A few days ago, I was visiting an animal farm with my 5-year-old and my toddler. We haven’t been out much since March, so these early outings feel new and a bit nerve-wracking.
Before we left, I reminded my elder son that he would need to keep his mask on the whole time, and that we’d try and keep a bit of friendly distance from anyone else who was there. We walked around, happily checking out the goats and chickens, deep in a discussion about what donkeys eat, when he turned and asked me, “Mama, don’t grownups have to wear masks, too?”
To our left and right were several small groups of adults, some with no masks at all, others with theirs dangling from their necks.
Not wanting to get into a thing, I shrugged and scooted my boys over to the alpacas — but not before my 5-year-old turned toward one of those who were maskless and said pointedly, “It’s not that hard.”
To which I say, damn right, kid.
It’s not that hard.
My elder son is smart, funny and loyal, but easygoing he is not. The list of things he refuses to do is long — like, eat a vegetable! Or wear a sweater. But when my husband and I explained a few months back that we would all need to start wearing masks anytime we leave our home, he accepted it remarkably well.
He asked why, and we said it was to help keep ourselves and others safe.
He asked if it would help stop “the virus” so he could go back to school and finally see his friends. We said that we hoped it might.
He asked, as he has several times, if the coronavirus is serious. We told him it is, but that the good news is that most people who get it recover.
Then we bought him a pack of reusable cloth masks, which he has dutifully worn anytime we’ve been in a public setting. Aside from us nudging him to keep his nose covered, too, it has basically been a nonissue.
And that’s why it feels absurd to see so many adults without a mask — and why it is maddening to read headlines about the increasingly politicized “mask debate.” What debate? More and more research shows that masks help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Even epidemiologists who are wary of overselling mask-wearing based on the data available right now call the practice of wearing them “a good one.”
To be clear, I’m not faulting parents who are struggling to get their kids to keep a mask on. I, myself, have been trying to get my toddler used to it, and he’ll keep it on for about 3 1/2 minutes before gleefully ripping it off his face. I’m also not talking about people with health conditions that prevent them from being able to wear masks.
But to the rest of the maskless grownups: As we stare down another surge in cases nationwide, I say come on.
My 5-year-old cannot read or tie his shoes. When my husband and I ask him to tidy up his Legos, he behaves as though he is facing a tremendous physical and emotional trial. Yet, he has managed to consistently make this teeny, tiniest of personal sacrifices with ease and grace.
Take it from him. It’s not that hard.