One week in. It is surreal to think that a week ago, the kids were still at school. Things have changed so much since then, in ever decreasing circles of things we feel comfortable doing.
So where are we now? It changes every day. Every hour even, as we all try to find our rhythm. Then it changes again, and we try to change the rhythm. We’re not there yet in our house.
So if we’re not there yet, where are we? Let’s see. Today, my phone Gallery has six copies of the woman ranting about the work her kids have been set. Lots of parents feel her pain. Not everyone – some of us are nodding sympathetically, glad to have been given relatively light school work with no requirement to get it done.
It’s a bit like everything really – the reaction to the woman in the video, the feeling about school work given, the level of school work being done – it’s not universal, it’s not black and white, no two families are the same.
Some parents are struggling to keep kids entertained, foraging for ideas. Some parents are wondering how on earth they’re supposed to bake all the cakes, teach the kids to garden, keep them moving, read them stories, and hold down a full-time job. Some kids are easy with the lack of structure, happy to play. Some kids are anxious with lack of structure, glad that school work anchors the morning. I have one of each, and one not interested in any of it at all.
So where are we now? Well, specifically, in my house, I’m typing this while I should be editing a book. Two of my kids have gone with my husband to play football on the green. This could certainly be classified as a GOOD thing. One of my kids had four minutes outdoor-time today, then “hurt her ankle” and came back indoors. A less good thing.
One of my kids is learning to type and really enjoying it. A good thing. One of my kids has no interest in anything but tells me regularly she is bored. A less good thing (but understandable all the same).
One of my kids is doing a daily LEGO challenge (well, just today so far…) – a good thing. All of my kids argued today – a less good thing (but understandable all the same).
One of my kids went for a run with me – a good thing. I got only half a page of editing done this morning – a less good thing.
One of my kids wrote a short story for the John Boyne competition – a good thing. All of my kids complain when I suggest a walk – a less good, and truly exhausting thing.
I imagine there are versions of this reality in every house. Amid the worry and the struggle to work from home or get to work, there are little nuggets of nice. Kids trying new things, a family walk, a game of football, a first ever crossword, beginner’s yoga on the living room floor.
The little things that help keep us going in a time that’s like nothing any of us has ever experienced. But much as it’s nice to hear about people baking scones and taking walks and slowing down, this is not the dawn of a new, slowed down world. Sure, the fish are swimming in the canals of Venice and the birds are singing over Wuhan (that inspirational-words-image is in my phone Gallery six times today too) but that doesn’t mean this is the earth healing itself.
Because that suggestion dismisses the worries and fears of all the people who are terrified, and the parents with vulnerable children, and the people with elderly parents, and the healthcare workers putting themselves at risk every day, and the parents trying to work from home while minding kids, and the people who have lost their jobs and don’t know how to pay the rent, and most of all, it dismisses the grief of those who have lost loved ones.
Sure, maybe we’ll all learn something – my kids might learn to type or do yoga or they might just learn that the walk to school they used to complain about is far better than being hooshed out the door to get daily exercise, like prisoners in the prison courtyard. This is not the earth healing. The worried and the sick and the grieving are not collateral damage. This is a virus we can work together to overcome.
So where are we now? It changes every day, every hour. If I have my good day when you’re having your bad day, and vice versa, that helps. And look, we can all still smile at the woman in the video, and share it six times on WhatsApp.