On March 2, 2020, I wrote to a friend:
At this point there’s a good chance we’re all going to experience some serious disruptions to daily life.
There are not enough grimace emojis in the world to describe how I felt looking back on that profound understatement on March 2, 2021.
Epidemiologists are trained to interpret science for the purpose of decision-making. There are the big decisions — what policies should our jurisdiction implement? And the small decisions, like whether Cindy can return to school today or tomorrow?
And then there are the personal decisions.
Sometime last spring, I coined a phrase to wrap up conversations with anxious friends. Back then — 14 months and several lifetimes ago — there was more uncertainty about how the virus behaves. Every decision felt very big and very fraught.
We have nothing but bad options … Make the bad choice that’s best for you.
Things have changed. There are some objectively good choices on the table now, like getting ourselves and our eligible family members vaccinated. The vaccines available today are safe and effective — more effective than we imagined was possible for a virus like this.
But some things haven’t changed that much. Pandemic parenting decisions still feel like complex logic games with no right answer, especially for those of us in mixed-vaccine-status families.
If you’ve made it this far and are ready for concrete advice about how to navigate the world as a vaccinated parent of unvaccinated small children, I’m sorry. I don’t have concrete advice, but I can share some of the choices my family and I are making and how we’re thinking about them. To be clear: this is not intended as medical guidance or “best practices.” These are just my imperfect personal decisions, and they are still evolving.
My spouse and I are both fully vaccinated. Our three-year-old is not. After a year of not mixing households indoors except for childcare and work, we are beginning to spend time with friends and family.
We keep our gatherings small; our maximum to date is three households including our own. If everyone except our daughter is fully vaccinated, we gather indoors and we do not wear masks or social distance.
In our region and at this time, I don’t consider healthy, vaccinated people a particular risk to my unvaccinated child. And they are well protected from any risk she might pose too.
When we gather with friends who have unvaccinated children, we stay outside. Until recently, our daughter and her friends wore their masks when playing outdoors. As cases continue to decline in our area, and after considering recent evidence and guidance, we made the decision to allow our daughter to play with her friends outdoors generally without masks.
At this age, the children mostly run around and don’t spend much time talking with their faces close together. If she were spending more than a couple of seconds with her face up close to another kid’s face, we’d gently redirect or ask them to put their masks on. If we sit down to eat, we keep our daughter at least 6 feet from other unvaccinated children.
As far as formal programming, our daughter has been in half-day preschool and will be attending camp for a few weeks this summer. She wears a washable mask with a high-quality filter. No program is totally risk-free, but we looked for one with a positive attitude toward mask-wearing for young children. Indoor ventilation, outdoor programming and communication style were also important to us in choosing a camp.
That’s how my family has been navigating 2021 so far. I’m not trying to say that our choices are the best, or that they are right for you. As new evidence becomes available and local conditions change, we adapt. By the time you read this, we may have made some changes. I’m sharing my family’s practices because I know how heavy these decisions can feel, and that weight can be lifted a bit when we hear what others are doing and what factors they are considering.
Current catchphrase is still a work in progress:
Today's options are better than yesterday's ... but not as good as tomorrow's.
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