By Melissa Mayer
Two months into the pandemic, my six and eight year old daughters
still have not worn masks. Although I am willing to comply with the
New York State Law requiring face coverings, the kids have not been in
any public places so wearing masks have not been necessary. They
would see masks around the house and notice me wearing one to run a
quick food errand. They didn’t seem alarmed and enjoyed watching me
draw a rainbow on the mouth of the disposable surgical mask.
Normally, we would have embraced the opportunity of making masks, as
we love crafting and handwork. I found the generosity of people
making and giving masks touching but I was reluctant to participate,
fearing it would scare the children.
Out here on the east end of Long Island we have the luxury of space
making it easy to maintain the acceptable 6 foot social distance. As
the weather improved in May, we started seeing more people at public
outdoor places where we take nature walks. One Sunday we encountered
an unprecedented amount of people at a nature preserve we frequent.
Regardless that we were outdoors, it felt uncomfortable seeing so many
people wearing masks while we were not. The next day I discussed my
discomfort with a friend who lives in New York City and asked him what
he observed during his few errands to the store.
Later over lunch with my kids, I shared the story of the conversation
I had with my friend. I described the close proximity of people
walking on New York City streets. Spending time in city they were
able to envision it. I went on to say that was a good example of
where masks are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. And how
children would wear them on the street and then remove them in an open
space like Central Park.
Then, I continued, with upcoming Memorial Day and knowing how our
beach town gets crowded with visitors we may need to do the same. We
paused and continued eating, I took a breath and watched and observed
the children’s response. They seemed calm so I continued. I suggested
we practice after lunch. We took our time choosing a mask. My
younger daughter chose one that she had put on her stuffed animal and
drew a heart on it. My older daughter decided to make a mask out of
fabric. We used the example of going to our town beach, approaching
the pavilion with the mask around our necks and if there is a crowd to
cover our faces and then down on the sand taking them off in the wide
open spaces. A few days later on a glorious Friday of Memorial Day
weekend the weather was perfect for a live run. We went to the beach
and sure enough there was signage of face masks being required at the
Pavillion and taped arrows on the ground indicating direction and
traffic flow. The children and I navigated it with ease. No fear,
stress or anxiety. After walking down the path to enter the beach, we
dipped our feet in the chilly ocean water with a warm breeze on our
faces under the clear blue skies. The girls began joyfully frolicking
as they experienced the delicious world through their senses. The
talk of masks and signage of social distancing seemed a million miles
away and I felt joy as well.
I had gained the tools to handle this situation by reading and
listening to the work of psychologist and author Kim John Payne.
Listening to hours of talks and reading Payne’s most popular book,
Simplicity Parenting, empowered me to embrace simplicity in
conversation and how much we as parents can communicate to our
children non verbally. Using the above example, from the beginning
there was very simple dialogue. The schools being closed allows the
children to understand and be aware there is a virus present in
society. Therefore, there isn’t much need to talk about it. I did
feel the need to reassure them that we have wonderful doctors, nurses
and the best scientists all over the world studying it so we can
better understand and find cures. We also reviewed that with hand
washing and the measures society is taking by social distancing makes
it unlikely we would get it. Since I believe all of those things I
said, the integrity of the words conveys the security of them.
Refraining from endless talk of changing headlines, nuances and op ed
pieces that are written for adults strengthens the earlier statements
and prevents them from getting watered down.
Going back to author Kim John Payne, he describes four main pillars of
simplification, the first being simplifying the environment through
decluttering. Decluttering the home leads children into deeper play
(which is how they make sense of the world), more peace and ease, and
less chaos. The second pillar is simplicity in scheduling.
Obviously, children are less overscheduled these days, but prior to
the pandemic many children were living unbalanced schedules with too
little down time, which is where creativity and innovation often lie.
The third pillar is establishing rhythm and ritual around family life,
especially around meal times, transition times, waking and sleeping.
The predictability that comes with rhythm is extremely comforting for
children. The last pillar is filtering out the adult world and
protecting children from undue adult conversations, worries and
content and limiting the use of screens and devices which are also
loaded with adult content and have multiple other disadvantageous
effects. Working with these pillars gives children a sense of safety
and security that goes beyond words, which can be quite shallow. We
often tell our kids they are safe, but subsequent actions contradict
During this pandemic we have been encouraged to talk to our children
about things we can’t even fathom. We forgot that young children learn
mainly by imitation not words. Therefore, we comfort them through our
non verbal actions, our tone, our energy level, our movements, our
ability to be mindful. Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who
established Waldorf Education, anthroposophy, and biodynamic farming
pointed out until the age of seven children believe the world is pure
and good. Yes, as adults we have experienced so much to contradict
this notion and feel the need to burst the bubble of this illusion.
But my experience has been that if I am going to raise children to be
empowered conscious citizens, I need to preserve this belief and
ensure love is the foundation their life is built on. That the world
is worth fighting for versus a bad place that needs saving and beyond
My daughter’s ninth birthday was a few weeks ago. I sent an email to
the few family members that were coming over for an intimate gathering
to please refrain from pandemic conversation. I felt like it was my
duty to protect her innocent request of ice cream cake and musical
chairs not to be jaded by adults regurgitating headlines of experts
predicting a possible second wave of the virus. There was no denial
of the disappointing reality; my daughter would not have a birthday
celebration at school or see her friends. However, we made the best
of it and had a lovely day, in part due to embracing the simple
Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is something that all this
change cannot disrupt or corrupt. While the schools are closed we can
learn the deeper lessons of resilience and acceptance. I love the
work of self discovery and as it turns out, parenting is the ultimate
form of this work. Watching a human develop allows time for the
reflection of your own development, as scary as that can be. Once you
sit with it and the fear releases you see the light and opportunity.
When a child exhibits behavior that is unfavorable we often analyze
the child and neglect the opportunity to look at ourselves. There
doesn’t have to be blame and shame. Considering, children learn
through imitation and modeling it is up to us parents to demonstrate
perseverance and strength. Payne says our children respond in our
striving to be better. I developed a love for Kim John Payne’s work
and Waldorf education because it helped me embrace parenting as an
opportunity to better myself and lead by my example.
We don’t talk politics, we live it.
I am a mother, holistic physical therapist, writer, and social activist on a transformation spiritual journey.