Notes from the pandemic: The plight of young (unvaccinated) children & their parents

Jen Bradbury
Sep 04 · 5 min read

Last Tuesday, exactly one week after the girls started school, we got the dreaded call that 6-year old Hope had been in close contact with someone at school who tested positive for COVID.

Because of the close contact, Hope had to quarantine for 14 days. Strangely, her younger sister, Kendall, did not. (Note: Because of our desire to love our neighbor well, we immediately opted to keep Kendall home as well.)

In one fell swoop, our week was upended: Our plans. Our fledgling routine. Our ability to work. Since that call came, NOTHING has gone the way we expected it to.

On Wednesday, we breathed a little sigh of relief when the school called to tell us that after conversations with the various health departments (who don’t agree with one another about how to handle quarantining) they’d decided that because everyone in the class had been masked that even though Hope was a close contact, both she and Kendall could return to school.

Unfortunately, our relief didn’t last long. Shortly after I hung up the phone, I noticed Kendall was congested. So, even though we'd gotten Hope a PCR test on Tuesday afternoon (which came back negative), we called the pediatrician who recommended we retest both girls. Wednesday afternoon we headed to the doctor’s office to get rapid tests (both of which came back negative) and PCR tests (which we’re still waiting for, more than  72 hours after the fact).

By Wednesday afternoon, Kendall was tugging her ear. By that night, she’d spiked a fever.

So, we kept both girls home on Thursday and headed back to the doctor with Kendall to rule out an ear infection (which sadly, we did. It’s pretty bad when you, as a parent, are hoping your kid’s got an ear infection so that you can easily explain the snot and cough and treat everything with antibiotics.)

By Thursday night, Hope was also congested and feverish. To make matters worse, because Hope’s symptoms weren’t present when she got either of her previous two PCR tests, she had to get yet another nose swab and negative PCR test before she can return to school.

This week I’ve been navigating my regular full-time job with my two girls at home. So has my husband, Doug. Neither of the girls feel well and both want hugs and snuggles, pretty much all of the time. 

We’re also navigating (unexpected) doctors appointments and the need for testing (which never seems to end and is more difficult to access than it should be at this point in the pandemic). 

The mental load this has created is HUGE and far greater than what we face during an average week. It’s exhausting and demoralizing for both Doug and I.

And I say this knowing full well that in some ways, we’ve got it easy. The girls are miserable but medically speaking, thus far, they’re doing okay. Doug and I are some of the privileged few who have the luxury of working from home and as a result, we have a lot of flexibility. Together, we’ve managed to make this work… Even though it’s been far from easy and we've had to do so without any help (because again - we don’t want to bring anyone else into our house when we’re obviously infected with SOMETHING.)

So, here it is, Saturday. 

We’re exhausted and discouraged.

A week ago, I felt a small degree of optimism. The girls are in a great, relatively small school that’s gone to huge lengths to keep kids safe. When they returned to school, I thought we stood a decent chance of making it through this part of the pandemic without incident (after all, Hope has also been going to summer camp there and we’ve had NO problems). But here we are… And now that sickness has reentered our house, we’re wondering if we’re ever going to be able to send them back to school in person (or if we even should). We're wondering what else we have to avoid doing this fall in order to give them the best shot of remaining in school in person. 

And it's not just Doug and I who are exhausted and discouraged. The girls are too. Hope declared the first week of first grade “the best week ever”. The day we learned she was a close contact, she was up EARLY because she was SO eager to get to school and do her work. Kendall has been thriving as well. They WANT to go to school… but they can’t. And this feels like yet another way that this pandemic is impacting even our youngest children. 

Seeing the girl's frustration grieves me. 

It also makes me mad.

I’m so angry at the elected officials who have politicized our children; At the scores of people (who are eligible and healthy) but refuse to get vaccinated. I'm even (irrationally) angry (or maybe jealous?) at the way some vaccinated people are treating this pandemic as though it’s over even even though our youngest kids aren't yet eligible to be vaccinated.

In so many ways, this week feels like it could have been prevented if people had just taken the vaccine (the vaccine which, mind you, other countries would give ANYTHING to get their hands on).

I know I’m not the only parent feeling this.

There are thousands of school aged children in quarantine right now.

As parents, we’re hurting… And terrified.

We feel alone and forgotten.

And so do our kids.