I’ve been thinking a lot about young parents.
Moms who are pregnant. Moms who are going to give labor. Moms who are embarking on such a transformational moment, all through a mask.
They’ve been pregnant in a mask. They labored in a mask. They were isolated in a mask. They held so many feelings with a mask. They are weighing out the vaccine with a mask.
Our lives pre-Covid and pre-mask were and have been defined by our body language, our energy, our voice, and our expression. It’s what makes us each unique in our forms. Our mannerisms and the way we enter a room are who we are. People in our lives recognize our footsteps, our smile, our pace, our loving way, our eyes.
As a new parent, I think about all that is behind the mask—the worry; the sadness; the unknown; the joy; the highs; the lows; the frustration; the tension; the grappling with the way the world is.
Then I think of the newborn—not yet wearing the mask. Yet, the baby is developmentally seeing others on this human planet with a mask, covering expression, voice, and masking what is on the inside.
Yes, it may be temporary. And it also may shift over time. But the mask does shield us from seeing each other as humans.
You can smile through the mask.
You can breathe a bit.
You can hide.
You can be frustrated.
You can use it as a disguise.
You can get on with it and go with it.
You can protect yourself from viruses.
You can create distance with others.
In some ways, many of us have been masked even before COVID. We covered parts of our lives, not wanting others to see them. I think beyond the mask, we have to return back to our humanness, our compassion through our eyes, and our empathy for where we have been, where are now, and how we go ahead.
I want my children to know there is life beyond the mask.
There is a liberated feeling in each of us.
To live authentically in our voice.
To express ourselves.
To lean into the joy and parts of ourselves that we hide.
These are the things I want my children to know beyond the mask. I want them to know this mask is protecting us and themselves from the virus and that we are doing this to keep our communities safe.
But I don’t want the mask to hinder their expression—their sense of love for others; the ability to give and find joy; their sense of reaching out to others.
The mask must come down for that.
Sometimes, humans are hurting.
Sometimes, humans need help.
We need to remember that our heart beats the same wherever we are in the world.