parents, to show that I am more than just the eyes they see above my mask).
Babies do not understand that there is a global pandemic, so they continue to be born and our postpartum floors have remained quite busy. Prior to that day in April, I had been inside numerous rooms of moms with known COVID-19 infection, but they had all tested positive in advance, so I was able to properly protect myself before entering. Room 565 presented a completely different situation, because I had been in contact with this mom for the past two days without knowing that she had been infectious. For the first time in 20 years, I had a moment of regret about being in the healthcare field. Although I love my job as a pediatrician (especially because I have had the opportunity through the years to see so many Park families with their new babies), I am also a mother, and I couldn’t help but to feel guilty for potentially putting my own boys’ health at risk because of my job. Of course, my risk is lower than first responders, nurses, anesthesiologists, or those in the emergency department, ICU, and some other fields — but at that moment, I felt overwhelmed. Moreover, being Korean during these times has brought an additional sense of distress since COVID-19 has notoriously been called the “Chinese virus” by some. It’s been disconcerting to risk my own health, and that of my family, to then face racist comments because of what I look like.
As the peak of the pandemic is hopefully behind us, I carry on. I still change out of my scrubs before I leave the hospital, wipe down my phone and ID badge before putting them into my bag, and head immediately to the shower when I return home. Only then do I feel safe hugging my boys and asking them about their day at “school.” Reflecting on these past few months, I feel blessed for many reasons, beyond the fact that my family and I have remained healthy. I am fortunate that my boys are old enough to fend for themselves while we are at work — that they can make their own lunches (without burning anything), log in to their classes responsibly (I’m assuming this since I haven’t received any emails from teachers saying otherwise), and complete their homework independently (so I can catch up on emails and phone calls I missed while at work). I am thankful for family, church, and friends who check in on us via Zoom and FaceTime. And I am grateful for this Park community of parents, faculty, and staff who have supported each other during these challenging times. The response on Giving Day was a testament to that, and I sincerely hope that we don’t take for granted the power of community as we end the year and look forward to what’s ahead, remembering that we are better and stronger together.
Heena Lee (Justin, Grade 6)