When “New Normal” Isn’t Exactly New

Since lockdown, we rarely take our almost 15-month-old anywhere other than daycare. He’s been to his grandparents’ houses, he’s been to my aunt and uncle’s house to swim a few times, and last weekend we took him to his first football game to see his older cousin on homecoming court. We’ve taken him grocery shopping a handful of times, most recently yesterday morning. 

My husband coaches high school basketball and was at practice, and I needed to run to Sam’s to get something I needed that just couldn’t wait. So I loaded him into the car and off we went.

When we got to the store, he was immediately enthralled by the bustle of the crowd. He watched curiously as last-minute Halloween candy purchases were made, completely fascinated by the colors and sounds around him. He’s a very social baby, so it was no surprise as he smiled at fellow shoppers and pointed out things for me to name for him. 

When I rounded a corner to turn onto an aisle, an older lady stopped her cart and complimented him on his smile. My son, ever the entertainer, knew this was his moment in the spotlight. He lifted his tiny hand up at the lady and waved (toward himself because we’re still working on mastering the outward wave). She was tickled by his performance and waved back at him, giggling behind her mask. He wiggled in the seat of the shopping cart and reached for the top of his head — showing off his “Where’s your hair?” move before I’d even asked. 

I laughed and told the lady, “He’s showing you his hair,” which made her laugh even more. He excitedly bounced around in his seat and waved back at her, soaking up his audience.

“He is just too precious!” she said as she waved to him. “It’s like he doesn’t even notice the mask!”

At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks:

My sweet toddler was completely unfazed by her mask because people have been wearing masks around him for as long as he can remember.

My heart sunk and I suddenly felt overcome with emotions. (I’m also nearing the halfway point of my pregnancy with his little sister, so the hormones are undoubtedly playing a part.)

This pandemic has changed our lives so very much. It’s bothered me for months now that my son FaceTimes family members more than he sees them in person. He has no recollection of our last big extended family gathering because it was for Christmas last year when he was only 4 months old. He spent literally the entire second half of his first year in our home, quarantining with his parents.

The “new normal” that everyone is doing their best to muddle through is simply HIS normal.

It makes me sad for the memories I feel like he’s “missed out” on making, like his first big Easter celebration and even his first birthday party. Luckily, we are blessed with amazing friends and family. One friend surprised us by sending the Easter Bunny to our house for a house call photoshoot and dozens of friends and family members joined us for a Zoom cake smash on his first birthday. It was wonderful and memorable, but we all know it’s not the same as a house full of loved ones.

My heart breaks for the parents who welcomed their babies during the lockdown, especially the first-time parents. It takes a village, and I know how lucky we were to be able to have our village around us those first few months when everything is foreign and you’re trying to learn your way. I hope your villages found ways to help you as best as they could.

Motherhood makes you want to change the world for your children, and I am certainly there these days. I am extraordinarily grateful that our son is as happy and social as he is, completely unfazed by masked faces everywhere. I love seeing him interact with people the few times we take him places, but I still hope that the masks won’t be around forever. 

But, at least in the meantime, the world is getting to see his precious little smile.

Joey Yearous
Joey is a New Orleans native, Dominican alum, and LSU grad who joined the ranks of motherhood in the summer of 2019. She and her Colorado born-and-raised husband, Phil, left their Mid-City apartment for a house on the Northshore about ten days before they welcomed their son, Sam, into the world. Though she’s always had a passion for writing, it’s her work as the Director of Marketing for a Louisiana-based electrical firm that pays the bills. She’s a longtime member of the dance troupe The Muff-A-Lottas and when she isn’t covered in glitter and dancing through the streets of New Orleans, she’s usually cooking, trying new restaurants, and listening to true crime podcasts. A consummate Pinterest fanatic, she’s always looking for her next DIY project or recipe to try. She believes good senses of humor and random acts of kindness make the world go ‘round.

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