Explaining this pandemic and the myriad ways life has changed to a child is no easy task. Overall, our kids have been really great about everything, but there have been a few rough spots. In the beginning, we had to tell my stepdaughter that she couldn’t go to Vancouver to see her mom during spring break. She’d booked a tattoo appointment and put a down payment on it. Her mom had also bought her Billie Eilish tickets as a grad gift. It wasn’t comfortable telling her she couldn’t go. She didn’t get the deposit back, either. Just a couple of days after this, Billie Eilish postponed part of her tour.
We had to tell our son he couldn’t go to the movies when they were still open. He’d been invited by the neighbours. He couldn’t understand why his friend got to go but not him. Two days later, they shut down the theatres.
There are also the constant reminders to wash their hands. While our teenager complies without complaint, we get the eye rolls and the groans from our 11-year-old, and so I thought maybe he needed a better understanding of what’s going on. Of course, we have been totally honest about everything with both of them. However, some of the concepts are difficult to grasp, even for me. I cannot wrap my mind around how long we have already been isolated, let alone how much longer we might have to be. I can’t fully fathom what this will do not just to our economy but our society. The uncertainty has my mind in tangles, and I can’t focus clearly. I can only begin to imagine how hard it is for an 11-year-old to grasp.
So, I decided to tell my son to imagine there are dots on everything and everyone everywhere outside of our house. You can pick your own colour for the dots, but I told my son they were purple. I told him that you can assume your home is clear of all purple dots because you’ve been isolating.
Here’s the game: No matter what, you cannot let any of the dots near your face, especially the mouth, eyes, nose and ears.
Now, imagine each time you touch something outside of your house, some of those purple dots transfer to your hand. Maybe they transfer to your coat or your elbow or shoes, depending on what part of your person touched something else. These purple dots transfer with every touch, without fail. If you touch an apple in the produce section of your supermarket, purple dots transfer to your fingers. If those fingers then touch your other hand, some of the dots slide onto those fingers. Maybe after that, you make contact with your shopping cart, and the dots start living there. Then, when you put your groceries on the conveyor belt to check out, some of the dots spread out from your groceries and hands to the conveyor belt. The checkout counter, of course, has its own set of purple dots its spreading back to your groceries.
That’s when you reach for your phone to pull up your points card. Then your wallet to pull out your debit card. Dots transfer to your phone, your pants or coat pocket, maybe your purse. They spread to your wallet and debit card, and then they spread again to all the cards your debit card is touching in your wallet when you put it back.
Your groceries are in plastic bags that are covered in dots from the checkout counter, the groceries and the cashier. You grab them, and the dots are just free-flowing from your hands to the bags and back again. You take your receipt, which has dots on it already from the cashier. They spread to you, you spread your dots to it, and you shove it in your pocket and now your pocket as purple dots inside.
You head out to your car, pushing open the grocery store door and spreading more purple dots to it and from it. When you get to your car, you open your trunk. Purple dots on your trunk handle. The dot-covered grocery bags are now in your trunk, transferring purple dots to the interior. When you get in the driver’s side door, you spread the dots to the handle. The dots are all over your keys and the steering wheel and now your seatbelt. Maybe you turn on some music, so they’re all over your stereo now, too.
You get the picture. But just imagine what happens to your home, which was clear because you’ve been isolating, when you take your groceries inside. You set them down on your counter and hang up your coat with purple dots on the elbow and in the pocket and likely the cuff. It brushes your sister’s jacket, which is also in the closet and purple dots transfer there.
That’s when you turn to put your groceries away, tucking them into your fridge and your cupboards.
I asked my son at this point, what he thought was happening. He told me that he thought the purple dots were spreading inside the fridge and the cupboard and the counter.
He is old enough to get the metaphor, and I didn’t have to explain to him that if the dots get in your nose, mouth, ears or eyes, you can get very sick, and some cases even die. He knows this. I just wanted him to see the dots on everything, to imagine that so he can visualize what could be happening. At any moment outside of your isolation, you could touch something covered in COVID-19 germs. It just takes one touch for it to transfer to your body and then one instance of you touching your face for it to get into your system and infect you. It could make you sick. It could cause your death.
But even if you don’t show any symptoms at all, you have to imagine that every time you breathe, cough, sneeze or yawn, the purple dots are spewing from your body. Your house cannot be clear if you carry it, that’s when you assume that everything inside your house is teeming with purple dots. That means anyone in your home is exposed to them. At any moment, they could get into their systems and infect them, too.
So, the goal is to keep those purple dots away from your face, no matter what. That’s the game. My little guy only leaves the house to walk the dog with me, so he doesn’t have to worry too much about these dots, but we still bring groceries in from the store and my daughter works at the grocery store. At any moment, one stray purple dot could be lurking on the counter or on the front doorknob, and you could touch it and infect yourself with one eye rub. And that, little dude, is why we wash our hands relentlessly.
It seems to have worked. I don’t get as many eye rolls as I did before, and now he’s reminding me to wash my own hands.
How have you explained things to your kids? Let me know in the comments!
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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay