COMMENTARY: My parents aren’t just essential for my family, they are essential to the entire community; that scares me

April 22, 2020 /

It’s common for children to be territorial of their parent’s time and affection. Children often fight for their parents’ attention, but children with parents who are essential workers — nurses, grocery store workers, farmworkers, first responders — can’t do that right now. Instead, these children have to be selfless and accept their parents are doing a job that is necessary for the health of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the situation I’m in. My parents have become essential to more people than just me and my five little sisters. This was hard to accept.

My momma is a nurse for a home health agency, and my step-father is a correctional officer at a prison. Neither of these jobs can just stop. Both of these jobs help the people in our community stay safe and healthy.

Each day gets scarier for my family. My parents have to go out and interact with potentially infected people and possibly bring something home. 

My mother was recently selected as one of the nurses who will see COVID-19 patients. This puts me on edge.

As a safety precaution, my family has come up with plans to stay as safe as possible. 

My momma got long robes for both her and my step dad, so that they can stop in the garage, change out of their work clothes, and put them in the washer. 

This might not seem like a big deal to some, but everytime my family has to make a change —  minor or big — reality sinks in that my family is not as safe as others. 

Our plan also includes an alternate living space if one of my parents becomes infected. If my parents feel the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 at their jobs is getting higher, they will move into our trailer. If this happens, my sister, who’s turning 16 this month, and I will be in charge of the house. 

As if worrying about my parents’ health wasn’t enough to stress about, I might also have to take care of my little sisters. 

Two of my sisters are nine-year-old twins, and one of them recently told me she was scared. She asked me different questions about COVID-19 and asked what happens if we aren’t able to see some family again.

This hurt. For the first time, I, as a big sister, knew there was nothing I could do to take away her fear. If anything happens, how will I help the fear of 5 young girls? 

This has become my reality. 

It’s frustrating to see so many people still not take this seriously. People are still using this time to go out with friends and meet in large groups of people. This is not the time for that. 

Every time people decide to go sit in groups and have parties, my family comes closer to being separated. 

I pray the curve begins to flatten soon. If not, I’m afraid for my family and families like mine. 

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Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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JaNell Gore

JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Bakersfield College. In addition to writing for South Kern Sol, Ja'Nell is involved with several clubs at her school. Ja'Nell enjoys writing and listening to spoken word.