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Dad Daze: Face masks are the new T-shirt

When my son Milo, 15, walked out of the bathroom after a shower with a face mask and towel on, I told him he perhaps had gone too far.

I couldn’t help but chuckle since it reminded me of when my autistic nephew moved in with us and asked for help in the bathroom. I walked in squinting through the steam, and my OCD-addled pal popped beyond the shower curtain and still had on his glasses, which could have used windshield wipers.

It’s obviously been an unprecedented spring and summer. Mask messages are mixed, and it’s not easy for children. The mask mandate has been in effect in Washington since spring, but it’s a different story in Idaho and Montana.

My sons played quite a bit of baseball in those states, and when you cross those lines, the culture and attitude are different. We’ve adhered to the measures demanded by Gov. Jay Inslee, and we understand why flouting the mask rules is verboten. The purpose of the mask is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others so we can halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s difficult to argue with science, but people do just that.

You get what you pay for extends to the masks. When it was evident that the pandemic was long term, I shifted from a flimsy paper mask to the high-quality face coverings produced by Spokane Masks (spokanemasks.com). The masks handmade by West Central’s Shallan Knowles’ mother-in-law are stylish and comfortable cotton masks. We ordered our share of Gonzaga and Seattle Seahawks masks, which are the new T-shirt.

My kids prefer their masks be adorned with imagery, so they are down with the look of 2020. What’s cool is kids are so adaptable once they accept their new reality. When I was about to enter a Walmart two months ago in Hayden, my 18-year-old son Eddie asked me what I was doing entering the store without a mask since they weren’t required at that point.

When I’ve been in cities where few are wearing masks, I occasionally revert back to the old normal, and I hate to admit it sometimes slips my mind to affix my mask. But my children prompt me since they have absolutely embraced a better-safe-than-sorry approach even when we’ve experienced peer pressure to do the opposite.

When we entered a store in Missoula, Eddie swore people glared at him for wearing a mask. I get it. I recently felt uncomfortable wearing a mask when I entered an Idaho body shop after being surrounded by four mask-less employees.

When we attended a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, during the summer, there were more people wearing scarves on their head or neck than masks covering their faces.

“If we’re ever going to get the coronavirus, it’s tonight,” Eddie said. “Can you believe this? It’s as if the people here have never heard of the coronavirus!” Well, we escaped unscathed.

For any parent who is trying to convince a reluctant teen to wear a mask, there’s hope. During the spring, Eddie not only refused to wear a mask, but he also would sneak out with his then-incorrigible girlfriend and defy the stay-home order.

My daughter Jillian, 21, who was forced to leave her school in Manhattan, which was the coronavirus capital, in March was incredulous. “I was traveling on the subway to school and to work in New York every day, and the coronavirus almost felt tangible,” Jillian said.

“It was frightening. There were people around me who contracted coronavirus, and I couldn’t wait to leave the city since no matter what anyone thinks, the coronavirus is real. I was so relieved to leave New York. After I got back home, I was thinking about how I fortunate I was, and then it dawned on me: If I get coronavirus, it will be my brother’s fault.”

Like many teenagers who believe they’re invincible, Eddie never thought he would be impacted by the pandemic. However, after finally ending a year-plus toxic relationship with his aforementioned girlfriend, he morphed back to who he once was, a respectful germaphobe. Ah, relative normalcy!

When Eddie talks with his friends from a respectful distance, no one says a thing about the mask dangling from his ear. The mask cool quotient is never mentioned among my kids and their friends. It’s a drag, but that’s life, literally.

“I’m aware of people not being too crazy about the governor demanding we have to wear a mask in Washington, but you get used to it,” Eddie said. “When I work out in the gym, a number of people have the mask on even though they can get away with not having it on.”

Milo echoes Eddie’s view. “Wearing the mask is kind of like when I started wearing sports goggles last year. I would forget them, and it was an adjustment, but I made the adjustment. I wear the sports goggles because I have to see when I play sports,” Milo said.

“I wear a mask when I’m out in public not just because we’re supposed to, but because I have to be respectful of other people. Someday, this will all end, and we’ll look back and say, ‘Remember when we had to wear a mask?’ But for now we’re going to be wearing masks for quite a while. We have to get used to it and do the right thing.”

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