Life Virtually


“How do I look?” My ‘almost’ four-year-old spins around, admiring her sparkly, pink leotard.  “Great, great,” I tell her, handing over her matching pink ballet slippers, “but we need to hurry so we can get to class a few minutes early.”  With her hair in a high ponytail and a beaming smile adorning her young face, she is excited to see her dance friends again. She is practically hyper about seeing her teacher and getting back to her pirouettes and plies.  “I’m ready!’ she declares as we grab my Ipad, rush out her door, down the stairs and to dance class…in our playroom.  

Monday and Thursday night dance class has been one of the weekly highlights in the life of my little ballerina for over a year now. 

Up until this week, we had our timeline and get-ready routine down to a science. But today is different. Instead of a daycare pickup followed by a quick drive to the gym to get changed, Julie (my little dancing daughter) and I have both been home all day-along with my husband and youngest daughter.  Julie will get ready at home. Rather than bounding up the steps at the fitness center and into a large ballet classroom, we are sitting in our own home, comparing whether my husband’s laptop or my Ipad will provide better sound and picture quality.  

Deciding to use the laptop, I center the monitor and hit ‘unmute’ and ‘start video.’ In place of hand-to-hand high-fives from the teacher as the children arrive, she gives a huge smile to each student through the screen.  In their respective boxes, those attending class wave to one another.  

Amid the greetings, Julie looks at me quizzically.  “Where are they?” she asks. “At their own homes, like us” I respond.  “Well, why are they…? Her entire face scrunches. If Julie were a cartoon, a ‘thought bubble’ would appear above her head with the tiny dots starting and stopping. 

She must have so many questions.

Questions she doesn’t know how to ask.

Questions I don’t even know how to answer.

For a moment, I don’t have to. Julie answers herself with the same simple statement she’s heard me say over and over in the past week.  “Because a lot of people are getting sick.” Hearing these words-my words-come out of my daughter’s mouth makes everything suddenly feel a lot more real. In just a few tiny weeks, COVID19 has fundamentally altered so much for so many of us. Yet, rather than just accepting ‘social distancing’ as a termination of so many of our beloved activities and pastimes, we are finding ways to keep on keeping on-virtually.

Whether you are super tech-savvy, stumbling through the keyboard, or – like me – somewhere in the middle, user-friendliness is a top priority for most programming.  Take Zoom, for example. All you do is download the app. Then, when you open it, you just plug in the meeting number and voila! You’ve joined your first virtual group situation!  Within two weeks, my rudimentary knowledge and very sporadic use transformed into high familiarity and frequent usage. Now, my oldest has both a Zoom Virtual Dance Class and a Zoom Virtual Storytime with her daycare class twice a week.  This weekend, my entire family is planning to attend our first ‘Virtual Gender Revelation.’ I am learning how to be a Zoom meeting leader so that, rather than just canceling the first birthday party for Eden (my youngest,) we can allow our friends and extended family to celebrate with us-virtually.

But it’s not just Zoom.  Facetime and Whatsapp functions allow families and friends to feel connected through the phone. Remote employees can use Skype for real-time chat and musicians are live streaming living room concerts.  Want to go to church? Need to do some shopping? Looking for a class? Or you just want to get your little ones together for a playdate. Maybe one (with lots of wine!) for mommy too? There’s a way to do these activities without (as much) risk of germs spreading.  

Yet, as much as ‘virtual’ has made possible during these difficult times, it cannot truly be a substitution. 

Like many, I would love to go out to a restaurant again. My muscles need some serious gym time and I might be having Target withdrawal.  But I can deal with all that. Being unable to let my little girls go over to Nonna’s house after she drove all the way from Florida to be with us?  That’s where the abilities of ‘virtual’ end and my real struggles begin. My younger sister is a critical care nurse. Right now, all I want to do is embrace her, take her hand, and tell her in person that I love her.  More than anything, I wish my family could all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ together to my youngest-just share a meal and some cake during this major milestone.

No matter how far technology has come, a computer can’t replace a hug.  

I miss the way things were a few weeks ago.  I want a night out with my friends (or my husband!) My heart intensely hurts when I can’t hold all those that I love.  However, stopping the spread of this deadly, worldwide disease is much bigger than what I miss or want-no matter how deeply. My little ballerina Julie’s “a lot of people are getting sick” is about 460 COVID19 cases just in Virginia and hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide.  So, for now, I’ll accept all the apps, download the weekly sermons, and give air hugs and kisses over facetime. We will do virtual dance classes and storytime for as long as needed. No, it’s not the same-not even close, but it’s certainly better than total isolation. Not only for us but for our children.  While there are so many unanswerable questions right now, one definitive is that the better we all do at living virtually, the closer our society can get to be virus-free.