In Italy, we are used to looking to the US to see the future. Smartphones, Apps, brands that take off: social phenomena hit the US just before they land here. It doesn’t take long. But for a moment, in Europe, there’s a feeling of “Oh, OK. So that’s what’s about to happen.”
Unfortunately Covid-19 has brought a reversal of this order. We, in a complete and total national lockdown, are experiencing what the US might be facing in the near future. The virus has ravaged Italy with lightning speed. Hospitals in the north are on the verge of collapse. Intensive care units are full of people who are elderly, but also people who are forty, and fifty. Streets are empty, restaurants closed. You have to have an authorization paper to walk your dog.
Only eight days ago in Rome, our teenagers were socializing in the evening with their friends. The government had closed schools and most sporting facilities, but nothing else. Kids had time, and were healthy and well-rested. Did we, as parents, really want them at home on their screens, where they’d been all day?
“What are you going to do?” we mothers texted each other. “Are you letting him go?”
Our teens were stir crazy at home. Their friends were going out, and the government hadn’t told us No! So, reasoning that this was a disease that didn’t strike teenagers, we told them to wash their hands and unleashed them onto the sidewalks and piazzas; into other peoples’ cars and homes.
Ten days in, I feel that it is my duty to compile a list of Do’s and Don’ts for my American friends. One that I wish I’d had only a couple of weeks ago.
Do’s and don’ts that this mom who lives in Italy needs you to know
DO: KEEP THEM AT HOME FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
The only thing that could have saved (or mitigated) this tragedy in Italy is social distancing–a couple of weeks ago. I’m not talking about a high five instead of a handshake, or grandkids not hugging their grandparents. I’m talking about not being in the proximity of another human being who is not your immediate family.
DON’T: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT OTHER PARENTS ARE DOING
When your teen complains that other parents are letting their kids go out and party, your reply will be something along the lines of “Where are my Beats?” Tune him/her out. If in a few weeks reality reflects that you were too conservative, then Hallelujah.
DO: LET GO OF SCREENTIME WORRIES
Global technology gave this virus the possibility to travel at the speed of light, and it also gave us Netflix. Nobody is expecting you to entertain/stimulate/engage when there is a global pandemic. Biology class will become Instagram which will become TikTok which will become Houseparty. Accept it.
DON’T: ALLOW ANYONE TO AFFIRM THAT THIS IS SIMPLY A FLU
Because that’s a lie. On the Italian news every evening, there are interviews with ICU nurses who manage to tell their stories as they cry under their masks. You only need to see one to know that THIS IS NOT THE REGULAR, SEASONAL FLU.
DO: SHOP RESPONSIBLY
There is no reason to hoard. In Italy, we are allowed to go to the supermarket every day if we need to, and the shelves are full. Instead of stocking up on toilet paper, buy food that you’ve always wanted to cook but never had the time. In lockdown, you’ll have time to let things simmer, soak and rise.
DON’T: ASSUME THAT YOU OR ANYONE IN YOUR FAMILY IS NEGATIVE
This is a virus that is often asymptomatic. That is why it spreads so rapidly. If you haven’t bought masks because they don’t protect the person wearing them, you should. We don’t go out our front door without one.
DO: MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR YOUR FAMILY TO BE AT HOME, TOGETHER
If your teen is traveling or studying elsewhere, get him or her home as soon as you can. You never know what transportation bans are going to be instituted, or when. If you can, drive rather than take a train or plane.
DON’T: READ COVID UPDATES OBSESSIVELY
This thing can become a sick reality show – addictive and horrifying. It can encourage you to spin out apocalyptic scenarios. We know that all we can do is wash our hands, take care of our health, and stay at home.
Our grandparents were asked to go far away and die for their country. Stay at home? That is doable. It has to be, because there is no choice.
More to Read:
The Grown and Flown book – essential guidebook with expert advice on how to raise your teen to be an independent adult while staying close as a family. Topics include health, mental health, happiness, and more. In these unsettled times, what’s more important than our families?
A writer and TV commentator living in Italy, Katherine Wilson is the author of the internationally acclaimed memoir ONLY IN NAPLES (Random House). She has been published in Publisher’s Weekly, the Daily Mail, and the Pool, as well as being featured on BBC Radio 4. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a moderator for the United Nations in Rome and Italian television.