The last time things were my kind of normal, my youngest was still in Montessori

Jen Hogan: He enjoyed the party, mind, and I enjoyed that he was doing something normal

‘It’s proving a lot trickier than I anticipated to secure the bouncy castle I’d promised the children.’

‘It’s proving a lot trickier than I anticipated to secure the bouncy castle I’d promised the children.’

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like normal. Well, the normal I remember, even if my youngest doesn’t. He went to a birthday party a few days ago and didn’t know what to expect.

Of course, why would he?

The last time things were my kind of normal, he was still in Montessori. Normal for him is playing with your friends in your class at school, but not the friends in other classes. It’s about making sure your hands are always clean – if there is a cleaner pair of little hands in Ireland, you’ll be hard pressed to find them – and welling up if you momentarily think you’ve forgotten to wash them when you’ve come in from school. And it’s about rules, more rules than his older siblings ever had to consider.

He enjoyed the party, mind, and I enjoyed that he was doing something normal. Normal like his brothers and sister did at that age. Though that didn’t stop me feeling almost guilty as I drove him to the party – a party that was happening within the guidelines and public health advice. Seems I too am so used to rules that unnecessary guilt rears its head, even when the rules have changed.

It is just a few days until another child’s confirmation. A confirmation that, like countless others, was put on hold because of the pandemic and will now take place when he is in a different school. He can’t wait to see his friends again. I’m slightly put out that it’s at 7pm in the middle of the week, meaning school that day and the next, and giving us very little opportunity to mark the occasion.

So I’ve decided we’ll mark it the following weekend instead. Not in any large scale, but through a get together with a few of his nearest and dearest. I rang my mother to give her the heads up, and if truth be told, in the hope that she might volunteer to make some sandwiches.

I probably wouldn’t have extended an invite to him, because, you know, the pandemic

“Are you sure you’re allowed?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied, wondering what indeed was different between this and other catch-ups we’ve had. I think it may have been the mention of a bouncy castle that had her perturbed. We all know it starts off harmlessly with small kids leaping about on the castle and the next thing Uncle Joe is half sozzled in the corner singing 12 verses of “Dublin in the rare aul times”, seeing as live music is allowed, and all, again. Only I don’t have an uncle Joe and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have extended an invite to him, because, you know, the pandemic and the rules and whatever they actually are anymore. Plus my accordion is somewhere in the attic.

There has been no mention of the sandwiches yet, but I know she’ll come good. She won’t want my plain cheddar cheese or ham offerings inflicted on anyone.

But even if the timing, the build-up and the setting is somewhat different, I’m delighted for him, that his confirmation day, or evening as it is, is finally coming around. There’s a whiff of normality in the air, and the children need it. It’s been a very long pandemic for them.

And alongside that, their indoor activities have returned, hurray! Well overdue, but finally back and there’s a pep in the step of those who were missing it most. But I’ll be honest, there are also those who needed encouragement to go back. They were so long without particular outlets, that they got used to not having them. It became their normal. I’m going to have to get used to the normal of a much busier evening schedule again. Mum taxi is go.

We can even dare to hope that school might look a little more normal

And now with the National Public Health Emergency Team advising that children may not have to isolate if they are asymptomatic close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case, we can even dare to hope that school might look a little more normal, or at least be less disrupted than previous years.

Still, that will take an adjustment of mindset too, as our normal shifts and changes once again. A year is a long time in a pandemic. This time last year thoughts were turning to the things we might not be able to do with no clue of when any degree of normality might return.

And 18 months is an even longer time to live with rules and restrictions, so it’s hard to get used to their removal – no matter how much we looked forward to the day they might be gone.

It’s proving a lot trickier than I anticipated to secure the bouncy castle I’d promised the children.

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like normal-ish.

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