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Opinion | Omicron Is Another Waiting Game for Parents

I try to eke out a little bit of positivity from the news most weeks, but this week has been rough. The successive waves of disappointing or downright horrifying information have been difficult to absorb: the acceleration toward the dismantling of reproductive rights after oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which could have a life-threatening impact on women experiencing risky pregnancies; another fatal school shooting, this one in Michigan; and the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

At least for the moment, as The Times’s Andrew Jacobs reported Thursday about the new variant, public health experts note there’s “no firm evidence that Omicron is more dangerous than previous variants like Delta.” We will have more information as research continues in the coming weeks. As always, expert recommendations may be altered if, for example, it turns out that Omicron causes more people to become seriously ill, if it causes reinfections, or if, as Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health recently outlined in a Times Opinion essay, it is able to evade vaccines.

I called Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and asked him if what we know about the new variant changes how we should think about protecting our kids, even the ones too young to be vaccinated yet.

O’Leary said: “For me, it’s not changing that much of what we need to do. The problem is so many people are not doing what they need to do,” because of exhaustion and because policymakers in some parts of the country wish for the pandemic to be over. What we need to do, especially in places with high community transmission rates, is to continue to wear masks inside when it’s crowded and to get vaccinated, O’Leary told me.

Join Jessica Grose and the comedian Michelle Buteau at a virtual event for Times subscribers on Dec. 8. R.S.V.P. here.

My kids, who are 5 and 8, just got their second dose of vaccine. My husband and I are grateful for this, and as a family we’re planning to fly domestically during Christmas vacation to see relatives. I asked O’Leary if families like mine should reconsider our plans. He said that based on what we know right now about Omicron, it’s fine to travel for the holidays within the country, as long as you’re observing safety protocols. His advice for the near term: Go outside, absorb the sunshine if it’s available, and try to forget about Covid as much as you can.

Considering the reckoning over Roe v. Wade that’s in progress at the Supreme Court, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s suggestion that the option of putting babies up for adoption makes the choice between ending a pregnancy and becoming a parent somehow less fraught, I urge you to read what Merritt Tierce wrote for The Times Magazine: “The Abortion I Didn’t Have.”

She writes about an unintended pregnancy she carried when she was 19. She didn’t put her son up for adoption because “I couldn’t imagine growing a baby inside my body, giving birth to it and then handing it over to someone else.” She chose to become a parent. But her life was still profoundly impacted by perceiving, at least then, that abortion was not an option. As she puts it:

I want to report from the other side of a decision many people make and say: Yes, it can be true that you will love the child if you don’t have the abortion. It’s also true that whatever you thought would be so hard about having that child, whatever made you consider not having a child at that point in your life, may be exactly as hard as you thought it would be. As undesirable, as challenging, as painful as you feared.

It has been so hard to decide to say these things, but I have to stand up for my 19-year-old self. I didn’t abort the pregnancy I didn’t plan, but I did have to abort the life I imagined for myself. It cost me a lot, to carry an unintended pregnancy to term, to have the baby, to live the different life. All I’ve been able to do is try to make sure I paid more of the cost than my son did, but he deserved better than that.

Finally, if you can bear to read it, The Times’s Dana Goldstein has a smart look at active shooter drills in American schools, and whether or not they’re effective. I don’t know quite how to process the fact that we have to have this conversation, that these are the conditions we’ve accepted as a society. But I’m grateful to have this reporting to remind me that these deadly and horrible events are rare, even though they’ve come to feel routine, and despite being reminded of The Onion’s macabre joke headline: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.

My 5-year-old always wants to stay cozy in bed, and it has been hard to get her up for school as it gets colder. One morning, I put a blow dryer inside her clothes before putting them on her, and told her we need to “Quick, put them on before we lose the warm!” Now she dashes out of bed to get her clothes on. Not sure what I’m going to do when the season changes again, but for now our cold mornings are hacked!

— Devon Berkshire, Greenwood Lake, N.Y.

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