Our family had enough of New York City COVID regulations that target kids, the least at-risk segment of the population, with no off-ramp in sight.
So we moved to Florida. Hello from the other side.
Last week, my children went to school maskless for the first time since March 2020. Was I worried about them getting COVID? No, because there’s a mountain of evidence that their cloth Batman masks do absolutely nothing.
There has been a high cost to needlessly masking kids. Many countries weighed the risk and decided that the effect masks have on learning and human connection was simply not worth it so they didn’t mask small children the entire pandemic.
But blue areas in the United States have refused to accept science, data, reality.
Winter 2022, people are finally acknowledging the fact that cloth masks are completely useless. But we’ve had this information for a very long time. Instead of realizing their error in keeping kids masked this long, they’re moving toward getting kids “better” masks.
It’s maddening. It’s wrong. It’s anti-child. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis made unmasking children a priority and normalizing kids’ lives in general a primary concern. It shows.
I focused a lot on masking, in these pages and in making the decision to move. Masking had come to symbolize so much that was wrong with our treatment of children throughout the pandemic. Being in Florida has brought home how much else my kids had lost that I never even considered.
My youngest son had circle time on the rug in his classroom for the first time since the pandemic began.
New York schools have decided that children are little disease vectors and so keep them in their seats and apart from each other. No circle time for the kids for their own good. No movement in class at all, lest they spread the one and only virus we care about. No indoor play. Safety first, childhood last.
But that rug time is special and important. We understood that before the pandemic — that’s why schools had it. Destroying everything in the hope of keeping people from catching COVID became something that blue-area schools just do with no consideration of the repercussions.
Children in New York City public schools eat outdoors, on the ground, because eating around other people indoors can apparently be deadly. Their parents are free to take them to a restaurant after school but that’s totally different because . . . well, no one really knows, but we have to keep the kids safe. The truly at-risk population, the elderly, can be seen around the city dining at our best restaurants, not sitting alone on the freezing ground.
On really cold days, schools let kids eat in the cafeteria. My middle-schooler hated those days. On indoor days, kids are forced to eat in silence and have to stay with their class, as opposed to being with friends from other classes. Of course, all the kids hang out after school but that’s different because . . . still no answer on why that’s different. My daughter preferred eating outside in the cold to the insane soundless eating indoors. I don’t blame her.
This week in Florida, she made a friend in one of her classes, and the two of them simply sat together and ate in the cafeteria. She was as free as any 80-year-old but in far less danger.
Next week, I’m going to a “Muffins with Mom” event at my sons’ school. In-school events for parents are, obviously, not permitted in blue-area schools. It’s just not safe, they say. We used to care about parents being involved at their child’s school. No longer.
The COVID-mitigation strategies that have a stranglehold on blue areas are not working and have never worked. Yet officials continue them to the detriment of kids.
“We’re just keeping everyone safe” has not been a success. COVID is spreading everywhere. You can’t swing a rapid test without hitting a “I did everything right but somehow still got COVID” Facebook post, tweet or article. There is no “right,” and it’s long past time to face that.
The worst response is “What’s the big deal?” “What’s the big deal about masking?” “What’s the big deal that small kids no longer get circle time?” “What’s the big deal about how the kids eat lunch?” “What’s the big deal about parents visiting their child’s school?”
This nihilistic “Nothing matters” is something we say only about children. Adults know the big deal of seeing their friends, going to dinner, having experiences. The big deal is life: Our kids should be living it, not avoiding a virus that is of statistically zero risk to them.
Consider this a plea from a new Floridian to her beloved home city: Stop the madness now. My children are finally in a place of sanity, and I’m so grateful, but I continue to be incensed on behalf of all the children left behind who are going through the safety theater that we all know to be pointless.
Stop treating kids like none of their formative experiences matters. Wake up, New York, and give your kids back their normal lives.