We're close to my in-laws. It's probably one of the things I am most grateful for, in my life. My mother-in-law is the most generous, loving woman I have ever met, and my father-in-law is kind and fun.
And they love all their grandchildren fiercely.
For me, the hardest part of the Covid-19 lockdown has been not being able to see them as a family, and they feel the same.
While the risk of infection is still high, we're being extra careful, and so are they. But every day we call and they want to know when we can meet up again. The reality is, we're not sure we can safely maintain physical distancing if we were to meet up somehow.
And I would never forgive myself if my family were the reason one of them caught the virus.
I know we're not alone in this, and also as hard as it is for us all here in South Africa to follow the regulations and stay safe, it's the same all over the world.
"Willing to risk their lives"
A recent post, shared on social media, really brings home the feeling of loss experienced by the grandparents who are missing their grandkids right now:
"My in-laws called a few days ago (they are wonderful grandparents) and said 'this isn’t living'," a mom shared on an international Facebook parenting group.
"Not seeing their grandkids isn’t living life and they are willing to accept the risks, although they are both healthy and in early/mid-60’s. They said they were 100% sure in their stance and politely asked to spend time with them."
"We have both been very responsible throughout this whole ordeal. It really made me sad to hear they were willing to risk their lives and accept that, instead of never seeing their grandkids for the rest of the year, even beyond. Such a sad and strange time."
Closer to home every Grandma, Gogo, Yiayia, Ma, Ouma and Mhakhulu feels the same, it seems, as Parent24 has received many messages from grandparents asking when they will be able to see their grandchildren again.
Must read: When can I hug my mom again?
"They're growing up so fast"
Grandma Linda wrote to tell us that not seeing her grandchildren is her "great sadness."
"I used to take care of them every day while their parents were at work. Lots of fun, hugs, joy and laughter. They're a bit small for video calls and we miss them so much, and they're growing up so fast without the input of both sets of grandparents.
Ouma Annatjie wrote to share her pain too, sharing how she spent 6 months visiting family in New Zealand, but landed back in South Africa two days before the lockdown began.
She says she hasn't been able to see her young grandchildren at all since September 2019. She says they know about the virus, but still don't understand why Ouma won't visit them.
"Ek mis my kleinkinders vreeslik. Het hulle September 2019 laas gesien. Was vir 6 maande in New Zealand om by my kinders en kleinkinders daar te kuier," she wrote.
"Het geland in SA 2 dae voor die lockdown en kon die twee nie gesien het nie. Ek verlang na hulle en hulle na my. Hulle weet van die virus, maar kan nie verstaan dat ouma nie kan vlieg of busry om vir hul te kom kuier nie. Ek mis hulle ongelooflik baie."
Mom Carmel shared on social media that never mind the grand kids, who she misses dearly, it's her son she misses most. "It’s killing me to only speak on the phone!"
Another reader shared via Twitter that her grandfather’s great granddaughter was just born. "I wish I could have made the hours drive to show her to him," she wrote.
"That’s the only thing of lockdown getting me down. He will be 80 in October, hopefully she will get to see him then."
So when will it be safe for grandparents and grandkids to meet up in person?
Research shows that people over 60, and anyone with a comorbidity, is at higher risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 if they contract the virus.
Many local doctors and health experts have advised that grandparents avoid hugging or touching their grandchildren, if they do come in to contact with them at all.
In many local households the grandparents are the primary caregivers, so physical distancing is then near impossible.
We asked Doctor Carol Bosch for insight, and she confirmed that patients above the age of 60 are at much higher risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid-19.
Safeguard high risk groups
"Many people in this age group also have other chronic illnesses," she added, "which increases that risk."
"This can be compounded if we have families that live at home together, families with multiple generations in the same home, and perhaps those who are working in childcare."
"In this instance, where we are facing a pandemic, it is very important that we do our utmost to safeguard this high risk group," she says.
So, sadly, it seems that staying away is still the safest option for now.
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