With a high-risk toddler, mother implores: Wear a mask. Get a vaccine

‘For 12 months, my husband and I sat, basically hiding our kids from the world. Because one false move could kill our son’

Erin Cassel is a cellist, history blogger (Instagram: @relearningushistory), wife of Naanstop owner Neal, and mother of two toddlers. She teaches Suzuki cello and is a member of eclectic cello quartet Atlanta Celli. Her 2-year-old son Bodi is at high risk for COVID complications after struggling with various respiratory illnesses since birth.

This is a powerful column by Cassel on the critical need for Georgians to wear masks and get vaccinated for the sake of those whose health makes COVID-19 dangerous and possibly deadly.

By Erin Cassel

I know I don’t speak for all parents, but I’m pretty sure this speaks for almost every parent I know right now who has spent the past few weeks anxious, crying, scared, frustrated, and trying to hide it all for the sake of their kids.

We (and almost every parent I know) have made so many sacrifices — in our careers, our family lives, our friendships. For a year here my husband and I sat, basically hiding our kids from the world. Because one false move could kill our son, or at the very least send us into a downward spiral of health complications. Finally, my husband and I found two available COVID shots, traveling seven hours roundtrip to get the long-awaited vaccine. We were able to come out of slowly, so slowly hiding after another two months of ensuring our vaccines took hold.

Our family had two blissful months of “normal.” And by normal, I mean we participated in outdoor-only summer activities that didn’t make my anxiety skyrocket. Pool days and playground play dates and backyard barbecues with close vaxxed friends. Friends and their children we hadn’t been able to see in months. The relief and joy was like nothing I’ve ever felt. Weights lifted off my shoulders. Breaths of air I didn’t realize I needed to take.

Maybe, just maybe, my son, who gets super sick at the drop of a hat, would make it out of this pandemic just fine. Parents all around me feeling like maybe we could safely give our kids back so much of what was sacrificed for months on end. Maybe, just maybe, we could all go an entire day without feeling a pit in the bottom of our stomachs.

Yet here we are again. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have allowed this virus to become so rampant that the year-and-a-half of my life that I spent trying to protect my children was completely in vain. Now COVID is so strong, it’s becoming vaccine-resistant and affecting children more than ever before.

Parents are back to the day-to-day anxiety that dictates our lives, the thinking-through of every single decision/action/reaction that might have life-altering ramifications. The precarious balance of trying desperately to provide a “normal” childhood for my daughter, while knowing that any germ she brings home could send my son to the hospital. Even if it’s not COVID, we could be in the emergency room with tons of children who do have COVID, or there might not even be room for us.

I am sitting here listening to my son cough his lungs up because of a simple cold virus that made its way into our home. A simple cold that has sent us into yet another tailspin of nose swabs, waiting for COVID test results, waiting for the inevitable doctor visits to come in the next week. Not COVID. This time. But most likely a series of infections that will pile on top of him, like they always do.

If you have never had to watch your 6-month-old have a spinal tap or held a child who is turning purple for lack of oxygen, or fed a child formula from a medicine dropper, or watched your child become so dehydrated that he can’t lift his head or held down a screaming kid to get blood drawn/IVs put in, then you have no idea.

You have no idea the pain a parent feels watching an innocent child go through this. And, let me tell you, what we have been through is microscopic compared to what other kids and parents deal with on a daily, hourly basis. Miniscule in comparison to the anxiety other parents feel whose children are fighting so much more than ours. An iota of the helplessness that parents who lack our resources feel.

If my 3-year-old daughter knows that her responsibility in our family is to wear her mask, if she knows how to wear her mask over her nose all day, if she is aware enough to remind me to get her mask before school so she doesn’t bring germs to her brother, then you can wear a mask into the grocery store. Or around others in public. You can certainly learn how to wear it over your nose instead of under your chin. You can take two seconds to put yourselves in the shoes of every parent around you who is trying to keep their kids out of the hospital. Every parent of an immunocompromised kid who is trying not to relive the total hell that is a children’s hospital.

If you have any empathy, sympathy, ability to comprehend others’ feelings as even slightly important, then you should be able to wear a mask, get a vaccine, and help protect the kids in the world who can’t protect themselves.

I am so over the lack of empathy and sympathy and basic humanity. I am so over the lack of acknowledgement that part of being human is attempting to contribute to the well-being of every human. Parents are over it. We are anxious, we are exhausted, we are scared, we are angry. We. Are. Over. It.

(Don’t get me started on parents who are against masking in schools. I just can’t.)

This author of this column, Erin Cassel, is a mother of two and a cello teacher and performer.