“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain” (Vivian Greene, 2006). I came across this much-memed quote in a book the other day and while it’s not the first time I’ve read it, I was really struck by how relevant it is as we adjust to self-isolation and the new now.
In the last few weeks, the Today as we once knew it has changed beyond all recognition across the world. Humans across the planet are currently living entirely different lives under government command, with barely a thought for what dominated the headlines, or indeed our daily woes, pre-Coronavirus. Menial tasks like popping out to pick up a pint of milk are now a risky process, plagued with anxiety. Supermarkets are empty and loo roll and eggs are a valuable commodity, may even a valid currency.
Check out the video below for a glimpse at our first week in self-isolation (caveat: it’s harder to film the tantrums, but I can assure you they happened).
The world is on lockdown, a virtual reality reigning – it’s almost as if we’ve unknowingly wandered into a nightmarish episode of Black Mirror. Celebrities (apart from those offering virtual entertainment) have paled into insignificance, and the biggest heroes on the planet are – quite rightly – the ones that are continuing to make it tick – the post people, delivery services, farmers, supermarket shelf-stackers and of course the health care workers.
How we’ve been dealing with self-isolation
I count our family among the lucky ones, the privileged ones. Yes, it’s tricky being confined to the house with two small kids, but we’re healthy, we have a garden, we have food, we’re not required on the frontline and we both have the ability to work from home (although finding ways to promote destinations nobody can visit has its challenges!) It could be a lot worse.
With holidays cancelled and trips out of the question, the content that I normally churn out on my blog and social channels has been focusing on ways to entertain the kids at home.
When the government initially announced schools were to shut, my overwhelm at the immediate future was mighty. Firstly I felt hugely sad for the kiddos who may end up missing the rest of this school year and second came an engulfing panic about how on earth we were supposed to teach KS1, carry out our own work on the side AND not go insane. The summer holidays alone were daunting, yet they had an end date and included travel abroad, day trips and social interaction with other humans. My emotions at the moment swing wildly from anxious to intent on making the most of the situation, back to apprehensive.
What has been heartening is watching communities everywhere spring into action. Among them, a Bristol Food Union of the city’s restaurants, farmers, growers and community food organisations has been set up to help vulnerable people get hold of food during the Covid-19 crisis, and for the first time our street now has a What’s App group (although I’m slightly regretting joining as it mainly consists of updates on the neighbourhood cats).
Entertaining the kids during self-isolation
For my sanity, I put together this list of fun activities to do at home with kids during the Coronavirus school closures as a way of consolidating the umpteen ideas that were pinging up in my social feeds. I’ve been adding to it as more appear, but it’s hard to keep up there are so many! My normal parenting tactics are to leave the house by 10am (when the kids are starting to go bat-shit crazy) and drag the little ones off to explore new places – preferably outside – so entertaining them indoors indefinitely feels quite alien.
The community response and online creativity of crafters, fitness gurus and storytellers has been inspired and we’ve tried to get involved with as much as we can to try and make each day at home slightly different. It’s certainly trial and error with the kids, some stuff they adore, other things send them fleeing from the room.
Week one – or the beginning of it at least – went much better than I had expected. Perhaps because I purposefully kept extremely low expectations, or maybe it was because it was such a novelty – the kids, oblivious to the chaos raging around the globe, were excited to be at home attending ‘mummy and daddy school’. And I mean ‘school’ in the loosest sense of the word!
We peaked half-way through the week, hitting the big time with my video diaries appearing on BBC1 – who knew it would take a pandemic to snaffle my five minutes of fame? Hordes of people coming out to clap the NHS was also an emotional high point.
Of course it hasn’t all be plain sailing inside the house, by Thursday the girls were a bit over it, climbing the walls (literally), squabbles were plentiful, tempers were short, shouting levels were high. A low point was negotiating which parent was going to warm the toilet seat for the uncompromising three year old. The ridiculousness of it nearly broke us and we took advantage of our social distancing one-walk-per-day to try and move past it.
Wins from the week included drawing up a timetable (which we didn’t stick to longer than day one, but it has given us a loose idea of structure to try and maintain in the morning), a paying ‘Snack Shop’, painting the contents of the recycling bin, Cosmic Kids Yoga, potion making in the garden, painting, Twinkl activities, Zoom calls, making sweet treats, playing GoNoodle games, Disney +, virtual Disneyland fairground rides and obstacle courses in the garden. Playing and keeping them happy is the main priority. I feel for those with older kids, who have actual schoolwork to do.
Compared to previous generations, I feel it’s important to remember barely anything is being asked of us. Our mission is to stay home with loved ones (in our case), which is really not a hardship. In some ways it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities (ones I hope employers will take note of), but I also feel like once this is all over, a weekend of solo-parenting the kids is going to be a breeze with the sheer amount of child-entertaining resources I now have in my back pocket!
The weeks are rolling out ahead of us, and who knows what they will bring (hopefully lots more humorous Covid-19 memes), but in the meantime we’ll keep adjusting to this new normal, reminding ourselves of what really matters and learning to dance in the metaphorical rain…or, if you prefer, with reckless neon-attired abandon in the living room.