By JENNIFER STEUER
As a human being, I am left feeling lost and drifting with all that has happened in the world. As a mom, I am heartbroken by all the loss. I am raising three kids who are vibrant and smart. I see the atrocities happening to other families. I see the death counts that are global, national and local. My faith in the powers that be is long gone. The lives of my children, my husband and my mom are most important to me. We have been sheltering in place since March like almost everyone in New York.
Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca have seen the news and know people are dying from this horrifying virus. They have heard how many families have lost loved ones. They see the newspapers, and they see children who have gotten sick and know that children have died. Each of their lives has been turned upside down and shaken to the core. Not one person we know has lived through a pandemic. Not one person can give us a first-person account on how to help our children through this nightmare. Not one person knows what the future holds, and this is scary for adults. Being 12? Well, this is a hard age to begin with.
My tears and heartache haven’t stopped. If anything, they are more intense. I look out my windows and notice that there are fewer cars going by. I look up and there are fewer planes going overhead. The grocery stores are quiet. Walmart and Target are quiet. There is no toilet paper to be found. I can see the nervous shoppers who are afraid to touch the produce, afraid to order from the pizza place and touching actual money scares us all. Wearing masks in public got less and less scary because all of us are wearing masks.
These days Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are managing to find other avenues for entertainment. I’m glad that we have access to Wi-Fi, albeit slow, that has made it possible for the kids to keep up with schoolwork. I hear them on Zoom calls with teachers and friends, learning what was meant to be taught in a classroom. Suddenly my kids couldn’t go to school. Suddenly my kids had no real access to their friends and no access to anyone else to talk to. In my opinion, the pandemic is going to cause many different problems for parents and teachers that we are only seeing the beginning of. I worry about the mental health of every child. I worry about the mental health of the adults, too.
The never-ending talk about “getting back to normal” might be doing the most damage to our families. The normal is part of how everything used to be, but now we need to set new goals and discover our untapped strengths. I know that today doesn’t look the same as it would have last year, and it doesn’t look the same as it will next year. I have to believe that tomorrow might be a little brighter, and a year from now even brighter. I have to believe in my heart that Benjamin, Rebecca and Olivia are going to have a wonderful future. If I can’t believe that, then what am I doing?
Raising kids right now is not easy. Not only are we fighting a virus, we are fighting racism. The murder of unarmed black men, women and children by law enforcement is a pervasive problem in our country. Not only are families worrying about a hideous virus killing a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic people, but the continuing violence is stealing lives. I need to be honest about my support of the Black Lives Matter movement. A very wise man, Rabbi Hillel, said (in the Talmud, Pirkei Avot chapter 1 verse 14) “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” It is my duty to stand up for the rights of the black men and women who are fighting for the same rights as you and me. It is my duty to tend to my brothers and sisters, as I hope they will for me.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 12-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.