Our Christmas was a Christmas of three: daddy, mommy, and Keaton. It was another Christmas in isolation; after all, the Omicron variant had shockingly started ripping across the country, and at a very fast rate. So to be safe this year, our families and us decided to celebrate in our own respective bubbles. It was a sad time for everyone. One or even two Christmases in isolation isn’t so bad for us youngsters, but for my parents and all the elderly, lost time in isolation is lost time. The future is uncertain.
Last year, we had a low key Christmas, but it was also very heartwarming because my sister (Auntie Mel Mel) joined us. Keaton had his BFF there, so it was an exciting moment for him. I fondly remember him opening his Fisher Price car gift — his very first car. He crawled towards the neatly wrapped box — a large one at that — and with a smile, knew that it was his gift and began tugging at the paper. We missed our parents of course, but we were still hopeful that next year would be normal again — that we’d all be able to reunite for the holidays. Yet who would’ve thought that this pandemic would last for almost two years?
This year, as we’ve reached a level of acceptance and normalcy in our lives — there’s no way but to co-exist with COVID-19 — we decided to reunite with my whole family. After all, we’ve all been careful and vigilant throughout this whole ordeal, and all adults and kids are vaccinated — except for Keaton, who doesn’t go to daycare anyway. As a pandemic baby, Keaton hasn’t socialized or travelled much at all, so I was really looking forward for him to finally meet his cousins after almost two years, and their new doggie addition, Snow. I miss my nieces tremendously. But plans fell through because at this point, the Omicron variant had began transmitting at a very rapid rate, and everywhere. On top of that, we all succumbed to a raging cold. Even if it wasn’t COVID-19, we all felt it was safer to remain home and not spread more viruses around than necessary.
I think the most heartbreaking moment was Christmas Eve. My sister had driven over two hours to drop off gifts for her nephew. Seeing her show up at our door, only to leave with a visibly tearful “Merry Christmas” — no hugs or kisses — was shattering to me. I felt myself tearful when I saw all the beautifully wrapped gifts for Keaton, the Blues Clues chair, and even the Christmas clothes she’d washed for him to wear on Christmas Day. There was heartbreak in knowing that as Keaton was napping, his auntie, his favourite person in the whole world, showed up — but she couldn’t see or kiss him, nor would he know that she was there.
“I think it’s best that Keaton doesn’t see me,” my sister said. “He might feel sad that I leave right away.”
When Keaton woke up and saw all the gifts under the tree — Santa did arrive this year, or rather Auntie Mel Mel — he grew fascinated. I let him open one gift that night, and he was very good and patient when I told him that he’d have to wait to open it on daddy’s break. When he finally opened his gift and saw the handyman toolbox kit that we’d bought him, he got really excited. It was perfect for him because he’s always been enamoured with tools and “fixing” the wheels on his trucks. It was a beautiful sight to see my husband showing him how to use the tools, and him following his daddy’s instructions.
On Christmas morning, when it was time to open gifts, we video-called my parents and also took videos for my sister to watch later. Keaton had numerous gifts — all so very fun and meaningful at the same time. He was so stimulated, that he even refused to nap that day. I loved watching him opening his gifts and seeing the excitement on his face. Yet I can’t soften the truth: I still felt a deep-rooted sadness within me that wouldn’t go away. There was the sadness in knowing that my sister and parents were respectively alone, and that the moment could’ve been so much sweeter if everyone had been present. Keaton could’ve actually given his grandparents and auntie kisses for all the gifts. I, in turn, could’ve witnessed their smiles at that very moment.
Sure, Keaton was amused with all the gifts and toys. But I could see in my son that he was also sad. I’m aware he knew that Auntie Mel Mel had dropped by. Yes, I mentioned it to him; but more importantly, he felt her presence. He’s always been an intelligent and sensitive young fellow, who’s in touch with his emotions and surroundings. It’s no surprise, then, that he felt a deeper sadness than meets the superficial eye. I, myself, couldn’t bear to see the Christmas tree after Christmas was over. Even though I grew up keeping the tree up way beyond New Year’s — I’ve always loved seeing it longer than necessary — these past two Christmases I couldn’t. I felt too depressed to see it knowing that it was a sad Christmas. I told him Keaton to say “thank you” and “bye bye” to the tree — he waved with gratitude — and proceeded to taking everything down.
New Year’s Eve was better already. We all healed from our colds — my parents included — so we had my parents over. It was a very simple and low key evening. I was in my pyjamas and bath robe all night. Perhaps in an alternate reality, I would’ve put effort into looking cute for the night, but in all frankness, I couldn’t mask the turmoil that boiled within me, and a bathrobe and pyjamas paid honest tribute to that — and I liked that a lot. We also didn’t have champagne on hand, so we just ordered a bottle of white wine instead from UberEats. After my parents left at around 10PM, I knocked out shortly after. I felt like an old granny. Even old grannies do better than me, let’s be real.
Keaton also slipped and fell — so hard, that his teeth cut his upper lip what looks to be almost in two. Blood was gushing, but to his and our relief, after holding a cold and wet cloth to his lip and rotating cloths religiously, the blood stopped. My poor little guy’s upper lip was very swollen. Overall, though, he’s been doing OK and hasn’t been bothered by his little bobo. He’s also been breastfeeding well and eating well. I was afraid it would be a nightmarish scenario where he wouldn’t be able to eat anything.
New Year’s Day was much better already. I was at a better place mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s because Christmas was over. We took Keaton to the farm, and luckily, the weather was very mild for a winter day, so we were able to spend a few hours outside enjoying the animals and the playground. Our little guy had a good time. It was magical for him to go from watching farm tractor videos in the morning, to actually showing up at a farm and seeing tractors in live action. It’s his second time visiting the farm, and I appreciate that it’s within walking distance of our abode. One thing I appreciate about this city is, even though it’s a car kind of city, there’s still a lot of nature and parks that abound.
It’s difficult having a toddler, or kids in general, during a pandemic. Social experiences, activities, and adventures have become more limited. Apartment living and being without a car has also presented us with additional challenges. Yet for my husband and I, we try our best to give our son as many experiences as we can possibly muster. No matter the circumstances — rain or heavy snow — we’d walk our son in the stroller to our destination, even if it was an hour’s walk away. We’ve taken him to Christmas markets, museums, malls — many places on foot. There was no other way. Public transportation is unreliable and risky with COVID-19, so walking was the answer. Yet I have no complaints. I’ve spent most of my life walking for hours on end, even until my ankles bled, so naturally, I have a lovely appreciation for it.
As a parent to a toddler during this crazy period, making decisions is always difficult. While we make decisions based on our values and priorities, which, in essence, is our son’s health and well-being, we’ll still never know if these were the right or wrong decisions. We know that Keaton longs for connection with other children — it pains us to no end — and even if he’ll most likely be OK if he caught COVID-19, we’re still unaware of the long-term repercussions of the virus on his health. Is it worth the risk? Not for us. Every parent has their own risk threshold that they’re willing to adhere to — us included. I don’t think many of us know what the fuck we’re doing throughout all of this mess. There’s got to be some kind of cost-benefit analysis, and something’s always got to give. But we’re all trying our best to do the right thing for our families. My only regret in my life right now, is that I wish I were able to be a happier, healthier mother for my son. I’m beaten down.