To those parents operating on the sly – yes, you.
I’ve heard plenty of people talking about clandestine playdates, and some folks are even daft enough to post the pictures on social media (although that’s not limited to parents), which proves just how addictive the quest for likes and online validation has become.
When South Africans were limited to exercise between 6AM and 9AM (remember those days? Wild), certain streets resembled school playgrounds. I’m not going to judge at all on that front, because that outdoor exercise is essential to keeping one’s sanity, especially whilst schools remained (and in many cases, remain) closed.
Let’s switch the focus to indoor playdates, and people talk about a close-knit circle of parents they trust, and that’s nice, but how can you really be certain that the other parents are carrying out the required safety measures?
Also, you’re breaking the lockdown rules, which can carry a hefty fine and a cumbersome legal process.
CNN looked at playdates, and the safety thereof, in a US context, but many of the issues remain relevant here in South Africa.
Such as the sneaky nature of it all:
Though dozens of people responded to my request for people to discuss having playdates, or watching others have them, few would speak openly — they didn’t want to deal with the crushing judgment that’s so free-flowing during the pandemic. They didn’t want to throw their neighbors, or themselves, under the bus.
Every neighbourhood Facebook group has the ‘snitches’, and the ‘let people live their own lives’ folks, and watching them bicker has now become a national pastime.
In the US, expert bodies seem pretty united on the topic of playdates:
…the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes abstinence mostly as the best method. “The key to slowing the spread of Covid-19 is to limit contact as much as possible,” it cautions. “While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households.”
The CDC suggests, instead, “supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.”
Back to the idea of a close circle of friends you trust, which CNN dubs “pods” or “social bubbles”, and the problems therein:
…a pediatric nurse from New Jersey, who could not use her name because of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws, took care of six children who were admitted into the hospital — two to the pediatric ICU — all from different social bubbles, within 72 hours.
One person in a particular bubble was a silent carrier who never had any symptoms, and all bubble members were reportedly staying home and having their groceries delivered. “There is no real way to safely form a bubble,” the nurse said.
Again, given that many South African children will soon return to school (or have already), playdates may soon become a moot point.
And again, I don’t have children running around my home, cooped up and desperate to see their friends, so far be it from me to tell parents how to live their lives.
At the very least, though, masks and physical distancing protocols seems like a must.
Read the rest of the CNN report here.
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