Personally, it’s been a lot for me as well. My ex and I separated earlier this year and are marching steadily toward divorce as I type. We share an 11-year-old son, and his security and happiness are always at the top of our minds — hence our decision to open up our lives to a virus-cautious pod this summer.
This year has been tough on just about everyone for really obvious reasons: There is a global pandemic going on. There has been a lot of political upheavals, and this summer saw demonstrations that were truly powerful but that also stirred up a lot of tension that has been boiling under the surface in this country for a long time.
When the news that the virus was making its way through Europe with devastating results started to trickle in, we immediately locked down our home. I started ordering groceries online, and my son’s dad and I made a pact to be very open and honest with each other about who we might be spending time with because that kind of safety matters. We also became really nervous about our son spending any time with his friends, as kids can carry and transmit the virus with little to no symptoms.
After a few months, we started talking about trying to put together some kind of virus-cautious pod. Luckily, my son’s best friend’s family is also taking the virus really seriously, and they were into the idea.
By now, a lot of people are familiar with the idea of a virus pod: You basically choose one family outside of your home to socialize with. Once I started talking to the mom of my son’s best friend, it became clear that she was worried about the same things I was: getting her two sons outside to play and making sure they were interacting with someone they aren’t related to, someone they love, and someone who is being virus-cautious.
We started out just by letting the boys hang out once or twice a week, always outside, running around in the woods somewhere.
After a few weeks, we talked it over again and decided, based on everything we know about how we’re all living our lives, to let the boys have sleepovers every weekend. And truly, it’s been really awesome for all of us.
Not only are our sons getting to see each other way more than they were a few months ago, they’re infinitely happier as a result.
We have had to pause sleepovers every so often, because despite our best efforts one family member or another gets a cold and tests to make sure it’s not the virus, but we always pick the sleepovers back up after that’s over.
This kind of virus-cautious pod definitely comes with a level of trust that is, at times, odd to have. For example, while our sons are best friends and the adults involved all get along well, we aren’t nearly as close as our kids are.
But since we’re living in this viral age, I’ve had to tell the parents more than I usually would about my personal life because the people I interact with could not only potentially give me the virus, I could pass it to my kid, who could pass it to their kid. So far, it’s all worked out well.
Having our kids be able to have sleepovers and play together has also been great for me as a mom. I have been a little worried that my son is spending a year where the bulk of his socialization and relationships happen while he’s talking to his friends as they each play video games at home.
On one hand, I’ve been happy that he’s had the opportunity to talk to his friends so easily, but on the other … that’s a lot of video games!
One thing that makes our virus-cautious pod work is that while we can ask each other anything, we don’t try to enforce a lot of rules on the other family — we just have to trust each other.
If one of us is planning to do something that might carry extra risk, we tell each other, but we don’t try to talk one another out of it. I think pulling off a virus-cautious pod requires all the adults to realize that they can’t tell each other what to do, but they can decide how they respond to it.
We have also always made it clear that it’s fine to retract the sleepovers at any point, and we have even done so ourselves.
One time, I scaled back sleepovers just because viral case numbers were rising all over the country, and it made me nervous in general. Right now numbers are exploding, but we’re all hunkered down pretty tightly. Again, so far … so good.
Hopefully, our little virus-cautious pod will hold up until we all get vaccines that work and can start to leave our homes more frequently again.
Then the boys can go right back to their pre-virus life … though maybe while still wearing masks for a while.
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