Stefano Esposito and his son Matteo during a past hospital visit.

Stefano Esposito and his son Matteo during a past hospital visit.

As a dad in the age of coronavirus, I’m angry at people who won’t wear a mask to protect my kids

I’m angry that some people’s selfish insistence on personal freedom trumps everything else — including the safety of others, a father of two young boys writes.

I’m angry. Really angry.

For almost four months, we’ve been stuck inside, like prisoners on house arrest. I wash my hands so often that I wonder if I might not have developed a lifelong neurosis. I trek to the grocery store twice a week, face covered, groping among the produce because I can’t stop my glasses from fogging up. We’ve skipped doctor’s appointments for my older boy Lucca — and my own, too — because we just don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Why do we do these things? Our governor and mayor have asked us to stay home.

But also because we know that, despite the deep frustration, staying at home and washing hands frequently actually works.

How can I be so sure? A month or so before the lockdown, I was at the emergency room with Matteo, our 2-year-old. It was his second or third trip there in as many months. Matteo has asthma. His medicine mostly keeps his breathing under control.

But sometimes it doesn’t. That’s when we race down the expressway to the ER, often in the middle of the night. And as a nurse pokes an IV into my child’s tiny arm and he stares at me as if to say, “Daddy, I just want to go home,” I hope — no, I pray — that that is in fact how the night is going to end.

For the past four months, Matteo hasn’t had as much as a sniffle. He races from one end of the house to the other like any other healthy 2-year-old, slicing the air with his foam pirate sword and snarling at his older brother.

True, my wife and I make sure he gets his inhaler twice a day every day. Still, for our family, it’s been nothing short of miraculous. In his pre-pandemic life, Matteo was getting sick twice a month — every month.

As grateful as we are, we can’t stay holed up at home forever. Children need to be with other children. For Lucca, online classes just haven’t worked. There’s no substitute for a patrolling teacher who, with an arched eyebrow, reminds your kid of the peril of stepping out of line.

But now we hear the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is rising once again across the South and the West.

And everything I have read and heard says it’s because people have let down their guard, decided they’re fed up with being told what to do.

I get that. I’m fed up, too. We all are.

But there’s no wall around Illinois, where the infection curve remains relatively flat. Besides, I see examples of this dangerous stupidity every day in Chicago. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen customers in my grocery store with a mask that covers mouth but not nose.

I’ve been tempted to make a scene, to tell the “covidiot” to take the mask off entirely and say, “That way, the rest of us will know to get the hell out of your way when we see you coming.”

It’s not just grocery stores. I’ve witnessed the same indifference at some of the recent protests. If only that sense of outrage and concern for life extended to the old and otherwise vulnerable who might end up in a hospital or die because wearing a mask was too much of an annoyance or an inconvenience.

So I’m angry.

Angry that the past four months of isolation might have all been for naught.

Angry that the selfish insistence on personal freedom trumps everything else — including the safety of the nation’s doctors and nurses, who have risked their lives and those of their families to take care of us.

And I’m also angry because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

Stefano Esposito.

Stefano Esposito.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times

FATHERHOOD: AN OCCASIONAL SERIES

This is one in an occasional series of columns on fatherhood by Sun-Times reporter Stefano Esposito, the dad of two young sons.

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