My husband and I looked at each other and silently did the math. We could make it work. We know how fortunate we are. We have medical insurance through my husband’s job as a public school teacher. We have an extended family safety net that can catch us in times of trouble. We have enough income to afford a lab bill, especially one that could help protect ourselves and our neighbors. We would do it. But almost as quickly as we agreed to the test, a look of terror took over my son’s now fully alert face.
“No, Mommy, no!” Wells cried, realizing we’d just agreed to a second traumatic nasal swab.
“It’ll be fast, buddy,” I said, unconvincingly.
My husband gripped our son’s 40-pound body, holding his arms down as the doctor shoved a tool the size of a mascara wand up both of his nostrils. It was done in seconds, though Wells’s sobs of “Owie, Daddy. Owie!” made it sound like an hours-long ordeal.
“You’ll have the results in three to four business days,” the nurse practitioner said, advising us to stay at home and keep Wells away from others. Then she put a child-size mask decorated in multi-colored smiley faces on him and ushered us out the door.
Our new reality set in the next morning. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and thanks to two doses of bubble-gum-flavored antibiotics and rotating rounds of ibuprofen and Tylenol, our boy was fever-free and feeling light years better. But when Wells spotted his friends riding their scooters outside our front window, I knew the jig was up.
“OK, you can stand on the porch and wave to your friends if you wear your face mask,” I told my son. Shockingly, he agreed. Maybe self-isolation wasn’t so bad, I thought, pleased with my clever parenting. Then another neighbor boy wheeled up and shouted, “Can Wells come play?”
“He can’t right now,” I started, trying to decide how best to explain social distancing to another child. “Wells isn’t feeling super great and I don’t want you to catch it and not feel good, too. So can Wells just talk to you from up here?” The boy nodded, but seconds later his fruit fly attention span kicked in and he fluttered off to play. It was gut wrenching to watch my son shrug his way back into our home like a defeated Charlie Brown. And worse still when I imagined what his buddy might tell his parents.