This weekend my youngest daughter, fresh off her 10th birthday, began her fifth stint in quarantine.

This time around she will miss two soccer games, one of her best friend’s birthday parties, running a Girls on The Run 5K that she’s been in training for months and of course, trick or treating on Halloween. She will also be spending the next week doing school online. Bringing her total time of unnecessary online learning to over forty days. That’s one fifth of a school year.

I say unnecessary not because I don’t believe that children should be quarantined after being in close contact with someone with COVID. They should AND have when asked. They do as they are told in order to protect others – even when the risk of spread is small.

I say unnecessary because if we adults had done what we were told over the last two years this mess would have been long behind us.

Before you think I’m just I’m just talking about getting vaccinated, I’m not – but I’ll get to that in a second.

Lest I cast rocks at glass houses, let me admit that while I’ve followed what the science has told us to do throughout this increasingly man made mess, my hand washing has grown lax as has my mask wearing indoors or in crowded areas. A combination of fatigue and the misguided belief that this will all be over soon. I assume that I’m not alone in my nonchalance which makes breakthrough cases a little more likely for us all.

Yet there are others who never much cared for mask wearing in the first place, who have sacrificed far less in the name of their own personal freedom. The ultimate manifestation of this is their hesitancy or refusal to get vaccinated.

Let me be clear, I have friends I respect and family I love who have not gotten vaccinated. They have done so, even as they and loved ones have gotten really sick and even died of this disease. I have had, at times, reasonable and somewhat productive conversations about their choices. Trying not to judge but understand their reservations. Most of all trying to respect their rights and freedoms.

But rights have limits and someone else’s freedom stops at my daughter’s little feet.

Her freedoms once again have been stripped not by any action of her own but by a collective failure of adults to protect her and others like her.

She sobbed for thirty minutes after I picked her up in the middle of her school day. I know that millions of others have experienced deeper and far more harsh hardships and loss during this pandemic, but it hurts to see your kid cry. So choked up, she could barely get out the words “This…isn’t… fair.” The only response I could muster was, “You’re right, it’s not.”

Fortunately, she and all my children will be able to get vaccinated against this disease. But I wonder if they will ever be fully inoculated against the perceived selfishness they see masked as personal choice.

This pandemic has laid bare how empty our rhetoric can be when it comes to our kids. We speak of ensuring that the next generation of children will have better lives and opportunities than we have, while we rob them at every turn. We fail to invest in their future, whether it be infrastructure or education. We act like we’re playing with house money while we run up debt and treat the planet as if we have a spare. We ask them to be kind and nice to each other while we are ruthless and divisive in our politics and business.

It is said that children are always watching us. Tell me what is it that they’re seeing over the last twenty months?

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