It’s safe to say that my oldest son has been looking forward to his sixth birthday party since the day after his fifth. Planning the theme, dreaming of cakes, and talking about how much fun he was going to have with his friends had been a constant conversation as the big day approached… that is, until the world shut down.
As news of COVID-19 spreading to the United States began to take over the news, I naively thought, “Well, I’m sure it’s not that bad.” Even as talks of the potential for school closures began to circulate, I assumed it “would never happen here.” And then it did.
It was then that I realized we were about to embark upon something no one had ever experienced before in our lifetime.
My initial reaction was to still hold his party. We had planned to host it at a small local obstacle course gym and the facility was reserved just for us. Surely we’d be ok, and if guests decided that they did not want to take the risk then they could stay home, no hard feelings. Within a matter of 12 hours, it was announced that schools were shutting down, nursing homes were no longer allowing visitors, and it was very likely that restaurants, bars, and small businesses alike would be shuttering their doors soon, too. In that moment, the stark reality of the situation finally hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears over our final decision to cancel his party. The tug-of-war of emotions that welled up inside of me ultimately gave way to wet, hot tears. Tears for the little boy whose heart I didn’t want to break, tears for the hundreds of thousands of other people who were facing massively larger problems as a result of this virus than we were, and tears for the unknown future we were stepping into.
The next day, when my son excitedly began talking about his party again at dinner time, my husband gave me a knowing look – it was time to break the news to him. I said something to the effect of:
“Sweetheart, remember how I told you we have to stay home more now because there are a lot of germs out in the world? Well, since we don’t want to get those germs and accidentally spread them to our friends and their families, we won’t be able to have your party like we planned. I can still make you a cake and we’ll have lots of fun celebrating here at home, though.”
He paused for a few seconds before responding, “That’s okay, mommy. I really don’t want my friends to get sick. I’m glad we can have cake at home!” and he went about eating his dinner. No tears, no whining, just enough love and compassion for his friends to understand that their health and safety matter more than a party.
It was in that moment that my nearly 6-year-old boy reminded me that we are all in this together. We’re all sacrificing things that we love or want to do, in big ways and small ways, for the love and protection of friends, family, and community. There’s nothing more important than that.