This article by Native Hawaiian Affairs Program Officer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Kaiwipunikauikawēkiu Punihei Lipe was first published in Ka Wai Ola on September 23.
It’s tough being a parent during this pandemic! There’s so much to consider to protect our keiki, ourselves and our kūpuna. These are some of the strategies we’ve been using to do our best to stay safe:
All those eligible have gotten vaccinated
I’m not saying that this is for everyone; it’s just what our ʻohana chose. And it wasn’t an easy decision. My parents got vaccinated as soon as they could, but my husband and I were a little hesitant. In fact, I’m a bit vaccination-weary most of the time. The hardest decision we had to make was whether or not to vaccinate our 14-year-old daughter. Ugh, talk about a stressful situation!
We eventually decided to vaccinate her because it is a layer of protection and minimizes the possibility of her getting extremely sick and passing it on to others in our household, including our son who is too young to get vaccinated.
Masks, masks, and masks
We are a fairly hardcore mask-wearing ʻohana. We wear masks to visit family and friends—even when they look at us like we are crazy. Our kids wear masks to play sports even if none of the other kids are wearing them.
But I’ll be honest, we got a little tired. The constant stares and the “Stop being so nervous, you can take off your mask with us!” comments wore us down. But with the unprecedented rise in numbers and the Delta variant, we realized we had to re-commit. We sat everyone down in our house and we said, “We don’t care who it is. If you are around someone outside of our household, you WILL WEAR A MASK. That includes when you go see Tūtū or Grandpa.”
At the same time, I had to reach out to our loved ones and tell them, “Please don’t take this personally, but we are going to wear masks every time we see you and we would appreciate it if you do the same. Please know this has nothing to do with us trusting you or you trusting us. We just don’t want anyone to get sick.” Those initial conversations were a little uncomfortable. But the more consistent we’ve been, the easier it has gotten for everyone involved.
Keeping our distance
Let’s be clear: I’m a hugger! But the distance thing became extra real for us a couple of months ago when someone who sat right next to our daughter without a mask for over 15 minutes tested positive a few days later. We are so happy that she had her mask on and that she eventually tested negative, but it was a real scare. Now we are not afraid to say, “No mask? Please back it up.”
We’ve had serious and even uncomfortable conversations with family and friends. We’ve also had to have a lot of conversations with our kids, including helping them practice what to say to others: “Kids, if someone comes up to you without a mask on, what can you do or say?” At work I’ve had tons of conversations with my team. I want them to know my realities and I want to hear about theirs so we can together figure out the best strategies to keep everyone healthy.
This is what life has been like for us. Maybe if we share more stories and strategies, the more we can work together to get these numbers down and keep our keiki and everyone else safe.
Lipe leads UH Mānoa’s Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office and Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center.