My daughter and I spent most of 2020 in a cage. Our tiny apartment in downtown D.C. had 550 square feet and a view of a parking lot. We never moved there with the intention of being indoors much. But as the pandemic hit, we were confined to this cage. I had to muster a lot of inner power and strength to develop convictions about getting fresh air, outdoor time, and wearing masks on playdates.
I always thought wearing a mask at a playground was pointless. There had never been any study I could find about the transmission of COVID-19 in outdoor situations or from surfaces. All we had was anecdotes that made headlines and spread fear. I spent months trying not to be an obvious dissenter, trying to get along with neighbors in our densely populated neighborhood. I had crippling anxiety about strangers yelling at me or humiliating me in public for standing too close to them or not wearing a mask. (Sometimes it even happened when I was wearing a mask. Being yelled at wasn’t predictable.)
As an example, on the day before we moved out of the city to the suburbs, an older man tried to avoid walking past us on the sidewalk outside our apartment building. He nervously went up the steps of a rowhouse and waiting for us to pass. We’d just finished eating popsicles, but it shouldn’t matter. He angrily told us as we passed, “Get off the streets! Wear a mask!”
Well, we sure got off the streets. Haven’t been back.
And then something awakened in me. I got my confidence. I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed of my opinion. This was in the fall, and by then I still hadn’t seen any scientific studies showing that transmission happened outdoors.
So, I stopped wearing masks at playgrounds. And I refused to put one on my daughter. This taught me a few things about having convictions, which apparently, I didn’t have a lot before this.
I won’t get into arguments with people, but I will not be bulldozed either.
I’ll describe to you some of the adventures I’ve had during this pandemic in growing as a person and a parent.
Choices in keeping old friends or moving on
I am sick of walking on eggshells around people. I decided a few months ago (late, I know) that I don’t care what anyone thinks, and if they don’t like my position on masks and life, they don’t have to be my friend anymore. I had to allow myself to be okay with “shedding” friends. Unfortunately, this meant that my daughter was also unwittingly shedding friends, and for a long time, I wondered if I was a terrible parent for this.
I saw the fear arise in so many friends in my vicinity, and I was having none of it.
In what seems like another life, these people meshed perfectly with me. We shared interests, went on excursions together with our kids, and talked about interesting things like farmers' markets and international living. But the pandemic threw us all onto a whole new world: an unchartered territory where it has been revealed that we may actually have very little in common. The way we respond to a “crisis” is different. The way we view the fabric of reality, it seems, differs wildly. Parenting is obviously a point of contradiction between us.
I realized in May 2020 that I wasn’t scared of a virus. Just not scared. The facts that have been fed to all of us simply influence my mentality in a way that doesn’t apply to others. It’s been a wake-up call, to tell the truth. I know it might really anger some people to say this even here, but I am not scared of death.
I saw the fear arise in so many friends in my vicinity, and I was having none of it. I wanted to stay in my bubble of good energy, living a blissful life.
The way I stayed positive (and healthy!) through all of this is by choosing to let some friends drift away, and sometimes even actively avoiding contact. It was scary at first because I didn’t want to get into a confrontation where I had to explain myself. But now that I am stronger and have more confidence, I am not worried anymore. I am me. I have beliefs I won’t be ashamed of anymore.
You wanna challenge me? I will not aim to offend you, but I will speak my truth.
It’s okay with me now if you don’t want to be my friend anymore. Bye.
Is it alright to be the only parent at the playground without a mask?
You go to the playground and you and your child are the only ones that aren’t in masks. Have you found yourself in this situation? It used to really give me anxiety. I must have been scarred by the time in D.C. I was at a playground (masked) and a dad took off his mask for a minute to talk to his newborn. Another dad saw this and promptly called the cops on him.
And they came and warned the dad that he’d better wear a mask or they’ll come back and make him pay. My anxiety was through the roof after witnessing that event.
But things have changed. I’ve learned to be authentic and express my true self. If someone doesn’t like me being maskless outdoors at a soccer field or a playground, I will calmly and kindly explain why I am doing it (based on science) and that if they don’t like it, we will gladly be more than six feet from them.
I’m ready to speak my truth.
Luckily, I’ve never had to have this conversation. It’s been great. I don’t know if I am giving off the energy of “don’t even try it” or if I just found myself in the suburbs where people don’t care as much. They care enough to all put on masks, but not enough to challenge a stranger on the playground.
And I am ready if they call the cops on me. I will own it.
Approaching playdates with new friends
In this past year, it’s been a refreshing and welcome experience whenever another parent invites my daughter over to their house or to a park for a playdate. But I have often become anxious about the first conversations or interactions. There is a dilemma about the masks. Questions that cause me mask anxiety have been:
- Should I respectfully decline the invitation if they require a mask?
- How do I tactfully ask them whether they want us to wear masks inside their house?
- What if they’re offended?
- What if they gossip about me to all the other parents in the neighborhood and we become known as these criminal maskless rebels?
- Should I allow my daughter to be drawn into this drama or just make her wear a mask to be compliant?
I try to politely ask ahead of time if masks will be expected. I am not a vengeful person, but I want to be authentic. I want it to be known that I think it’s madness to make my daughter wear a mask for hours. I won’t take it further than to state my position, and I’ve become okay with allowing the other family to cancel the playdate. I would even be okay if we showed up at their house and were asked to leave. That’s how I am going to live. To me, playdates should either be normal or nothing at all.
Luckily, I have found a group of wonderful friends who think it’s fine to have playdates without masks. I must be putting energy into the world that attracts like-minded people. When I was living in fear of other people's reactions, comments, and judgments, I was in a negative state. I was putting out a victim’s energy.
I am no longer a victim.
Did I make the right choices?
Although my ability to be a good parent has been called (by me) into question many times, I think I have made the right choices. And the most wonderful thing is that I feel better as a person who has strong and confident opinions.
I feel secure and calm now that I know that I will not be silenced or forced to do something I don’t like. When I was unsure of my opinions and scared all the time of someone arguing with me about them, I allowed pent-up anger and sadness to explode sometimes.
I was mean to people.
I cried afterward.
I internalized confrontations about masks and let them fester in my soul.
I am not anxious anymore. I feel good and happy. I won’t get into arguments with people, but I will not be bulldozed either.
This is what makes a good role model. This is what makes a good parent. This is what makes a good human.
Hi, I’m Emily. I write about wellness, consciousness, and existence. I help others in their healing journeys through spirituality, Ayurveda, and meditation. Visit my website and social media pages to connect!
The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.