‘This was NOT in the plan. Everyone was supposed to stay home.’ His daughter had been to Walmart and the grocery store a few days prior.’: Stepmom urges ‘keep everyone as safe as you possibly can’

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“Yesterday was a rollercoaster of a day. We had to cancel Joey’s third birthday party due to COVID-19. Not a fun situation. Luckily, Joey is young enough that we were able to enjoy a family celebration and make him feel special all the same. And on top of that, my husband and I faced an unprecedented (thanks, Corona), very challenging decision as blended parents.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

Let’s go back to a few days ago: I was pretty bummed about canceling. I didn’t throw a big party for his first or second birthdays, so this was going to be his first REAL party, and I went a little nuts on the prep. The theme was Three-Rex. I had grand plans for a dino dig and a dinosaur egg hunt. I ordered personalized items for the goodie bags. The whole nine yards.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

When we canceled, it stung a little, but I accepted it and moved on. I figured we could still have my immediate family come and celebrate. But as the days went by and the news got increasingly grim, we had to make the call to cancel their visit as well. The hits just kept coming.

It took me a couple of hours to put my big girl pants on, but I decided we would have a family party – egg hunt and all. Luckily, we have so many kids and Joe’s parents living with us, so it would feel like a party anyhow!

Birthdays in our family are a big deal. We always celebrate as a family and since the girls don’t usually have their birthday parties with friends at our house, we try to make the family party a to-do. When the girls were young, I started making them a homemade birthday cake each year. For me, it’s the way I get to be involved in their birthdays even though I’m not part of planning their party or sometimes even celebrating with them on the day of, due to blended circumstances and custody schedules.

I spent Saturday morning working on Joey’s cake – with limited resources and no option of running to the grocery store. It was like my own little edition of Chopped. In the end, I was pleased with the final product:

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

Yesterday, I woke up and went all out decorating the kitchen, setting the table, filling up the dino eggs for the hunt. Joe would be home from work at 4 p.m. and he was picking up the girls on his way home. I was excited for Joey – and he was talking about it all day.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

4:00 rolled around and the boys and I were playing outside waiting for Joe’s car to come rolling up the hill. As the car pulled into the driveway, Joe waved to the boys and E jumped out of the car, but L and Joe didn’t get out. I could tell they were having a heated conversation so I took E and the boys to the backyard and waited.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened: As a blended family with three households and a dad who HAS to go to work, we have been working really hard to socially distance, stay home, and limit any possible exposure to COVID-19. This requires a lot of trust and cooperation from all parties. And in everyone’s defense, that can be REALLY hard.

On the car ride home, L mentioned she had been to Walmart and the grocery store a few days prior. Joe tried to stay calm, pulled in the driveway, and had it out with L about how this was NOT in the plan, that everyone was supposed to stay home, and it was dangerous not only to herself but to her families to be out and about. Especially since she’s at the age she can stay home alone.

At the end of the day, I get how it happened. I understand she was bored, didn’t want to stay home alone while her mom ran out for necessities, and didn’t think it was a big deal if she was careful. Unfortunately, because of our situation (grandparents in house, E coming from her mom’s and her mom trusting we are all isolating etc.), Joe had to make a REALLY hard call.

I have to say, he was probably the most torn up I’ve seen him in a really long time. I can tell when he’s overwhelmed, and his hands were shaky as he called L’s mom from the driveway and said she had to come to pick her up. He was a lot of things: pissed, sad, scared, anxious, but mostly heartbroken he had to do this. Here he was, telling his daughter he loves so much she has to go home before she even gets out of the car. And beyond that, I≈

At first, I’ll be honest, I thought it was an overreaction. But the more I thought about it, it started to sink in. Okay, so there’s a 95% chance she is totally fine and nothing is going to happen – she’s not a carrier, she won’t get sick etc. BUT… there’s still that 5%. And in our blended family (any family, really), that 5% carries a massive weight. He would never forgive himself if she got sick and passed it along to one of the other kids, one of us, or his parents and something awful happened. The 5% chance had implications he couldn’t ignore. He is the one biggest risk for our family by having to be at work, and he’s doing EVERYTHING in his power to mitigate that risk. This was shooting holes in his control of the situation, and I think he was actually scared.

He was devastated. I was devastated. I felt so bad for L but also so frustrated. And here I was about to throw a birthday party for Joey. This was unchartered territory, and both Joe and I were heartbroken. He waited in the driveway for L’s mom, calmed her down, tried once again to explain the severity of the situation, and she left.

How is this the world we are living in? How are we in a place where we are so scared that we have to worry about our own kids contaminating our homes? It’s terrifying, truly. And just really sad.

I tried to go on as normal, knowing Joey was so excited for his little party. I changed out of my cute party outfit back into my quarantine uniform (sweatpants and a sweatshirt), poured myself a glass of Chardonnay, and hid the dino eggs in the backyard. Joey and E ran around and found them all, then convened in the swingset clubhouse to check out their bounty.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi
Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

The party was great. Joey was thrilled, there were no meltdowns, and despite my insecurities, he didn’t give a damn that his presents were thrown in old Christmas bags. We Facetimed L while we sang Happy Birthday, and everything was okay.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

Today, Joe will bring a piece of birthday cake and a dinosaur goodie bag to L’s mom’s house and leave it on the front porch. It’s not much, but it’s a gesture that shows we truly missed her.

There are so many families, especially blended ones, facing these really hard decisions. We don’t know what to do because we’ve never had to do it. And there’s this big scary beast looming over us that forces us to be uncomfortable in so many ways. We can’t go back in time. We can’t remind L how important it is to stay home. But we CAN parent the best way we know, keeping everyone, including L, as safe as we possibly can. And it sucks sometimes.

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi
Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi
Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

We’re all learning in this crazy scary world. How can we expect a 13-year-old to truly get it when even we adults can’t wrap our heads around it? Despite it all, it was still a happy day celebrating our sweet boy. And we are all going to be okay.”

Courtesy of Nina Turcsanyi

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nina Turcsanyi, 31, of Connecticut. You can follow her journey on Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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