temp check.

March 7, 2022

Our two older kids played outside in the courtyard, unattended, for two hours before dinner yesterday. They were joined by neighbor friends and the hours passed with only minor injury to either body or spirit. Inside, our windows were propped for the warm-enough March breeze and any possible sounds of distress. Our two-year-old is less impervious to bodily harm and has the kind of super-toddler strength and speed that can fling open an iron gate and get her down the block in less than thirty seconds and so we had company. Still, the relative break from weekend togetherness in a New York City apartment during a second pandemic winter made me and James feel very nearly giddy.

We moved the play kitchen into the living room and poured ourselves glasses of wine which we drank while enjoying course after course of wooden vegetables served by a chef who required only the occasional guttural mmmyumumyumyum for payment. As the light shifted in the south-facing windows and the breeze coming through the windows went cold, I set a pot of water to boil on the real stove. Into a hot skillet I tossed cooked chickpeas with garlic and olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt. James and I split the last chocolate chip cookie without anyone around to say otherwise. I cracked the tub of pesto made by the market down the street and eventually gave the eight-minute warning to the kids—or queens, maybe even witches—still gathered outside. It was as close to my vision of ideal weekend parenting as things get around here.

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the day when Faye’s kindergarten teacher sent around a parent sign-up sheet for volunteers to help with in-classroom hand washing. Just a few more days from now will mark the two-year anniversary of the day New York City schools closed and the rest of the city followed suit. Today my kindergartener is a second-grader and the mask mandate in public schools has been lifted. (My newborn is a two-year-old learning to wear her mask at daycare.) I’m feeling a mixture of irrational hope and irrational fear and maybe a bit of quite rational despair. A siren blaring through my open window is threatening to land me right back in late March of 2020 (minus the newborn and plus a greater fatigue than I ever imagined).

It’s been a very long two years. So much of it has unfolded into scenarios that did not at all match my vision of ideal parenting, weekend or otherwise, but here we are, eating our wooden vegetables and playing in the postage-stamp courtyard, and sipping our wine, and in moments like these anyway, I can almost feel the temperature hovering somewhere close to normal.

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  • Reply Linds March 7, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    This is beautiful. I nanny in your neighborhood, but I only work with little babies, and I’m curious how you and other parents feel about the mandate being lifted? On one hand, I want to keep everyone safe, and on the other hand, I think small children have a hard time learning empathy without seeing facial expressions. Which of course was not a problem in the first few months, but two years in, I think it could have collective consequences on our children.
    I also wonder, if not now, when? And will there ever be a time with zero cases? Like the flu, this seems here to stay, so I sympathize with policy makers in not wanting to wear masks forever. But I’m very conflicted! Curious how you feel with 2 kids in school.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2022 at 12:44 pm

      it all feels impossible, honestly? my quota for risk analysis was used up so many months ago i hardly know what to think anymore. i desperately want people to stay safe, i can’t imagine being a child wearing a mask at school all day, i’m not convinced we know half of how either disease or handling of this virus will affect our kids. fumbling along like everyone else!

    • Reply Sid March 8, 2022 at 2:10 pm

      Linds – while there are many different legitimate factors to consider with respect to how/when to lift mask mandates, the concern about small children and empathy is not one of them: children with vision limitations are fully capable of learning to empathize even in the absence of facial clues.

  • Reply Cheers to normal March 7, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Like you, we are also reminiscing on our world flipping upside down as our March 2020 baby soon turns two. I’ve really appreciated your voice through the years and love watching our old BK neighborhood through your lens. I cringed slightly reading that your littlest is learning to wear a mask now when no other country other than the US has masked children under 6. It’s really been a gigantic mental shift for our household in recent weeks.

    • Reply Maggie March 11, 2022 at 9:23 pm

      This has galvanized a lot of parents to speak up! It was definitely my line when my kid turned two.

  • Reply Michaela March 7, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    Maybe us March 2020 moms should wear secret badges so that when we see each other on the street we can share a hug and commiserate and cheer, “We did it! We’re doing it!”

  • Reply Jessica March 7, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Those moments are golden.

    My kids headed off to school mask free today. That was a long haul for all of us….

  • Reply Kari March 7, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you for your tone and reminding me that parenting can be really beautiful. I’m a wholly a different person than I was two years ago. Only my second grader remembers life before the pandemic, with my youngers not understanding what the fuss about masks is really all about. Here in Washington State we’re still masked in schools through the week and seeing my kids’ joy in anticipation of smiling freely with their friends is both exhilarating and heart breaking. I’m now allowing my heart to remember what it was like to be a little carefree, knowing that my attitude releases my children too.

  • Reply Madeleine March 7, 2022 at 8:24 pm

    Oof. I’m feeling worse off, somehow. I’ve been wondering if life has always been this heavy for parents but it is only now, being a parent myself, that I feel it. Maybe my parents were equally bogged down by war and other world events, shocking inequality (looking at you, generational gap), and individual work/life circumstance but I, as a child, was blissfully unaware. Or maybe it really has gotten worse. The sunshine is what keeps me going but it is fickle these days. The promise of spring never more needed. <3

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2022 at 12:39 pm

      oh, i hear you. wrote this certainly while fueled by some sunshine and quiet-fueled serotonin.

  • Reply Gail Nelsen March 7, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    After reading your blog these last months, I’ve been concerned you were somehow sad. This experience you shared today was sweet and hopeful and filled with some joy. And that sweet baby serving veggies.. so dear. Enjoy spring.

    • Reply Claire March 8, 2022 at 2:38 am

      It’s ok and normal to be sad sometimes, especially with all that is going on around the world, in our neighborhoods, and in our homes. I love that Erin doesn’t gloss over the less than cheery parts; it feels so supportive to me as a person who consistently struggles with mental health.

    • Reply Ally March 8, 2022 at 4:38 pm

      Who wouldn’t be “somehow” sad over these last few months?
      My kids have been fortunate enough to weather the pandemic in a fully-outdoor school, which has been a great privilege but hasn’t always been fun. It has, at least, meant that for most of the last 2 years, they haven’t had to wear masks in their school, except during bathroom breaks. But even amidst this absurd privilege, and the wonderful silver linings it has brought into our lives, I look at my 4-year old, who was 2 and in diapers, still taking naps, when the pandemic hit; I watch him flipping and climbing and I wish he could have spent these years in a little toddler gymnastics class. I wish my older kid could have gone to all the chaotic hellish trampoline-park birthdays I once prepared to loathe.
      We went on a ski trip this past week and it was miserably rainy one of the days. “Pleeeeeaaaaaaaase,” they begged me, “please can we go to the pool!!” The indoor pool, where every single other person at the otherwise quite distanced, outdoors resort would, of course, also be. Where masking would, of course, be out of the question. I thought about my unvaccinated 4-year old. I thought about hours spent laughing and splashing as the rain battered the windows. I thought about having to keep the kids home for a week of quarantine, if one of us were to “get it.” I thought about missing yet another week of work. I thought about how often I’ve yelled at them, my own fuse already burnt to a nub before each day begins, all of us in the house for another day of school closure or just a regular old snow day, on top of each other, sticks of dynamite constantly setting each other off. I thought about how what I really want them to remember, from this time, is that we still laughed, and played, and loved each other; I wonder if that is, in fact, the part they will remember.
      We went to the pool. But I’m still thinking about it now, a week later. Poised, waiting, ears perking up at every sniffle. They’re still thinking about it now, too; they’ve talked about the pool nonstop, excitedly telling their teachers as I blushed and failed to make eye contact, ashamed of my decision. But as I watch them fall asleep at night, my 4-year old telling me he hopes he dreams about the pool so he can “go back,” I know the truth: I regret nothing. Will that still be true, if I end up needing to quarantine all of us in the house after all, if I miss more work, if my non-parent colleagues sigh audibly when I call into yet another meeting and am clearly in my home? Will it have been worth it? I don’t know. I do know that I’m so, so tired of having to think, all the time, about whether this or that will be “worth it.” I’m so tired.
      Two years of choosing the least-bad option, every moment of every hour of every day. Are we sad? Is there even enough energy left, to be sad?

  • Reply Chloe March 7, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve been somehow sad this entire pandemic! I’m still somehow sad considering the state of the world. Hell, I’ll probably be somehow sad when I die. Thanks for the posts about rage. And anger. And despair. As well as gratitude, hope, and love. We’re complex beings, ya’ll, and we’re just trying to live good lives under some very messed up circumstances (and governments). Peace to all of you in 2022.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      complex beings, y’all!

  • Reply Christie March 8, 2022 at 6:28 am

    This made me realize how rarely my husband and I ever have a moment to just sit and enjoy a glass of wine together. Our lives are like ships passing. The pandemic sent our kids home and because of their own needs, we realized that homeschooling would work better than virtual schooling. This year, we just continued it because of the uncertainty of it all. We have our own business, but this means sharing the days and sharing the load. He works mornings, I homeschool. I work afternoons, he does the afternoon shift at home, which is most of the cleaning and the cooking of dinner (and wrangling of 3 children). We eat. We spend 2 hours putting the 3 children of varying ages together (including much needed one on one time with each). and by 8:30, we get our stuff ready for tomorrow. Then bed for us both. Weekends, he works Saturday; I work Sunday. I long for a moment, where we can both just sit here and an enjoy a glass of wine. We are blessed to be able to bring our kids home, and we love homeschooling them. It has been good for them. But the dent in our grown-up time has been substantial

    • Reply Claire March 9, 2022 at 3:41 pm

      Christie, that sounds so challenging. I hope you and your husband have a few minutes to enjoy each other’s company soon. Sending you a hug!

  • Reply Megan March 8, 2022 at 8:57 am

    I have an 8 year old and now also a 7 month old in Brooklyn. Your thoughts are so familiar and comforting to me. Thank you for sharing them!

  • Reply Janett March 8, 2022 at 10:32 am

    Thank you Erin. I share the bad and good times as all parents around the globe. In Switzerland things were less rough but nonetheless a struggle for me. I only realize the effects of it all now, where I can chat with my colleagues in the hallway, share Pizza for a special event, throw a birthday party for a very proud 4 year old, thinking of hiring a babysitter to get some much needed couples time, and invite the grandparents from across Europe to visit their grandchildren. It all feels so good and healing, and yet there is still the uncertainty of it all. Thank you!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      So much uncertainty!

  • Reply Ann Midgley March 8, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Erin your article touched my heart. As a mother of 3 and grandmother of 11 I have been enjoying a glass of wine and being served wooden vegetables for 41 years. Since our youngest grandson is 14 months we will have more wine and wooden veggies. These are life’s sweet moments and I am glad you were able to savor it.

  • Reply Darcie March 8, 2022 at 12:25 pm

    We pulled our kids out of school in San Francisco after they lifted mask mandates. Covid will kill me, my kids don’t want a dead mom, so no, none of this feels normal. It feels like the world has decided that my life and lives of other folks in my boat are a small price to pay for normal.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 8, 2022 at 12:36 pm

      So many impossible calculations here. The normalcy I was referring to here was really just the kids playing outside unattended and the moment of relative quiet joy found in a weekend afternoon, but I can see where it sounded related to the lifting of the mask mandate, something I personally feel a whole lot of trepidation about. Wishing you and yours the best possible in an impossible situation.

      • Reply Darcie March 8, 2022 at 3:23 pm

        Oh, no- it wasn’t directed at you. I’m glad you had a beautiful afternoon. We all deserve that. We went to a house swap in the middle of nowhere a few weeks ago and it just felt great to let the kids be free. I 100% get it. I’m just disappointed in the mask mandates being lifted when we are still losing 1500 people a day,

        • Reply Darcie March 8, 2022 at 3:24 pm

          Also, being a city mom makes those moments so hard to come by.

    • Reply julie March 8, 2022 at 12:44 pm

      I’m sorry, Darcie. It is all just so hard. Personally, I feel abandoned by American society yet again, but it’s worse this time since I don’t feel like I have other neighborhood moms on my team anymore. They all seem to be happy to move on (whatever that means), while my kid is in the masked minority here on the UES. Just wanted to express a little solidarity because it’s SO complicated and difficult and disjointed. How did everyone else manage to do a 180 over the past 2 weeks? I am mystified! Those “normal” moments when everything seems relaxed for a fleeting moment are precious indeed. xo

      • Reply Darcie March 8, 2022 at 3:25 pm

        Solidarity, Julie. Hugs and love to you. ❤️

      • Reply Lila March 10, 2022 at 10:08 am

        Yes, I feel exactly the same. My youngest is too young to be vaccinated, and I’m pregnant and it feels like everything just got less safe for us in a flash and everyone else just shrugs.

  • Reply L in Canada March 8, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    Darcie, Julie – I’m so sorry. Please know there are many families like mine who plan on wearing masks even after mandates lift, in recognition of people in your situation.
    Erin – that was one of your most beautifully-written posts, IMO. My world right now is a huge push/pull, hyper-noticing both chaos and quiet, and you completely captured it. Wooden vegetables and all. Thank you.

  • Reply Julie March 8, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    “I can almost feel the temperature hovering somewhere close to normal.”
    Beautifully written, Erin, as always. That line got me, totally tearing up. I keep thinking I must be processing the trauma of the past two years, but honestly, I don’t think I have even started. This March weather does seem connected to my moods more so than usual.

  • Reply Laurie L March 8, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    Hi Erin,
    I can feel the lovely breeze… Ahhh…
    Just wondering, where did you aquire the small basket hanging on the children kitchen? Do you have a website for where to get a little basket like that?

  • Reply Melkorka March 9, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    love your writing. Spring is such a hopeful time.

  • Reply S L March 9, 2022 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you for this. ❤️ Here’s to hoping the normalcy comes back.

  • Reply Maggie March 11, 2022 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for writing this. It’s nice to hear your perspective but I also feel like this post is missing something, as a couple other commenters have mentioned. It has been year for well over a year and more so recently that virtually none of our efforts to slow the virus did anything. I have seen you stand up for justice all around the world but we need justice in New York now. We need to reckon with that was done to us and if it was worth it. Even now, with the toddler mandate, the mayor pretends to be helping kids, but that’s just because his data analysis was wrong. He won’t engage with parents, desperate parents with special needs kids who are suffering. Many of us have been fighting the panic for months or years, emailing and calling reps to try to get back control of our lives. That’s why your bigger kids’ masks could come off. We could use more critical thinkers on board! When cases rise again, we must not panic, mask, stay home, break our ties again. I hope you’ll consider learning more. You can read the lawsuit here https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/ViewDocument?docIndex=cxa3jFqi7QVPY2GmcJrqTQ==

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 12, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      I think there are lots of folks in the comments voicing concerns about just the opposite—the vulnerabilities that they face *without* a mask mandate. I don’t have all the right answers about this or anything, but I think we can listen and appreciate folks with differing and real concerns about their well-being.


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