Ironically, given last week’s post, the pandemic and my No Kidding life clashed last week and is still making me think. It was the first week after school went back following the summer break that began in December. My husband and I had a day off from working on the in-laws’ house, and we decided to go out for lunch, a rare treat this summer. The roads were clear, there were tables available at the café we chose, plenty of parking spaces, and the beach across the road was relatively empty. We had a lovely lunch overlooking a beach, and the harbour channel. The sea was a deep greeny-blue, the wind had whipped up white tips on the waves out in the channel, yet in the bay the water was calm and clear around the rocks, the sand was golden, and the sun was shining. It was gorgeous. I posted about it on Fbk, mentioning that the kids were finally back at school, and declaring, “I have my city back!”
It was a statement that many No Kidding people would understand. We avoid the crowds at malls and movie theatres and museums etc during school holidays, knowing that we can visit when there aren’t families on holiday crowding our city. My sister (whose child was back at school herself) laughed, and wished she could be with us. But I was initially confused when there were responses praising our PM, and even more so when I found myself being accused of crowing about our good fortune, and given the usual excuses why NZ had been successful in dealing with the pandemic (“such a small country” etc). Another person also seemed to want to point out how well their area was doing. (I bit my tongue and refrained from pointing out that 700 deaths in a single US county with the same population of my city - was not “doing well.”)
The misunderstandings were multiple:
First, I didn’t realise that my friends in the US and UK would not realise that our summer school holidays occur … well … in our summer! They know it is summer here, if they follow me at all. So that surprised me, and reminded me once again of the tyranny of the north, and that being in the southern hemisphere makes half the world outliers from the dominant culture!
Secondly, my social media friends didn’t seem to realise that I was celebrating a city without holidaymakers – because of course, when the schools start, the parents get back to work too. So celebrating a city without kids means a much easier city to navigate. Perhaps they’ve never felt the need to avoid children and families because life has been easier for them. I don’t do that now through pain or envy, although that hasn’t always been the case. Avoiding children and families used to be an act of self-protection, to avoid the ouch moments we all know so well. But now I avoid them if possible simply because I don’t like crowds, and prefer to wait till the families have resumed school and work before I voluntarily visit certain places. After every school break, I rejoice when the schools open again, and I reclaim my city! But this simple state was completely misunderstood by some of my friends.
Finally, my simple statement about a kid/family free city – or at least, what I thought was simple – became a trigger and hurtful to others, who are so focused on the pandemic that they immediately assumed that was what I was talking about. It reminded me again about infertility. How many times has someone made a simple statement that we have taken the wrong way? I’m sure I have at times, when I was deep in pain. Were my casual comments about going out and eating lunch the equivalent of fertiles talking about their kids? Perhaps. What I do know is what I didn’t say. I didn’t say, “I am blessed,” or “it wasn’t meant to be” or “some people/places aren’t meant to have this luck.” Because I know how pointless and hurtful and simply untrue those comments can be. So I’m still thinking about it. Those who responded badly were more politically supportive of administrations that have performed poorly in the pandemic, and perhaps feeling defensive. So I'm trying to be fair. Trying to be sensitive. Trying to do better.
An aside: The woman who told me it was “distasteful” to “crow about” NZ’s pandemic (relatively) free status, which I was not doing, was someone I knew through the ectopic online support group. We had commiserated and comforted each other together, I met her in real life, and I was supportive and happy when she went on to have a child. I discovered some years later that she already had two much older children, and I remember feeling duped and betrayed. I don’t know the story around that, and there obviously is one. But I did think it was a bit ironic that she, who is a fervent poster about being a mother and now a grandmother despite pretending not to have children in the first ten years of our relationship, objected to my innocent comment. I remind myself. Try to do better. Bite my tongue!