Paula Madrid, a trauma psychologist specializing in resiliency training in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, thought she had mastered the art of working, parenting and tending to her parents. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. She and her husband, Nestor Sulikowski, have had to juggle the needs of their daughter, Chloé, 7, and her parents in New Jersey, especially her ailing father who is vulnerable to the coronavirus. For their sake, Ms. Madrid, who is a Colombian immigrant, has kept Chloé attending school remotely and limited her social interactions. It’s the only way, she says, that all three generations can spend time together safely every few weeks at their second home in the Catskills.
PAULA Everyone in my family matters the same. So I will do what I have to do to keep everyone safe and healthy. That is the juggling piece of it, how to manage the varying needs of the different generations.
I am Spanish. I am family-oriented. I think of my parents’ needs as my own. My father is 73 and has lung cancer.
We have seen my parents for about a week and a half at a time in upstate New York, depending on when my father has to go for his medical exams. Every single time, prior to seeing them, we get tested. This is the new normal.
This pandemic has called on me to do what I have done best through my life, to multitask, anticipate people’s needs. It’s an opportunity to be resilient and to show Chloé, my little one, how to do it.
There was an option to return to school in person. She would have done well with the mask. She follows instructions. She gets it. She would have preferred it. For us, it wasn’t an option. If she goes to school, when do we get to see her grandparents? It just complicates matters too much.
She is daydreaming about friends, having fantasies about the day we can go back to parties in person. She is a fortunate kid. I tell her this is a parenthesis in life.
In the middle of the night recently, I called Chloé’s friend’s mom and I said, “We can’t see you tomorrow. It’s a risk we can’t take. My parents are with us.” So, the day after, I had a conversation with Chloé. I was tearful, I said I am sorry. I told her that I found myself at a roadblock, do I go right or left? “Going right is to do what would be most fun for you, to get together with your friend and have a pottery lesson. But in the end it could really get us in trouble.
“Instead, I am choosing to go left: We are still with grandparents in this amazing Catskills forest. We are happy, and everyone is safe. In a week, we can see friends. It’s probably better that we don’t see them today.” She said, “Gosh, I wish there was a way in between.” I said, “You know what, I guess the left side is in between because we are holding off a little. We spend time with the oldies, have fun, do the best we can. In a week or two, we get together with friends.”
After one of those long stays, she asked my mom, “Grandma, when are you leaving so I can see my friends?” My parents were not supposed to leave for five or six days but she said, “Yeah, we are leaving in two days.” She told me she was leaving so Chloé could see her friends.
Last weekend, my mom called. She asked, “Why can’t we just come over to you in Brooklyn? I said, ‘Nope, I’m not doing this, Mom. Nope. Chloé just saw her friend.’”
We will take the test on Saturday, get results on Tuesday, and we will go back to the Catskills to be together.