Close up of father holding baby hand

Remember the expression that if you want to make God smile, tell him your plans? He must be laughing out loud at all of us across the globe as we scramble to cancel and reschedule almost every facet of our lives—from schools to businesses to church services and a million other events of everyday life people just took for granted.

Like millions of Americans—and people across the world—my husband and I are reviewing our now upended plans for April, May and ensuing summer months. The rapid, almost overnight changes to our lives and our schedules has left us somewhat shellshocked. Although we, like most, are slowly adjusting to this new normal, it still seems surreal. The next two months were full of plans for exciting milestones in our children’s lives. And almost all of them won’t be happening now because of COVID-19.

In April, a welcome home for a deployed son early next month isn’t going to happen. His ship is remaining at sea, for who knows how long, and as result, this young dad will not be home for the birth of his second child due in a few weeks. Babies come when they’re ready—waiting for health crises to end and overdue ships to return don’t figure in their schedules.

Our daughter-in-law, who thankfully is staying with her parents, will give birth in a hospital strictly observing COVID-19 protocols. (We’ll keep our fingers crossed that dad can at least be there by phone.) But she’s fortunate that she can have a birth coach with her for the delivery. At least two hospitals in New York are telling expectant mothers they must labor alone with no spouse, partner or mom by their side. And when baby arrives, forget those happy post-delivery visitors, cheerful flower arrangements and bright balloons. To avoid every chance of infection from the coronavirus, mom and baby will be discharged within 24 hours of delivery if both are healthy enough.

On a selfish note, not only is a trip to meet the new arrival now out of the question, heaven only knows when we will get the opportunity to hold her.

And the following month was supposed to be a whirlwind tour of college commencements. In early May, a niece was scheduled to graduate from Loyola in New Orleans and a nephew from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. And our youngest daughter, Emily, was going to receive her diploma from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., after being commissioned as an ensign in the Navy just a few days earlier.

While as parents, we are disappointed, the cancellations are so much more painful to the millions of young men and women who are missing out on some of life’s most important moments. And, it’s not just college kids—high school seniors are also missing graduation and prom, both memory-filled events. Both high schoolers and collegians have been robbed of those precious last months with friends and classmates.

And yet—from a larger perspective—canceled trips and delayed graduations and homecomings really aren’t the end of the world. Others have suffered far greater losses from this horrid virus. That our family is healthy today is something to be thankful for. And the arrival of a baby in three weeks will be celebration enough—even if we only get to meet her on FaceTime for now.

The keys to surviving this time of turmoil are love, humor and gratitude. And, of course, that perennial American trait called optimism. While the internet might be awash with morose news, grim statistics and foreboding columns warning this virus means the end of everything we know—most of us tend to think a little differently. We like to look on the sunny side of things. We know better times are coming and we don’t like to wallow in self-pity. The funny thing about optimism and pessimism is that they are both self-fulfilling emotions. When something bad happens, optimists tend to think of it as a temporary occurrence with limited impact whereas pessimists usually consider setbacks to be permanent, life-altering events.

Our attitudes affect everything we do—from our health to our finances, even our outlook on life. Experts say the next week will be our biggest challenge yet with the onslaught of COVID-19 infections. But we shall get past this difficult time, just as we did after 9/11 and Pearl Harbor before that. And we will do it by doing what Americans do best—staying positive and helping out friends and neighbors. Stay strong, America.

Robin Beres is deputy opinions editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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