The Easter holidays have arrived, but nobody was quite ready for them. With the middle children having returned to school just two weeks ago, one was particularly shaky about the thoughts of walking away from the school building. “What if school stays closed again”, he asked, his worried eyes looking to me for reassurance. I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears and sing la-la-la, replying instead “hopefully that won’t be the case”, because definites are so pre-Covid.
“Can we at least have a less coronavirus-y Easter?” another asked earnestly. “I’m afraid not,” I replied, more certain of myself at least, but also recognising chocolate wasn’t going to solve all this year.
“Can we have a ‘yes day’?” another enquired, his latest fixation since our recent family movie night choice. I pretended not to hear.
“It’s a bit like having three different families”, my husband remarked recently referencing the three different categories the children have fallen into – the older ones, the middle kids and the youngest children, or smallies as they’re affectionately known. The smallies are the ones who apparently get away with everything and whose bedtimes are nowhere near as strict as the bedtimes imposed on my older children – or so I’m reminded on a daily basis by those who feel utterly aggrieved by the injustice of it all.
And though things were so different for those born in the difficult olden days of the 00s, I’m not as oblivious as they might think to the separate age groupings that have formed. While always appreciating that needs vary hugely across my different cohorts, I never really gave much thought to its significance beyond that. That is until a parent at the school collection presumed my daughter to be my son’s mother.
The only saving grace was that I wasn’t there at the time. I’m not sure I could have handled any potential follow on assumption that I was my child’s grandmother. Yes, the pandemic-induced insomnia has not been kind to my complexion and the years are clocking up faster than I’d like, but I’m still 19 in my head. Whereas my daughter is 19 in real life.
They see her differently, not just as a big sister, but as a big sister with added powers – she's a grown up
There are 14 and a bit years between my daughter and her youngest brother. And 12 years to the day between my daughter and her second youngest sibling. To make up for the fact that he arrived three weeks early and gate-crashed her 12th birthday, we made her his godmother. I thought it might encourage a special bond – and help begin the forgiveness process. In the end the age gap which exists between my daughter and her youngest siblings has created a whole different bond of its own.
Because they see her differently, not just as a big sister, but as a big sister with added powers – she's a grown up. "I think I'll take the smallies to get McDonalds after school" she said one day last week taking a break from streaming her college lectures. "I won't tell them though, I'll just say I have a surprise for them," she said excitedly. As the Whatsapp picture came in of them all sitting on the grass beaming and enjoying their unexpected treat, I smiled and wondered if they realised that this really isn't normal.
It wasn't always harmonious but at least the yard-time ... was a yard time that appealed to all the ages
Except it is normal for them. And all my worries that the age gap between my oldest and youngest children might mean they’d have a less close relationship than those nearer in age, have been misplaced. It’s different, depending on your perspective, but still special.
The advantages were clear to see over the homeschooling period – though perhaps in one direction only. While teenagers feared getting a belt of a lightsaber mid zoom class, the younger ones had a variety of substitute homeschooling teachers to call upon if they happened to find their main teacher particularly annoying that day. It wasn’t always harmonious but at least the yard-time escape that sometimes took in the local shop and ice-cream, was a yard time that appealed to all the ages.
“Mum, can we have a yes day on the Easter holidays?” the youngest asked again, unfazed by my earlier attempts to ignore him.
“I’m going to ask my whole class over and have a water balloon fight” the one up from him declared, temporarily forgetting about the pandemic.
“A yes day?” my daughter repeated, suddenly keen to join the conversation. “I’m one of the kids, so I want to be part of that” she insisted, renouncing her adult status in a move previously unseen.
My resolve is weakening. Aside from the fact I may finally have found something to appeal to the masses, the restrictions might even come in handy in limiting the damage that can be done