Coronavirus: All rules go out the window as ‘needs must’ takes over
With all of us at home, we’re all going to need to mind each other through this uncertain time
Having to simultaneously homeschool children – and entertain the youngest who hasn’t yet started – while working from home is going to be challenge. Photograph: iStock
It has not been that long since the schools, colleges and childcare facilities closed throughout the country, though there’s already been enough rows, tantrums and outbursts to make it feel like months.
Talk of coronavirus is everywhere I turn – on every radio channel I listen to, every TV programme I watch, every paper I read and every social media platform I use. It has infiltrated my world and now even my column, because, as much as we try to carry on, it’s to the fore of everyone’s mind as we adjust to our new reality.
It’s hard trying to go about things as normal when normal is now so different, when different restrictions are in place and when you’re trying to protect everyone you love. I can see a creeping anxiety rise amongst my children, particularly the older ones who have a better understanding of the unprecedented situation we now face.
The younger ones at this point are still just relieved to be off school. To them it’s just a holiday, “to help keep all the grannies and grandads in the country safe”, my six year old assured me.
“Plus, because it’s the holidays, we can play on the [Nintendo] Switch,” he added, with a similar air of confidence. I didn’t argue the case. All rules are about to go out the window as “needs must” takes over.
I’m used to working mostly from home, so the transition on this front wasn’t a difficult one for me to make. What I’m not used to, is having to simultaneously homeschool my children, all of whom are at very different stages, while working from home – and entertaining the one who hasn’t yet started, for good measure
“Oh my God, please don’t quote me on this, but this is one of those occasions where I think I have too many kids,” I wailed dramatically, thanks to the help of emojis, to the parents in a closed Facebook group I’m in. I had just seen the homework packs sent home. They were impressive in both page comprehensiveness and plentitude. We were not going to be short on work.
With himself still expected to go to the office to work, the educational responsibilities all fall to me. And without an adult to supervise the primary schoolers in particular, mayhem was likely to break out across the diningroom table.
An emotional time
Day one didn’t go too badly from a covering the schoolwork perspective, thanks mostly to bribery (needs must, coming into play once again). The work-side proved somewhat less fruitful – 638 interruptions per hour is not conducive to writing. I’m going to have to up my game and my zoning out abilities over the coming weeks.
It’s been an emotional time in the house. Even though I might not have appreciated it wholly in the past, there are many things easier about rearing very small children. One, is the fact that your word is enough. The instant ability to reassure a worried or upset little one is golden. Their conviction that you can sort any situation is priceless. And your ability to shelter them, somewhat, from the worries of the world and shoulder it yourself, if necessary, feels natural. As they get older, your powers diminish at a time you wish they wouldn’t.
I can see the anxiety on some of my older children’s faces as news updates bring details of more cases and sadly more deaths. It’s impossible to fully protect them and I hate the feeling of not being able to fix all. My reassurances offer a degree of comfort, but they know enough to understand that even mammy can’t fix this one.
It’s not helped by the constant barrage of falsehoods that appear daily in the WhatsApp groups. “Fake news” child number 3 likes to declare at regular intervals while doing his best Donald Trump impression. It gives us a laugh when it feels there’s not much to laugh about.
We went to the beach for some distraction. As six of the seven played “dodge the wave” I roared instructions about not getting their runners wet. As always, in this scenario, my words fell on deaf ears. They ran and dodged and squealed in laughter and soaked their shoes.
It seemed almost normal until suddenly it wasn’t. In a rare moment of calm, I noticed all of them looking out to sea. “A perfect picture” moment, I thought, taking out my phone to snap the memory.
And then I looked a little closer and noticed one of them was crying.
Emotions were simmering over, in spite of the fun.
We’re going to need to mind each other well.