I Want to Be Alone on Mother’s Day – not why you may think

Every year, I tell my kids I want no presents for Mother’s Day. Without a mother or a mother-in-law, sadly, I have no one to visit, and so, all I usually want is a quiet day with my kids and Larry — maybe a nice brunch and a family movie night. Not this year. This year, I want to be alone, and not for the reasons you may think. Yes, my “perfect” Mother’s Day in years past is pretty much what we have been doing for the last 8 weeks, so next Sunday will be another Groundhog Day, only with more pressure to smile and pretend everything is ok. I normally would never complain about this. I love being with my family, and none of us needed a forced quarantine to choose to spend time together. We came together willingly every chance we had. I’m not sick of them, they don’t seem to be sick of me … yet.

Still, I want to be alone, because alone would mean my children would have somewhere else to go. It would mean they were free to do the things children and teenagers should be doing, seeing their friends, going out for ice cream, flirting, laughing and being able to see their smile mirrored on the faces of their peers, not hidden behind a mask. It would mean they weren’t missing important milestones that make our lives special and form our memories. It would also mean they weren’t staring at a screen — doing schoolwork with the goal of checking some box that says they finished the year, engaging virtually with avatars of kids they used to spend time with, or zombie-ing out to yet another YouTube video or Netflix series. It would mean our society valued the lives, education and yes, wellbeing, of our children enough to choose freedom over fear. It would mean common sense and the right to personal choice prevailed.

We have always taken risks, and we have always allowed our kids to take them.

  • About 40,000 people die in car accidents in the U.S. every year, many of them children. We still drive.
  • 317 children died from H1N1 complications in 2009. School went on. (According to the CDC, in 1968, there was a flu pandemic that killed 1 million people worldwide and 100,000 people in the United States. At the time, our population was about 200 million.)
  • 166 children died of the flu in the 2019-2020 season. 188 children died of the flu in 2018 -2019. We still allowed them to go to school and play with their friends. Many people don’t even consider getting the flu vaccine.
  • About 2,000 children die every year in home-related injuries. We don’t wrap them in bubble wrap.
  • 100 die in bicycle accidents, 350 drown, 70 choke … we let them ride, swim and eat. You get the idea.
  • The CDC is still investigating if the three children who have been reported as dying from COVID-19 in fact did die from this pandemic. Of the six children admitted to the ICU with COVID-19, all had underlying medical conditions.

I know we’ve been told we need to isolate the kids, so they don’t infect older and vulnerable people, and I think at the beginning of all this when the data was just coming in, this made sense. But, now that we know more, the evidence is lacking that asymptomatic people spread the virus. The evidence is strong that the more people who get the virus, the quicker we can get it under control. Fear, not fact, is driving the decision bus.

There is nothing more horrible than a child dying, and I don’t list these statistics carelessly. My heart breaks for any premature death, no matter the cause. But, life has never been without risk. When will we deem it safe to let our children have their lives back? When there is a treatment? It won’t be foolproof. When there is a vaccine? It seems this won’t be for quite some time, and it too, may not be a guarantee. When media outlets — almost all of which, no matter the particular political slant, have an agenda — tell us it is safe? When politicians … don’t even get me started. When celebrities quarantining in mansions and vacation homes tell us to send our kids back into the world? When? When we realize no quarantine will be long enough to ensure safety. Safety is now, and has always been, an illusion. Of course, it is our primary goal to keep our children safe, but we have always done so while accepting some risk.

The frontline doctors and nurses have been the heroes through all this, they have risked much and they have lost much. They have also learned so much about how to treat patients with COVID-19. Most importantly, they now know how to protect themselves. Many doctors and nurses are still worried about everything else that can make us sick, as people avoid seeing the doctor entirely, miss screening exams and ignore any symptom not listed for this virus. The medical experts influencing policy are very focused, understandably, on one thing. Most of us though, are living the reality of big picture. As a family doctor, I have seen something similar in medicine. If the cardiologist is making the decisions, he is protecting the heart, even if the medications have life altering side effects. If the nephrologist is making the treatment plan, the kidneys take priority, even if other parts of the body and mind suffer. The intention is good, but for overall wellness, someone has to consider the whole patient, just as someone has to care for the health of our whole society — kids included. I worry about the big things — the devastation to the economy, the millions of people who are unemployed and have food insecurity, the increase in domestic violence and drug use, and so much more.

I also worry about kids in homes with wifi and food and love, the ones we dismiss so cavalierly with, “Big deal. Their grandparents went to war. All they have to do is sit at home and stare at their phones.” I worry about the emotional and academic fallout of this quarantine. I worry that children with anxiety and depression will have a worsening of symptoms. I am concerned kids who aren’t already prone to anxiety will become fearful and distrustful. I worry that kids with social phobia will become even more introverted and that kids with special needs will have damaging set backs. I worry my own kids are getting more stupid by the second. On top of this, I worry kids are becoming too complacent in their new role as housebound, mask wearing, vulnerable charges. I’d actually feel better if I witnessed even a little rebellion.

Are we saving lives? Truly, the data is so misrepresented, the emotions so high, the fear mongering so great, I don’t know anymore. I think quarantining for a few weeks made sense, but how long will be long enough? Early on, it was important to not overwhelm the hospitals and to protect our healthcare providers. I am sure the hysteria driven by misinformation and social media contributed to the volume of patients the emergency room was seeing. Early on, everyone with a cough was afraid they would die. Now that we know more, now that the initial wave is over, I can only pray calmer heads prevail. I will follow the rules, but it is my right as an American to question them. Will the continued closure of schools and open play areas make a dent? Is censorship happening? Is the destruction of our economy going to have been worth it? Is there a better way? I hope for a day we can wisely and with common sense and compassion protect the vulnerable, while still allowing our lower risk population to exist in the real (not virtual) world — working our jobs, going to school, feeding our families, enjoying our lives, and yes, even taking some risks.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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