It’s been over two weeks since my son has seen anyone in person besides his parents.
Well, we’ve waved to a few neighbors on walks around our block, so at least he’s had a glimpse that the world still exists.
But he hasn’t seen “his” world in awhile.
I’m seeing a bit more stress in his eyes, as the novelty of a “vacation at home” with mom and dad is starting to wear off.
But I think this will be our new reality for a while longer.
I’ve tried to explain to him what’s going on, using some “social stories” like this one and offering some simple language like “We have to stay home to stay safe. People are getting sick and we want to stay well. We are safe at home.”
We don’t have our regular supports of respite providers and day program and therapies and recreational activities. It feels strange and worrisome—I want our “team” to be safe in their homes, but to also have income. We are trying out some video conferencing sessions for some of his therapies and adapted recreation, and that looks promising. At least to give this kid something to do, connect with some familiar faces, and give these valuable people a way to have an income from a distance.
My family is lucky, so far, to be able to do our part in this crisis with only minor complications. We are staying home.
But I’ll have to venture out to the grocery store(s) again, soon.
Oh, my kingdom for a roll of Jenny O ground turkey….
There was a time when my son’s diet was much more restricted than it is now. As a younger mom, I felt pretty successful when my sensitive toddler would at least eat Fritos and peanut butter. It’s so much better now.
But what my now 20-year-old can and will eat—due to some combination of taste, texture, sight, and smell—is still pretty limited. If I wrote out his “menu,” it would include more healthy foods, but it’s still a short list that repeats often during a week.
This limited diet is becoming starkly obvious in The Time of Coronavirus, because if the stores are out of the particular brand of food that he eats, I can’t just switch to another brand or flavor, usually.
And the stores are out of a lot just now.
My husband and I can scrounge whatever (and with our present level of anxiety, we’re both eating less anyway). But for my son, I have to go to more stores, and more often, to forage for his food.
Our local grocery stores are still eerily empty in certain aisles—not of people, there’s still way too many out there—but empty shelves. No eggs, pasta/rice, limited bread and meats and produce (along with of course very little cleaning or paper products). I know that the clerks and managers and those in food manufacturing and delivery are all working over-time, and at some point soon (wishful thinking?) this will get back to normal.
I am already nervous every time I go out of our house, to check the post office box, to pick up medicine, to grocery shop. I am hyper-aware of the rules, trying to touch less and wash my hands more, and to not stand too close.
And now I am also nervous about continuing to see picked-over store shelves, and gambling over what new version of the same my son might be able to eat.
The good thing is that most days he is sleeping in late, so it’s really two meals a day, not three, with some (hopefully healthy-ish) snacking in between.
It doesn’t worry me (yet) for his nutrition—although good nutrition does help to keep his behavior more balanced. He’s certainly not anywhere close to going hungry. (I’m very aware that many, many other households are dealing with real hunger for their children, especially with schools closed).
But it is breaking my heart a little.
His familiar, expected, known foods feel like the one thing I can give him that is the same.
It’s comforting to him, and to me, to make the same breakfasts and dinners that he had back when the world was not upended by a global pandemic. Even his lunches can look the same as what he’d unpack at his day program that is currently closed.
Pre-COVID19-me worried over expanding his diet and finding ways to vary his meals, sneak in proteins and veggies, and limit sugars and carbs.
In this moment, though, it just feels damned good to give him the familiar staples that he asks for every day.
That is, if everyone else would stop clearing out the grocery of those valuable items.
There’s one brand/container of ground turkey that I can make his known version of breakfast “sausage.” There’s one brand of taco seasoning. One type of bagel. Frozen pizza? Well, two brands, I’m a bit more lucky there.
So, if you see someone rejoicing in the grocery aisles, and maybe she grabs a little extra of the same thing? That parent just may be one of us.
She’s just grateful to give her child that one comfort food that might make his world feel a little more normal.