There may be nothing that chases away the dark shadows of the news – a pandemic, a dysfunctional Congress, an unknown number of people believing the loser of the last presidential election will magically become the winner before summer is over – as quickly and thoroughly as holding a new grandchild.
Parker Hayes Camden recently became my second pandemic grandchild, born a year and a week after his cousin Myles Richard Werden. They seem to be bookends to the worst of COVID-19, at least in the state and the rest of the country.
When Myles was born, the state was in full-blown “stay home” mode with schools and many businesses closed to curb the spread of a virus that had no known treatment or vaccine. His masked grandparents only saw him through a window for weeks after he came home and had to make up for lost time months later.
Parker was born as the state seems to be pulling out of the worst of the pandemic, as case counts drop and with so much vaccine on hand that people are being coaxed into getting a lifesaving shot with a chance at $1 million. He came home to vaccinated grandparents who could do all the grandparently things in person, like watch a tiny hand grasp an adult finger or talk to him in a voice at least an octave higher than normal.
Myles and Parker join their siblings Wesley and Kendall as members of “Generation Alpha,” a name that seems destined to be a mere placeholder until someone comes up with something better. After all, what’s more lame than getting to Generation Z and just starting over with the Greek alphabet as though this were a long hurricane season?
Let’s hope the name to stick is not Generation COVID.
Just as Generation Z grew up unable to remember a time when the Twin Towers were still standing and American troops weren’t fighting in Afghanistan, this new generation may grow up unable to remember when COVID-19 wasn’t a part of their life. But that doesn’t mean it has to define their lives or continue to create the distress and discord it has with their parents and grandparents.
If Wesley and Kendall are any indication, this new generation is likely to be a resilient bunch that can take whatever the world and COVID-19 throw at them. Should a new strain prompt a return to pandemic restrictions, they’ll handle switches between at-home and in-class learning better than their parents or grandparents ever could have, in part because they have much better technology and in part because they’ve just “been there, done that.”
If required to wear a mask to attend class or go to the playground, they’ll slip it on without a second thought, providing it’s the one with their favorite design. They may grow up seeing fewer movies in a theater and attending fewer events with large crowds, but with more options on more screens.
When a vaccine is available for children, most members of this new generation likely will get it just as they get the alphabet soup of shots like MMR and DPT. If a booster is needed, they, their parents and grandparents probably won’t consider that any different than the yearly flu shot. Some of their classmates might not get a COVID shot, just as some don’t get other vaccines, but over time that number might grow smaller and smaller until it’s only something for old people to argue over.
They may grow up thinking “going to work” means turning on a computer and starting up a video conference just as much as driving a car or riding a bus to an office. They may also grow up thinking all types of work are essential.
Holding a new baby makes one hope for a world that can solve the problems this new generation is being born into. One where school children won’t have to have active shooter drills as well as fire drills. Where the air and water will be cleaner, and the streets and cities safer. Where the leaders care more about the next generation than the next election.
One where they will be judged for what they do and how they act, not by how much they have, where they’re from, how they look, how they pray or whom they love.
That may seem like a tall order. But maybe a generation that gets its start during a pandemic might come out the other side up to the task.
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