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Kristy Kirkup is a parliamentary reporter at The Globe and Mail.
This month marks the two-year anniversary of living in a global pandemic – and if I take any time to reflect on that, my first instinct is to sleep. And make it a month-long slumber.
I am deeply tired for many reasons, but obviously we all are. It has been an exhausting rollercoaster, deepened by lockdowns and letdowns.
On a personal level, the past two years have taken every ounce of my emotional strength as I try to navigate the early, hard years of motherhood while covering a news cycle that never quits as a parliamentary reporter for The Globe and Mail. I often can’t think beyond the next hour, let alone the next day.
Because of daycare closures and COVID-19 symptoms, I’ve covered news conferences with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from a playroom with a two-year-old. I’ve hid in my basement near the furnace in a desperate attempt to get some quiet while interviewing a cabinet minister. (A full-body tantrum was under way upstairs.) I’ve done radio hits from my vehicle to avoid background squeals that sound like a bird. I’ve gone live on BBC World News from one room while I left child care to Disney Plus in another.
I have heard my daughter cry out that she is “losing her Mom” while I descend to the basement to make the paper’s deadline. Even as I write this sentence, my child, home from daycare because one of her friends tested positive for COVID-19, is calling out “Mommy” on repeat.
After 730 days of navigating this unprecedented time (the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic was on March 11, 2020), it’s no wonder why we are all experiencing the depths of depletion in our respective circumstances.
On top of this, the war in Ukraine is devastating to watch. I acknowledge the extreme privilege of being able to observe what’s happening from the comfort of Canada, and my heart breaks for those living this horror. For Ukrainians, the notion of returning to some kind of normalcy at this time is entirely out of reach.
Still, as COVID-19 restrictions lift in Canada after the height of a challenging Omicron-driven wave, I’m trying to find a way to navigate the basics again, because life marches on. But everything that once felt routine just isn’t anymore.
I’m trying to normalize simple things that I took for granted, for my kid and myself. My daughter has now lived more than half of her life during this pandemic.
It is hard not to feel pangs of emotions about how our time together has been altered. A recent piece by National Geographic delves into how pandemic isolation has affected developing minds, noting that many children younger than five years old have been “bunker babies” for almost two years.
“Regardless of family protocols, children have been deprived of normal social interactions,” the article says. “After nearly two years, the under-fives remain in limbo. These kids are the last age group without access to a vaccine.”
For the most part, I try to push pause on Mom guilt and remember that my daughter is a happy and healthy kid. But there is no doubt that relationships have changed, friendships have been altered and we are all different.
My husband recently took our kid to the grocery store for the first time in two years. She was excited by every sight, including cucumbers and cantaloupes. She told the cashier she was having fun. Part of this filled my heart with joy. But if I am being honest, it also made me sad. I guess the bar for fun has never been lower.
We also are planning to dust off her old library card. With cycles of restrictions, I haven’t introduced my child to the delight of checking out books and returning them for new ones.
A recent journey to the swimming pool together felt almost illicit. We splashed in the water on a Sunday and pretended to be lions (because that’s what you do on weekends with a four-year-old). I can tell you that after trying to find things to do with a kid during Canadian lockdown winters, just being able to go out is a break.
Every time we do something that once felt natural, but now feels bold, I remind myself that it is okay to experience a range of feelings along with that. Especially since in a few months things are set to change in a big way again, at least for me and my family: Our second child is due at the end of June.
My greatest goal throughout the pandemic has been to try and coach myself through my own feelings (largely of fear) and not to download them on to my kid. It took, and it’s taking, a lot of internal work.
As we step out of the house again – to go to the store, the library and the pool – I’m giving myself lots of grace. These two years have been really hard. There are lots of feelings here to unpack.
And we are, ever so gingerly, trying to find our footing once more.
What else we are thinking about:
As I try to make sense of the tumultuous world around me, I find news consumption can be overwhelming, especially on social media websites such as Twitter. Each week on a drive to a prenatal exercise class, I’ve been listening to Peter Mansbridge’s excellent podcast The Bridge. There is something really reassuring about the former CBC anchor’s coverage of events, including the war in Ukraine. I would recommend that people give it a listen.
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