Steve Sxwithul’txw hasn’t hugged his kids since early March.
As the situation with the COVID-19 began to worsen, the Greater Victoria father made the difficult decision to social distance from his children Haley, 11, and Jacob, 7, Paetkau, during the pandemic as he’s the designated “grocery runner” and the kids are high-risk – Haley has asthma and Jacob has severe allergies, he explained.
Sxwithul’txw was brought to tears on Saturday morning when his children surprised him with a hand-knit Easter blanket to keep him warm until they can hug him again.
He knew the kids had started knitting but had no idea they were secretly making something for him. They’d collected wool on various trips to Michael’s with their mom and had originally told Sxwithul’txw that their plan was to knit a patchwork blanket and sell per-square to collect funds for charity.
When he arrived at the kids’ home on April 11 to hide Easter eggs, they surprised him with a large box. Inside was a woollen purple, pink, light blue and turquoise patchwork blanket. The kids explained that the blanket was meant to be a stand-in until they can give him a hug again.
“It’s something you just don’t expect to see,” he said proudly. “It was an absolutely stunning gift.”
What made the gift even more special, was that Sxwithul’txw’s mom and grandmother were Cowichan First Nation knitters so the kids were connecting with their heritage. He knew that Haley had learned to knit from watching her grandmother make sweaters but said it was a “step above” to learn that his daughter has taught her little brother the craft too.
Not hugging his children has been “brutal” and Sxwithul’txw never expected to see a global health crisis like this one in his lifetime – let alone in his children’s.
“It’s the toughest thing we’ve ever had to go through,” he said, noting that he’s very close with his kids.
Sxwithul’txw has been visiting Haley and Jacob at least once a day since the pandemic began. They ride bikes, talk and play – all from six feet apart. He pointed out that it’s been especially hard for Jacob to understand why he can’t have a hug, but knows it’s the right thing to do to keep them safe.
“I remind them every day that I’m still here and we’ll get through this.”
The hand-knit blanket almost makes up for the lack of tiny hugs and Sxwithul’txw said he’ll think of them every time he sees it. He plans to keep the gift forever and said he might resort to dragging his special new blanket everywhere with him like Charlie Brown’s friend Linus.
He’s not sure what the kids plan to knit next but wouldn’t be surprised if they go back to their original charity idea. He added that they are aware of how privileged they are and understand how valuable life is.
“They come up with this stuff on their own,” he emphasized. “This is how we raised them – I’m a proud dad.”