Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England. This week: a guide to handling school closures
I said I would write a hilarious article about the schools being closed, but in the hours since I said it a real sadness has come over me.
The JOMO (joy of missing out) that to start with was amazing (no PTA events, no courses, no after work drinks) has been replaced very quickly with a grim reality.
I went to see a very elderly client today who said that she knows she is supposed to stay indoors because of the 'granola virus' but will probably stand outside her husband’s care home and look at him through the window. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t thought much about the millions of people like her, already isolated and dependent upon the small amounts of social contact they get.
We have been told that we will either have to take unpaid or annual leave when schools close on Friday, and whilst this will be difficult for us - particularly if they don’t reopen after Easter - I am only really concerned about what on earth I am going to do with these blasted children. I could sob as I think of my friend’s childless brother and his new Portuguese wife who are self-isolating, presumably Netflix and Chilling, or my actual dream, chilling with Netflix.
With about 130 six minute units of time to fill between the little blighters opening their eyes and closing them again, here is my rough guide. Unlike a Twitter account I still for some reason follow, I am not going to tell you to 'look for leprechauns in your garden' or 'visualise breathing in green air and breathing out green air'. You need stuff that works if you are going to get through this.
You need to find TV shows both/all of your children will be interested in. For us, Ponysitters Club, Mia & Me and Apple Tree House fulfill this brief. Horrid Henry is another one but you need to weigh up the benefit (children sitting still) against the inevitable longer term consequence of them having a new, naughty, rude role model. At the other end of the behaviour spectrum, both of my children would probably still sit in front of Topsy and Tim but they just wash their hands so much. I think it would really grate at the moment.
This goes for all my tips, but do not disturb them if they are happy.
It is about getting through each day, particularly if you are actually supposed to be working too. If they are happy watching telly, don’t disturb them. Not for drinks, meals, even small fires if you are fairly sure you can put them out before the children need to be evacuated from the room.
My very wise gran used to say 'telly is a great unwinder'. However much telly they watch in the next few weeks, they are not going to have square eyes or stunted brains (with one exception below). Be grateful that this is happening now and not a few years ago when streaming services were in their infancy. I spent 130 units one day in 2015 during an illness watching the same three 5 minute episodes of Woolly and Tig on a loop. This means I watched each episode 52 times. And Woolly and Tig are both really annoying.
If you have some important work calls to make, you need to bring out the big guns: YouTube. Warning: this tip should only be used if your dustbin lids can spare a few brain cells. You will almost be able to see their grey matter rot like that test they do in schools with milk teeth in glasses of coke.
For the smallest tots, I can recommend the lady who opens kinder eggs. You can thank me later for this one, for getting you through your telephone hearings in silence. Probably even full day hearings.
If your slightly older children want to watch other children make slime, (why wouldn’t they?) I can recommend Jacy and Kacy, Magic Box or Crafty Girls. These little darlings also make videos called things like 'my sister has to buy me everything I touch that begins with the letter M for 24 hours whilst handcuffed to me and only wearing purple'. The Norris Nuts- children of Australian swimmer Justin Norris- particularly in their earlier role play videos, are really something and not at all annoying. All four/five (not sure how many there are as they all have the same face) Nuts appear to have all been born with West End-level facial expressions.
Spoiler alert: in the video where they choose what to name their baby sister/brother, they choose the name Disco.
The baby is named Disco Norris.
Invest now in a trampoline. Unless your children are going to shout 'we can see in other people’s gardens!' and 'Tag, you’ve got coronavirus' at the top of their voices. I mean, I don’t know any children who would shout things like this, ones that have been dragged up no doubt, but if this applies then probably keep them indoors.
Going back to my point about not disturbing a happy child, now is the time to test your own mental stamina by remembering all the things that they will do over and over that you normally stop because they are boring. Once I was talking to a mum in the park and she told me she had been pushing her little girl on the swing for an hour. 'You can stop,' I reminded her.
Now is not the time to stop. Keep swinging. Hide and seek, having long baths and looking out of the window trying to spot blue cars/people wearing hats/brown dogs are other things that can run and run, if you can cope, and not forgetting my personal favourite, 'Would You Rather'. My kids would be content all day long if I kept asking questions like 'Would you rather have fingers as long as your arms or arms as long as your fingers'.
In all seriousness, get out in the garden, try to make the most of this time together, divide and conquer, let your floors be covered in hama beads, glitter, slime and flour. Don’t expect too much of yourselves or your children. These are not normal times. Remember how lucky we are that, for some reason, the littlest ones are not a high risk category, and what a different complexion it would put on everything if they were. The kids are all right.
I promise to tweet something encouraging (that doesn’t involve looking for leprechauns) every day and, by the way, I have cancelled Lent.