The perils of parenting, COVID-style

At long last, it’s OK to take your little one out to play


As a parent, you’re used to cleaning up filthy messes, overcoming scheduling obstacles with your partner and dealing with regular emotional breakdowns. All while holding down a job and just trying to get through the day without going insane or blowing your top. Nothing is ever easy. The constant distractions make it hard to focus on anything besides wanton desires and random questions. Hell, I’ve lost count of how many times my daughter has interrupted me just while writing this column. All day long you field demands, complaints, tantrums and full-on conniption fits.

Out in the world, nobody cuts you any slack. You’re expected to shoulder the burden stoically. After all, you made the little brat.

Prior to becoming a parent, I had all sorts of lofty notions on how to raise a child. Like anyone else with a judgmental streak, I’d see people deal with their kids and swear not to make the same mistakes. “My offspring will only eat healthy food. They won’t have gadgets glued to their hands. There will be no disobedience!”

Now, I’ll do anything to avoid a freak-out. Anything to get her to eat. Anything to make it through a car ride or a trip to the store.

If there were any justice in the world, Safeway and Trader Joe’s would have express lanes for parents with young children. Instead, checkouts are designed to entice kids with rows of candy at eye level.

As challenging as parenting was already, the pandemic only made things worse.

In COVID times, parenting has become more about depriving your child of basic activities, like interacting with other children in public, where they can work out all that abundant energy while improving coordination and developing social skills.

At the beginning of the lockdown, it was distressing to witness how being confined indoors was having emotional and physical consequences on my daughter, as she began showing signs of regression.

Parenting a child during a pandemic has been heartbreaking on so many occasions. Still, you do your best to get through the day. Keep them fed. Clean. Occupied and stimulated.

And yeah, I know they say children are resilient, but how many of us use our childhood experiences to explain the problems we face as adults?

Her entire life was turned upside down, and she barely had the cognitive ability to understand why. How do you explain the world today to a 3-year-old? That someone got sick at a market in China where they sell the carcasses of your favorite cartoon characters. That’s why they closed the parks. That’s why your dance class went virtual. Why swimming class was canceled indefinitely. Why the Chabot Space and Science Center was shuttered, along with the Zoo, the Exploratorium and Fairyland. All your favorite places…

The most painful sacrifice, though, was losing access to the play structures at her beloved Frog Park in Rockridge and Whale Park in Emeryville.

During the first few months of the lockdown, while pushing my daughter around Temescal on her tricycle, we’d pass by a park or schoolyard and she’d stare intently at the brightly colored apparatus through the chain link and ask why she couldn’t play. “Just for a tiny bit.” I’d have to tell her they’re closed. And hope no other kids were breaking the rules.

And yet, despite all these hardships, you never read about parents staging rebellions. Unlike so many groups that have felt unjustly slighted by COVID-19 restrictions, there were no hordes of parents protesting in the streets, storming government buildings or planning armed coups.

After a long day of taking care of a child, you usually just want a nap…

Thankfully, a few months ago, Oakland Parks and Recreation removed the caution tape from the play structures around town. Parents from all over the Bay Area brought their kids. This month, playgrounds across California are finally open again.

It was actually Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, whom I’ve criticized recently for authoring Assembly Bill 5, who petitioned the governor to prepare guidance for opening the playgrounds, saying, “Let the kids play!”

Bless her for that. At least something has gotten better. Now, let’s just hope next week this country will be heading towards a more progressive future.

Kelly Dessaint, a San Francisco taxi driver and veteran zine publisher, is the author of the novel “A Masque of Infamy.” His Behind the Wheel zine series is collected in the paperback “Omnibus,” available through book marketplaces or at his blog, His column appears every other week in the Examiner. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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