I Want to Stay Open…

I spend four days a week around the mask-less. They are not motivated by politics, claims of being anti-government-mandate, or citing the 14th amendment of the Constitution. They can’t even read. They are 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. They are preschoolers. They are not required to wear face coverings. They are small children who have been in this world for less than 60 months. About half of the children come to school in masks; their skill with them is, well, skill-less.

I’m tired. As the owner of a small preschool program, the past nine months have been exhausting. From closing unexpectedly, trying to secure every possible grant and loan made available to childcares in a pandemic, having to let an employee go and reducing the other’s hours by over half, experiencing hands so dry from sanitizer, bleach, and constant washing that they crack until the bleed, and panicking every time I hear a child or one of their family members is unwell. The list goes on and on. 

My friends and family have always joked that I am a walking germ. I spend my days with folx who are learning to wipe their bottoms, cover their coughs and sneezes, and not pick their noses (and then eat it). With Covid, these hilarious (and disgusting) antics of young children are no longer amusing; they have the potential to be dangerous. I am not a scientist and I realize that child-to-child transmission of Covid is rather low. But they can be carriers. Even if I was blasé about the risks of Covid, anyone who takes it halfway seriously would not want to be near me, even in a mask. Small people sneeze and cough into my masked face. They try to open their lunch containers with their teeth and when unsuccessful, they hand them right to me to open. 

There are two of us working in my program this year. We have one sub. One. We are balancing on such a fine line every damn day. If either of us gets a fever, unexplained cough, or any of the many Covid symptoms, and that ONE sub is not available (who has 3 children of her own and who she is schooling at home this year), we CANNOT be open. And we CANNOT be open for days. 

I did not camp with friends this summer. I live in the same town as my parents. I have not hugged my dad since February. I’ve hugged my mom twice since March, and both times, it was more of a ‘well fuck it, we should just hug.’ I’ve seen a few dear friends for socially distanced meals at homes, usually outside and masked until we are eating. I have not dined in a restaurant since early March; everything is delivered or take-out. I did not float the Deschutes River during our hottest days; too crowded. Our annual family reunion was canceled, the one time of year I see half of my relatives. I chose to teach my University courses 100% remote. I avoided my favorite hiking trails, as they were simply too crowded for my comfort level. No birthday gatherings either. 

I will likely be spending Christmas alone. There is a possibility my family will get together outside around a fire pit, however, the average high temperature in December is 41 and the low is 23. My parents are 70 years old. It will be brief and non-traditional. 

I am doing everything in my power to keep my little school safe and open. And it’s exhausting. We’ve already had 3 Covid scares among our program; luckily, everyone’s tests came back negative. 

Here is what gets me… When I see folks on social media associated with the preschool, being… well, ‘social.’ I feel scared. I feel angry. I feel discounted. I feel envious. I feel like our school being open is not valued. Why do these people get to spend time with friends? Why are they in enclosed spaces, unmasked with others? 

Yesterday one of the preschoolers shared when Covid is gone, her cousins will move here. I said when Covid is gone, I will hug my parents and my dear friends. 

We are all in this together. It takes one case, ONE, to shut down our program for at least two weeks. 

Perhaps I am feeling sorry for myself. There are so many experiencing it much worse. No-one close to me has contracted Covid that we know of – a friend’s father, a partner’s grandmother, and a colleague’s daughter. I am fortunate. I want to keep it that way.

I am taking this seriously. I want to stay open. I want to do my job. Take it seriously too. Wear a damn mask.