New kid, new normal: How one family has fared a year into the pandemic

The Lally family (Courtesy of Patrick Lally)

A year later, it’s hard to fathom just how much has changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and especially for parents. Their day-to-day lives are so different from what it was before.

In many cases kids have adapted well. But for a baby born at the start of the pandemic, everything they’ve ever known is different from what everyone else has known.

When Ashley Lally of Bowie, Maryland, gave birth to her son Beckett in late February last year, the coronavirus was something people were only hearing about, but did not really know anything about. No cases had been documented in the U.S. yet.

Beckett came into the world with two older brothers — both under the age of 4 when he was born — and so Ashley and her husband Patrick were both well-versed in getting things done with babies around.

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When Beckett was a week old, Ashley took him into Target to do some grocery shopping like it was no big deal. At that point, it wasn’t.

But nothing has been normal for baby Beckett since then.

“This baby has met about four people,” Ashley said, with not all that much exaggeration.

The only time since that trip to Target that her youngest son has left the home, save for a neighborhood walk, is when she would take him to the doctor’s office for checkups.

“He just looks at people and I apologize. I catch myself apologizing, and I’m like ‘I’m sorry. He just doesn’t know what people are.'”

Aside from mom and dad, Beckett is around his maternal grandmother on a regular basis. She does the babysitting while mom and dad are at work.

His paternal grandmother — who lives in another state — got to visit shortly after he was born. While she was in town, Maryland reported its first confirmed coronavirus case. She hasn’t been back since.

“My dad even (who lives within walking distance), he’s a first responder, and we kept him kind of far from kids, unfortunately, because we just didn’t know,” Ashley said.

Now that he’s vaccinated, they’ve been trying to reintroduce him to his youngest grandson.

“He shies away from him,” she said. “If my dad is in a room, Beckett won’t go in. He’ll stand in the doorway and watch him. He’s so intrigued by my dad.”

Beckett’s experience is in stark contrast to his two older brothers, who took trips to places, such as the zoo and the aquarium, played with friends and went to preschool until the pandemic hit. The only world he’s known is one in which his brothers had to adapt — and one that he was born into.

“It’s been hard,” Ashley admitted.

She remembered a time last fall when they took a weekday trip to a pumpkin patch before Halloween. As her 4-year-old son ran around the field, “He goes, ‘Oh no, people!’ and then ran away,” she said.

He’s supposed to start kindergarten this fall, “and I think it’s going to be a real shock out of anyone for him, for him the most.”

“It’s still hard to watch as a parent,” Ashley said.

“Obviously we want them to play with their friends more,” her husband, Patrick, said. “But I couldn’t imagine them not having each other.”

Shortly after the shutdowns began, Patrick got to work and built a swing set in the backyard that his boys could run around and climb on, and that helped keep them active and entertained until the weather got too cold and dreary.

“It’s crazy without their friends around, but the fact they have each other,” he said. “There’s always someone to kind of play with.”

The anxiety and inclination to take no chances with her kids was due, in part, to the fact that while Ashley was working from home every day, Patrick still had to venture out for his job.

“I was forced to learn how to live in the world with COVID every day,” he said.

As a truck driver for a company that cleans uniforms and supplies businesses with cleaning products, he was essential. And he was everywhere: Visiting 20-30 restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores and other businesses every day.

Over the last year he’s had enough close contacts to require several coronavirus tests — something that was “terrifying” the first couple of times — but he also made sure to take every recommended precaution, and then some. Luckily for him, every test came back negative. Now he’s fully vaccinated.

“I think just a year of doing it at this point, the knee-jerk reaction is to do what I’ve been doing,” he said.

He said his daily life is wildly different from his wife’s, who hasn’t been to the office in a year. Ashley’s mom is around to babysit. And Ashley’s biggest concern while working from home is that a toddler in his underwear will be jumping on a bed in the room screaming behind her while she’s in a virtual meeting. It’s happened at least once.

“We’ve just really buckled down as a family knowing the risk factor that he’s bringing into play, we’ve kind of eliminated all additional risk,” Ashley said.

But now with things apparently turning the corner, with more people vaccinated and things starting to open up, Pat and Ashley find themselves in very different places in life.

“This past year I’ve second guessed every single decision I’ve made,” Ashley said. She’s always asking “is this safe? Is this ok?”

“Our first vacation is probably going to be terrifying,” she said.

In general, she worries “I’m probably going to second guess myself all the time. I hope it’s not forever. I hope eventually I get to the place where I was before.”

She’s trying to adjust, but she’s not there yet, even if her husband is.

“I think my biggest hurdle to come will be to crawl at her pace and not what my comfort-level is,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. That’s more because right now I have no reason to worry.”

Patrick said he’s ready to do more things outdoors among other people, but he recognizes his wife will take some time to get there.

“She’s not going to be at that point as quick as I am, so that’s, I think, something I’m going to have to be conscious of and slow roll it on that end for me — which is fine,” he said. “Me being out and about day-to-day anyway — that’s kind of something I’ve learned to deal with and work with.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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