My Teens Want To Know When Life Will Be Normal Again, And I Don’t Know What To Tell Them

The constant question in our house is, “when will things go back to normal?”

At 20, 18 and 15 years old, my daughters are looking to me for reassurance that the end of quarantine is near, and they will get their lives back. They want to know when they will be able to leave the house, hang with friends, and physically return to college and high school. The unsettling truth is I don’t have the answers. I don’t know.

Emotions are high and patience is short in our house these days. The five of us have been cooped up for weeks. There are good days with heartfelt moments when I catch my daughters, almost grown women, cooking together and laughing. I wonder if this is the last time the three of them will live under the same roof.

Then there are bad days, some really bad. Disappointment and anger as an unworn prom dress and graduation gown hang in a closet. A summer internship is canceled. Worst of all, we hear the devastating news that a friend’s father has died from the coronavirus. Anxiety is heightened by media headlines and pictures of sick patients waiting outside of hospitals. My daughters have questions and concerns over the health of their family members.

The question of when will things go back to normal is difficult to answer. So much of what I am reading is contradicting. “Restrictions will be lifted, and things will settle down by summer” versus “universities are canceling fall classes and death tolls will continue to soar.”

I wish I could tell them what they want to know, but the future seems uncertain. What will normal look like? Will I think twice before hugging a friend? Will I wear a face mask to the gym? Will I let my kids go to a concert? I don’t want to live in fear, but how will I keep my family safe?

The only other time in my life I remember feeling this vulnerable was after 9/11. Sitting on my floor, eight months pregnant, I watched as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. For many years after there was a “before” 9/11 and an “after” 9/11. A time when I wouldn’t have thought twice about flying or attending a large event and a time when I was overwhelmed by fear. Eventually, time subsided some of the fear and life went on, but I was never the same.

The one thing I can assure my daughters is that there will be a life after the coronavirus. Degrees of normalcy will slowly be restored, eventually, a treatment or vaccination will be developed, and they will get their lives back.

There will always be a “before” and “after” coronavirus for me. A time when I was stopped in my footsteps and learned I could not control life. When my grocery store shelves are filled with disinfecting wipes and toilet paper again, I will not forget waiting in line for one per customer. When I am able to visit my parents for the first time in months, I will be even more grateful to have them in my life. My daughters will be thankful to move back to college and restart high school sitting next to their classmates.

Like them, I cannot wait to get my life back to normal, but the coronavirus has changed all of our lives. Maybe the end result will be a new perspective and appreciation for things we may have taken for granted. And maybe that will not be such a bad thing after all.

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