Ahh, the Coppertone Baby… For those who may not be in the know, since it may no longer be a popular thing, it featured a toddler having her swimwear yanked down by a puppy to expose her backside. It became a thing in the early 1950’s and worked towards making Coppertone famous as a leading brand of sunscreen. It became their principle logo on most products and still is on some. As a child, Coppertone was a common name around my house as my mother used to slather my brother and I with sunblock in an effort to keep us from burning. Mostly due to the fact that we were white as ghosts from childhood illnesses but also because being the child of a red-headed man, I had the ginger gene and my skin didn’t fare well in the sun.
By the same token, my children are both very fair-skinned and they come by this honestly, since I carry the redhead gene and my wife is redheaded, herself. My youngest son, Alex, happens to have bright red hair. And he is what I refer to as a “COVID baby.” Although you may find some different meaning behind this term online, I use it to refer to infants and toddlers who were born into the time of the pandemic and have never known any different. My son Alexander was born in September of 2019, only six shorts months before the world slipped into lockdown. He’s only a few months away from being two years old, and he’s never known anything but a life of COVID-19 restrictions.
I had the opportunity to take him out a small handful of times after his birth, including trips to visit my coworkers at the office, a few restaurant outings and a couple of trips to see Grandma and Grandpa. Unfortunately, Alex has never met my parents, who live in New Brunswick. The world locked down before we were able to make it out, and they’ve been limited to photos and the few short video clips I’ve managed to send them on DVD, since neither of them can handle technology. It brought me to think about all the ways the pandemic has affected my young children. But nothing did so as clearly as what happened last weekend.
Since it was Mother’s Day last Sunday (a fact I should have recognized and posted about! My bad, Moms!), we planned on picking up some finger foods with which to have a picnic in our backyard. Coupled with some cake and time together as a family, it seemed like a very “COVID-friendly” way of celebrating Mother’s Day. We already had the cake, having done groceries the previous day. But we wanted some snack meats, cheese and pickles to pair up with some crackers prior to eating the cake. Since there were a couple of stops to make including getting the car washed, I suggested we go as a family.
Alex is already used to being in the car, since he’s been on rides every now and again when we’ve dropped Nathan off at school and on a couple of occasions when pandemic conditions have lessened enough for us to take him to groceries and such. And riding around in our family vehicle doesn’t really stretch the expectations of Health Regulations, since I was the only one attending the errands while others waited on the car. But Alex hasn’t really experienced much beyond the inside of our small home and backyard. I’m quickly reminded of this fact by the way he sometimes reacts to normal things.
After picking up an item from someone through a buy and sell site, we attended a local drive-thru carwash, where we had some music playing in the car and Nathan excitedly waited to see the “colour in the foam” (tricolour soap). He loves sitting through the car wash and enjoys seeing all the water sprayed everywhere. As soon as the water jets started rinsing off the family vehicle, we discovered that such is not the case for Alex, who started screaming and crying at the sound and appearance of the water hitting the vehicle.
It only took us a moment to realize what was happening, and I had foolishly purchased the longest wash available, since Nathan absolutely loves sitting through it. My wife was able soothe and stay with Alex throughout the process so that we could get the hell out of there and every pass of the water freaked him out. It made me realize just how little of the outside world he’s been exposed to. And one has to wonder what the long term effects this will have on all the children born during the pandemic.
We often believe that children are resilient and can adjust to anything. And so they are. But the belief that this pandemic hasn’t affected children, especially the younger ones, is a falsehood. The fact that most of these younger children will be forced to learn and experience the world through the screen of a device and spoken word as opposed to being out there and living it will have long-term damaging effects that may change the face of our society forever. Depending on how long the pandemic takes to end, it may still be a while before children get to cut loose and roam free in the world. And who knows knows how reclusive our children may have become by that point? ☯