In a park about half a mile from my home is a wide-open field of grass, whose thin, uneven blades rise up past my ankles. The playground near the park is, like other playgrounds across the country, no longer open, surrounded by the orange-plastic fencing that has become unsettlingly familiar. Swings and seesaws and monkey bars that were once teeming with children sit in silence. Robins have begun making a nest at the top of the slide, building a home in the empty corner of the jungle gym’s small deck.
I have a 3-year-old son who loves to sing songs from The Lion King at the top of his lungs and a 1-year-old daughter who laughs like there are fireworks in her belly. Almost every day over the past three months of quarantine, I have taken my children to this field as the culmination of our daily walks. We are almost always the only people there, and relish the sweeping emptiness that surrounds us. We park the double stroller in the center of the grass and build our own world around it. We grab sticks from fallen branches and pretend to be wizards casting spells that turn one another into farm animals. We play tag and chase one another through the field as the tall grass licks our ankles. We bend down low to the earth, take deep breaths, and blow the dandelion-seed heads, watching their small, white parachute seeds spiral through the wind.
My children are both respite from all the tragedy transpiring in the world, and a reminder of how high the stakes are. When I am with them—on our walks, playing in the field, reading them stories, giving them baths—I am not able to fall into the infinite hole of endless scrolling that so often brings me to despair. But also when I am with them, I am reminded of the brokenness of the world that their mother and I have brought them into, and get lost in a labyrinth of anxiety about how I might protect them from it.
I did not have children when the Movement for Black Lives was at its height. At protests following police killings six years ago, I moved through the night with brazen indifference about what might happen to me. I was governed by anger and thought little about the implications of what might happen if I were arrested, if I were hurt, or worse.