By JENNIFER STEUER
I don’t know. I get so many questions every day from Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca that I just don’t know the answer to because … you know, Coronavirus. When can we go to the park? When can I go over to my friend’s house? When can we go to synagogue? When? When? When?
I want to answer their questions with something other than I don’t know. I want answers, too. I don’t like this uncertainty any more than the parents, families, teachers, nurses, business owners, doctors, counselors and everyone else does. The anxiety and fear is overwhelming for us adults. Benjamin, Rebecca and Olivia are just kids, and they are going through something none of us were prepared to deal with and have never been through. This virus has hijacked so many people’s lives and stolen so many lives.
In the Steuer family, we value education. Going to school was priority one; it was their job. Now Rebecca, Olivia and Benjamin don’t go anywhere. Well, they go to the table where we eat and do school work, the kitchen, their beds, the playroom and their art studio. The last day of real school was March 13. Since then, they have learned how to get into Google classroom, class chats and how to submit their work online. Zoom has helped my crew keep up with Hebrew School and the preparations for the B’nai Mitzvot.
My kids haven’t seen any friends, classmates, clergy or teachers in real life in two months. Two months of no in-person social interactions. This is just 1 percent of their lives, but I see how it is affecting them. Twelve-year-olds should be around other kids and other people. Twelve-year-olds should be at school, the playground or at a friend’s house.
There are six people in our house, and there are times we get tired of each other. When that happens, we have learned that a change of scenery is a good choice. My kids miss their friends, their teachers and the life they had up until March 13. “When can we go back to our normal life?” they ask. I don’t know. Going back to what was normal before this may not be possible, and I don’t know what a new normal will look like. I don’t know how to keep everyone safe and healthy after there are certain restrictions that are lifted. I don’t know.
Life is simple right now. There are meals to be prepared, clothes still need to be washed, school work needs to be done, and there needs to be ways to just veg out. I don’t know the right balance. The family’s needs are my goals. I just don’t know how to keep everything pulled together. Even in a simple life, there can be conflicting appointments and needs that pull me in every direction. I am grateful that my family is under one roof.
We don’t go to the park. We don’t go to religious services. There are no lunch dates with Harlan. I can’t go with Harlan to his appointments. We don’t do what we used to do socially. We have been very lucky, so far. I don’t know if we will be lucky throughout this pandemic, but I will do anything I can to keep my family safe.
Harlan was back in the hospital in April. I sat on my steps feeling pure panic as the ambulance doors closed with a hollow thud. The wheels started rolling and the lights came on as I panicked thinking I would never see my husband again. The father of my kids might not come home. Harlan had septicemia. After a week, Harlan walked out of the hospital. I don’t know how he was so lucky.
Our hands are chapped and sore from washing and washing. We have done crafts. We cook and bake. We talk and tell stories. We laugh, cry, dream … and I feel guilty. I’m a Jewish mom, so I know guilt. I know that heavy feeling. I look at Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca and I am so grateful that they are healthy. I watch the kids and see them changing. Physically they are healthy, but this pandemic will leave its mark. There is a never-ending prayer for healing simmering in my mind and on my lips. I pray for every family, because I believe that somehow that will help, but I don’t know.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 12-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.