“How was your 10th first-day of school, today,” I asked my fifth grader yesterday, as he smiled cheek to cheek from a whole day of “normal” school.
Instead of preparing his school supplies with pencils and the glue stick (it will be lost before the end of the day), I sat him down that morning before he left and made sure he understood that he would probably not be doing this for much longer.
The painful discussion is one of many I have had over the course of 2020, explaining politics, healthcare, humanity, and things that suck. Like any parent, you don’t want to squash your kids’ dreams, but also need to keep them in check with reality.
Take a moment and remember where you were this time last year. Did you throw up a little in your mask? Our new normal is a numbed reality of what was. Debating going to the mall to get your kids shoes before another lockdown, riding a bus, or visiting family, is not a life any one of us thought we would be living, this time last year.
And yet here we are.
“Son (I don’t really talk like that, I am just not putting my son’s name in this post), I think that the government opened up malls and reopened schools to drive the numbers up again and put us in lockdown.” He wants to ask why, but the light in his eyes has already dimmed, because he knows the answer.
During one of the lockdowns I watched “Queen’s Gambit” (so good, right?) and like many others became obsessed with playing chess. While learning about the pieces, I unexpectedly realized how we too, the people of Israel are pawns in this Pandemic.
My son plays chess better than I do. So, in many ways, he understands even more than I do about this move the government is playing. It’s a simple strategy. You let the player think they are in control and free to move across the board. But the truth is, you are pushing them to the exact square you want them in, and you are going to take them down.
When Bibi didn’t get his Hanukkah curfew, many felt a small victory, but they didn’t realize the strategy I spoke of above. So excited to roam a mall during the holiday, eat your ridiculously expensive donut (it’s dough, why does it cost so much?) and find a bit of normal between hanging out with friends and family, we watched the numbers go up like they were just another candle on the menorah.
And then the lights went out on our little Hanukkah miracle.
I told my son I feared another lockdown was coming. I am sure many of you thought the same, if not placed your bets on the exact date it would start. I told him I couldn’t quite understand why the government is doing this and how the leaders can let the world suffer like this, but as I said I am not as good of a chess player as I like to imagine.
I am writing this here, first, because I can. It is still a democracy despite the lack of governing, honesty, and leadership. And secondly, because I want us to realize that we have to think big picture. Look at the whole board.
My son is at school while I write this, but I plan to have another talk with him today. He, like many kids, has developed anxiety from the lack of structure and daily routine, mixed with Zooms and assignments that most parents are now teaching in between working from home while cooking the next meal, on days that run into each other and run out of hope. I want to prepare him for the next shut-down. It is the only strategy, as a pawn, that I’ve got left.
And, thirdly, I am writing this as a mother to the Israeli government, and mostly Bibi. Shame on you. Sitting there with your combover and bare arm, getting a vaccination with your chilling smile as the needle pierces your skin, knowing you will blow up our dreams of normalcy a few days later. Using our children as collateral damage as you fight to keep power. I would agree to new elections if it meant that none of the current standing government could run again. Out with the old, tired, dried up, corrupt politicians, opening IKEA before allowing weddings, shutting down businesses while taking your paychecks to the bank, and giving up on our children’s education for another round of your paid vacations.
To my children and yours: hold on to the big picture. We, the adults might have been captured by the strategy, but you know better. Be better. It’s not a checkmate, it’s a lockdown, and it’s your move.