As the youngest of five children, part of me believed what I was told: I was the baby of the family. There’s only one problem with that: I wanted nothing to do with a helpless, crying, needy creature. I worked hard to prove this label false. If my older brother was afraid to jump off the high-dive, out of my way. I believed that such tactics would demonstrate my superior abilities to function independently and courageously, therefore proving that I was not the baby of the family after all.
For all of that earnest struggle, I now find myself four decades later trying to act less like an adult and more like a baby. As the pandemic of 2020 rolled into our lives like a never-ending hail storm, keeping us sheltered in place and hunkered down in our homes, I turned to nurturing my fifth grade child by becoming like a child. In the course of a single day I’d switch from a pearl necklace wearing professional to “putting on my play clothes” and running around the house in a dog chase.
I’ll admit it: on purpose I embraced childish ways. I played hours of video games until my thumbs turned red, I climbed over boulders and fallen trees in the forest. I created imaginary worlds filled with giants, dragons, and six foot tall spiders. I ate ice cream, bags of chips, gummy bears, and cookies on the couch. I walked around the house with a purple fuzzy blanket as my super hero cape.
I played chess, Uno, and hide-and-seek. I watched cartoons and told toilet jokes. I ate gooey double chocolate brownie stuffed s’mores by the fire. I wore my pajamas all day and night. I ate chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate chip waffles. I read stories about the world’s funniest kid who also happens to use a wheelchair.
In the year of isolation driven by the desire to keep loved ones safe from a deadly virus, including our own child, I became a child again. I didn’t want my only child to always feel so lonely. I wanted him to have another child to play with. It just happens to be that the other child was me.
There’s much best to be forgotten about 2020, yet I don’t want to forget the year I became a child. I want to remember when my child was still a child and how I found sanity in an insane world by letting all of my sillies out. I want to remember my child’s crooked tooth grin, eye rolling laughter, and standing in the kitchen wrapping our arms around each other so tightly, squeezing until we can hardly breathe. I want to remember this way of being and loving in the world that is not afraid.