The most frequent question my soon to be seven year old boy asks me these days is when the Corona Virus situation is going to be over.
Despite my over worrying, it isn’t a question that he has been asking previously, given the fact that it was quite a novelty in the initial few months to be staying at home for such a long stretch and just do the things that he liked.
Such as waking up late or very early, as he pleased, with no pressure to go to school or be prepared for the day with studies. He certainly wasn’t missing his crazily hectic weekends with playdates and birthday parties and mom-dads house parties and driving around the city for both his and his brothers tuition lessons and what not. The calm in lockdown was needed, he felt.
He said he felt happy and peaceful that he finally got to stay home after long, rather the first time, since he was born and it was a special time for him to have fun all day. That was a good four months ago.
A month back, he graduated to asking me if he could have friends over now that he had got fed up playing on his own or with his 13 year old brother. And it was also because online school had started in full swing for both kids and dad started working full time from home and though mom kept her work on hold, downsizing her writing to a measly one article in two months, she had plenty of other chores and now finally, it was no more fun to stay cooped up. Everybody was busy!
He needed his friends back. The real fun of staying at home was all about the unregulated no rules life that he had never experienced. But after a point, the excitement understandably wore off. So, then, along with online studying, he started having a lot of video calls with close friends and family, to keep the happiness flowing. One needs something to keep going, he said!
And then now, as we near almost five months of losing precious childhood time of not going to school or playing in parks and the great outside and no public places and no travelling and no doing anything that was not within the four walls of the house, life suddenly felt very very changed. It wasn’t that good anymore. So the frequent query now is about a possible time for this not very feel good, Covid 19 situation to end.
As a parent, I don’t want to lie to my kids. But I also dont want them to be anxious about the current crisis, that if we read rightly, doesn’t show any signs of letting up. The vaccine to come notwithstanding, the virus is here to stay and perhaps life will never be the same again; though we can only hope for the best. So my answer to both the kids has always been a vague, ‘maybe next month?’
But as I can see and so can many other parents too, it is not going to be easy to get back, with Covid 19, looming larger than ever and anything one does is deemed risky. And yet we need to try and lead normal lives. It’s a Catch-22 situation and an extremely unusual one, the kinds of which we have never experienced or perhaps will, ever again.
The good things are of course that we have learnt the tough way to slow down. As in, seriously slow down. No more mad rushing about anywhere; no more of those excuses to not spend quality time with family, no more of those ‘I get bored at home’ dialogues. Everybody has got to stick together and no matter what, take this damn damn seriously.
So, cliches notwithstanding, we did discover that as a family, we loved doing a lot of things together; singing for instance and making a lot of videos of that and sharing with family and friends; gardening that the husband and the younger son definitely have a green thumb for, cooking innovative meals that I wouldn’t dream of until lockdown happened and actually doing a very good job of! The elder son seems to have taken up baking, with a lot of passion, and all of us as assistants, of course.
Then there are some things like painting that we are experimenting with, getting back to playing board games, home exercising with yoga and a bit of Pilates, watching movies with the kids that we saw in our childhood, scouring old almirahs for much well preserved comics of Amar Chitra Katha, Indrajal and storybooks of all the Enid Blyton series, the Nancy Drews, the Famous Five, TinTin, Asterix and what not that we actually have a treasure trove of. It’s coming in handy, today!
As if that wasn’t enough, we were finally getting to see what our kids were actually up to in school. No more of that only weekend homework that we rushed through; this was serious business, sitting side by side for months at a stretch and figuring out what they knew and didn’t. This was real work.
And in between the good things we were also getting to see tantrums, up, close and personal and quite a lot. And despite the household chores, despite alll that extra work that all of us are burdened with, right now, it is like a battle for survival that only the fittest shall win. Whining wins no points!
And so on and so forth. Covid 19 is, was and shall remain our greatest challenge to date, of how we cope with our lives, post this debacle. So my 7 year old asking me when this is all going to end, has actually become a kind of Existential crisis.
There are no answers and yet we need to show them hope and keep the positivity flowing by staying mentally strong. For parents, this is the toughest phase of our lives and I hope that we all come out of this, alive. Pun intended!
For the kids, a few things matter to keep that buoyancy in their spirits up, though like everything else with them, it’s all hit and miss. Still, always good to know!
- Very structured daily routines, school work to be regulated.
- Playground or just solo outdoor sports to be done with avid social distancing, all possible home exercising including sports to be accommodated at home.
- Doing as many possible different activities to keep boredom away and yet allowing limited screen time, which means immense parental involvement.
- Counselling and answering their queries about Covid 19, allowing them to express creatively their views about it, being a bit lenient with their overall behaviour considering the strain this situation is for everybody.
- Making weekends or at least trying to make them, like before Covid 19, with movie and popcorn nights, special favourite meals, even food delivery when possible, activities or games that they can look forward to doing once school days get over. Taking them for drives with their favourite music is also a must! Tough but almost imperative to do this.
- Accommodating video chats or extra phone calls with family, friends, online parties and game nights if they so wish.
- Letting them help around the house, even with chores like dish washing, shelling peas, peeling or cutting vegetables, baking, if they are older kids and also cleaning their rooms and other areas, just to keep them involved and the novelty factor alive.
I tried almost all of these and the reactions so far have been encouraging, so I continue doing them and advising all my friends to give it a shot. As for us, the parents, sometimes the only thing that can help and keep us going, is no, not just the love and affection of ones partner (that’s a given), is complete support in everything that you are attempting to do, to keep the family afloat.
And of course, that very very essential and pretty frequent glass of wine, to take all the stress away. I’m not joking!Also, who’s to debate the crazy unending supply of hugs from the kids that make it all worthwhile as we try to make this crisis, just an attempt to live life the new normal way, with our masks and sanitisers and social distancing and yet, smiling through it all.
There’s no room for anxiety because this crisis that refuses to go away, does not give us a choice. And I say this, largely for parents I know and the parent that I am, too.
Having said that, I’m just staring at the book I’ve been meaning to read for the past five months and that keeps making eyes at me sadly from my bedside table. I know I can’t pick it up. There’s too much else to do and it’s definitely not that ordinary a life anymore.
But we cant let the kids know that, can we?