Nicky Dewe looks at how we cope with our kids in the current climate
While there are both pros and cons to parenting in a pandemic, the main thing to be clear on is that you don’t have a choice about it. You’re in the house, the kids are in the house, someone’s gotta raise them, the options are limited. Here are some of the fresh and exciting challenges our bubble of four has been ‘embracing’ in the past few weeks.
There have been lots of queries about viruses, and vaccines and general hygiene practices. Thankfully, now that we’re all armchair epidemiologists this is not a problem. I’ve enjoyed holding court with lengthy diatribes on subjects I previously knew nothing about. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to know how much information to give. I’ve got one child who now washes her hands constantly and with religious fervour and another who would still eat something off the floor if he thought it looked tasty enough. It’s a daily balancing act to scare the latter into submission without freaking out the former.
I used to be quite strict about this. My children don’t have phones or iPads and I would usually try, as much as humanly possible, to force them to play actual games that required them to move their bodies and interact with real-life humans. Needless to say I’ve loosened up on this quite significantly since 11.59pm on the 25th March. When it dawned on me that I had moved from not just mother to primary playmate I had a sudden change of heart. I rushed out and borrowed laptops and ipads and immediately subscribed to DisneyPlus. I also got them started on season one of Full House because there are precisely 178 seasons for them to get through. Fuller House here we come.
A state sanctioned walk is a beautiful thing. I’ve always been a fan of a gentle turn in the fresh air but that’s been elevated to new heights since it became the only available leisure activity. It’s been a mixed bag. There have been days of dragging the smalls around the streets while they complain of stubbed toes and sore tummies and erupt into fits of rage about whichever direction you chose to go in. Other times they’re like joyful dogs taken off the leash, able to sniff at grass and chase their own tails. It’s been fun to watch them revel in the freedom of riding their bikes down car-free streets laughing and shouting at top of their lungs.
These have become a mega huge deal when there’s fuck all else to structure your day around. We basically wake up wondering what we’ll have for dinner and our new focus on elaborate nightly food prep has become a real team effort. We’re now plating up dishes that cast serious shade on our previously poor efforts. Better still, the 10 year old can now turn out a mean banana bread without help. If only we weren’t so sick of eating it.
As per the walks, there have been highs and lows. Sometimes I really enjoy helping them and watching their progress, other times I’m truly appalled by what they don’t already know. It’s hard to not rip your own hair out as you watch someone painstakingly two-finger typing out an answer that you already know is wrong. Once again I am truly humbled by the incredible job our teachers do.
Children are incredibly adaptable creatures but there’s no doubt that the sudden cessation of school, sport and spending time with friends will be having a big impact on their little minds. After family, those things were their world and even if they can’t articulate it well, they will be missing it hard. I also know they will be overhearing our harried conversations about finances as well as wild and worried speculation about the future. In our house there have been unexplained meltdowns and a marked rise in sibling rivalry. The biggest challenge has been how to keep supporting them during the days when your own tank is empty. I’m trying hard to keep pouring out the love and patience but I’m also taking time out to hide in the wardrobe. Yes, it’s cramped but it’s also dark and quiet.
Ultimately the only goal for any of us right now is just getting through each day in ok shape. There have been some unexpected gifts from enforced isolation but also some serious strains on our mental resources. I take heart from the fact that even when it’s not going swimmingly we’re still teaching these kids something incredibly powerful: banding together for the greater good. I hope in years to come they’ll forget about all the times I lost my temper and hang on that forever.