I’ve always loved Reeling in the Years. And I’ve especially enjoyed watching the most recent series, the 2010s, because this time I could watch with my older children, who have memories of many of the events featured in the episodes, and with the younger children who were born during that decade.
One, however, having watched the entire episode of the year he was born, was disgusted to discover that his birth wasn’t deemed worthy of a mention. Note to self: important events of the year are wholly subjective when you’re seven.
So in ordinary fashion we sat down to watch the 2019 episode when it aired. I wondered if it would all seem rather recent. But as memories of the good aul days played out on my TV screen – the days when you couldn't move for saturated Brexit coverage or clips of John Bercow roaring "Order, order" at unruly parliamentarians with about as much success as I have with my own troops here – it all seemed a very distant memory.
Was 2019 really only the year before last?
It seemed I wasn’t alone in thinking it. “I can’t believe this is only 2019,” the 20-year-old remarked from the couch beside me. (Yes, I now have a 20-year-old. This has come as almost as big a shock to me as the realisation that the pandemic has only been raging for a year and a half.) The five-year-old wandered in to the room, oblivious to the goings on. I fear he has no real memories of normality anymore.
The end of the episode sent a shiver down my spine. “On December 31st, international news agencies carry the first reports of an unknown virus,” the titles read. “Imagine if we knew then, what we know now,” my daughter said, both of us shuddering as we agreed that we were glad 2020 was behind us. I feel certain the 2020 episode will need to carry a trigger warning whenever it airs in the future.
Still, for all that time has seemed to pass slowly this pandemic, I’m finding it hard to believe that we’re already at the stage where the kids are finishing school for the summer. It’s hard to believe yet another academic year is over. While I usually enjoy the summer break and the reclaiming of evenings and weekends as our own, this year I’m not sure how I feel about it except that I feel utterly unprepared for it in a most unfamiliar way.
Perhaps it’s a hangover from previous school holidays of pandemic times. The fear each time the schools closed their doors that they might not reopen again. And though I know we’re in a different place now, the fear still remains.
Or perhaps it’s just the usual fear of wondering how to juggle it all, when the reserves were already well and truly used up earlier this year. Or maybe it’s just that routine is comforting, especially for this creature of habit, and we’d finally returned to some.
The end of this school year brings yet another milestone for one of my children. Child number four finishes primary school this week, but without the bells and whistles of his siblings before him. The absence of the usual celebrations in the usual style means it all feels a little less real, for both him and me. Yet, life has a funny habit of moving on, even during a pandemic.
Like the eldest child turning 20 last week (did I mention I was shocked?). Twenty. Properly a grown up, though that didn’t stop me quoting the theory of “emerging adulthood” at her – that stage between 18 and 25 which I’d read a little bit about one time. Effectively, it meant she wasn’t going to be a proper adult until she was 25, I argued, much to her amusement.
I was grasping at straws obviously, (though perhaps there’s something in that emerging adulthood theory). But my straw-grasping is no surprise to me. This whole growing up lark, even though it’s part of the terms and conditions of the job, is still something I find it hard to get my head around.
Because while I’ve been waiting to emerge from pandemic times, those pesky kids have kept on growing, with little regard not only for the fact that clothes and shoe shops were closed for much of the pandemic but also for their mother’s feelings on the matter.
Another one headed for secondary school, and one starting a new decade in her life.
Turns out important events of the year are not just subjective when you’re a small child.