The ways my kids are being shaped by the chaos of 2020

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I wouldn’t be a middle-class, over-educated, 21st century mother if I hadn’t unnecessarily analysed how the Covid-19 pandemic was affecting my children. I wonder about their fears, I wonder how this is forming their idea of sickness and germs, I wonder about  the importance placed on ‘social distance’ and not physically being with others.

But so far, all my meandering musings have led me to this one simple thought: my kids are fine. Children are pretty resilient – and elastic – in general, and this has been no exception. Of course, we are living in a place where the pandemic has not really ‘arrived’ in any significant way. We are in a moderate lockdown, yes. But there is no mass community spread. Very very few deaths. And while many have lost jobs, the governments’ impressive economic stimulus package will help. Of course, there are pockets of society (the poor, refugees, the homeless, victims of DV, the arts community) who are suffering  through this time.

In other parts of the world dealing with lockdown, I am acutely aware that the  experience is dramatically different. I am grateful that in Australia:

  • Fresh water and soap is readily available
  • Housing is mostly large, and outside leisure space is abundant
  • Food security and supply is not an issue for most
  • Police are not using excessive force to impose the lockdown
  • Health services are easily accessible and supportive

I try to discuss with my children the challenges of lockdown measures for children in other parts of the world. We’ve also spent a lot of time talking about how important it is for humans (when we are not in a pandemic) to be connected with others – in our homes and lives.

But I thought, just for fun, I would start to compile a list of the little quirks that I’m noticing in my children and their lives:

My 3 year old twins William and Thomas, without a second thought, reflexively sneeze and cough into their elbows rather than their hands (the way we’ve all been mistakenly doing up till now)!

The modern miracle that my consistently unhygienic 6 year old now remembers to wash his hands after going to the toilet without my nagging. I did threaten that he could be arrested the other day, when in public after a bike ride, he wiped his runny nose with the back of his sleeve!

In the familiar evening argument about teeth brushing, I asked my children why we need to brush our teeth. Instead of the more orthodox (and correct) answer relating to the amount of chocolate consumption over Easter, Thomas answered suspiciously ‘because we will get corona virus if we don’t?’

My children’s adoption of the Ugandan public health song that they sing at full volume at any opportunity ‘Corona virus is sweeping over mankind; everyone must be alert…’ It works well. Everytime lockdown measures mean we can’t do something, I playfully ask ‘and why is that?’ to which they reply by breaking out in this song.

My kids make-believe play outside (which occupies a lot of time) was today them first running around tagging each other, then yelling ‘I have corona virus!’ and being taken to the doctor for treatment.

David’s glass-half-full gratitude moment of the month after being conditioned earlier at school he can only touch his family: “I am SO lucky to have 4 other people in my family! That means I can have cuddles with 4 different people! That is so many!”

The excitement of social isolation when I first arrived home, and their desire to share this information with every.single.person. walking past our house while in our front yard (Tommy to our postman: Guess what? We are in isolation! We are isolating! Mummy was on a plane and now we have to isolate!!).

School being reduced to PE, Kitchen lessons, and as my husband officially calls playing with the chickens in our yard, ‘animal husbandry’.

That our chaotic evening prayers at the dinner table now includes William requesting that all the people in all the countries in the world get well. A big ask (it used to be mostly Uganda, and limited to kids at the MH hospital there…).

Their intimate knowledge of every single climbing tree within a 1km radius of our house. Seriously. Now we take what David has labelled his ‘climbing rope’ with us when we go for a walk.

And from the mouths of (very opinionated) children, here’s what they think about corona virus:

William: Our bodies need to call out to us, to tell us we have corona virus. Otherwise we don’t know! So everyone needs to stay away from each other.

Thomas: My lungs tell me that I don’t have corona virus. I know I don’t have it because I eat vegetables. But it can make people very sick.

David: I’m sad that I cant see my friends. I think they should send more people to the doctor through the window [for testing], because it doesn’t do anything to you but you still have it.

And my favourite: Even though nanna and pop are old, they aren’t dying right now. (Sorry mum and dad, I know you aren’t that old!)

A shout-out to all the parents around the world, trying to balance the oxymoron of ‘working from home’ with parenting and their kids learning. From one parent rocking in the corner to another, we will get through this!

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