It is the end of the world as we know it. There is an eerie silence and I am in the middle of a rundown place I don’t recognize, it’s a scene straight out of a Francis Lawrence movie. I am walking towards an unknown destination, clasping tight the hands of my little children. We are desperately looking for a sign of relief. Anybody? Is anybody out there who can help us?
I wake up with a start from this horrid recurring nightmare, also because my son graciously planted his leg on my face, cutting off my air supply. I look over at my five-year-old twins and my husband deep in peaceful slumber. All I want to do is show gratitude. Thank you for another safe, comfortable and wholesome day with my family.
COVID-19 for us has been a life-altering moment for most of us. As difficult and painful as the current situation has been, we all have had valuable lessons to learn from this pandemic. As parents, our protective instincts take over. Where we would have allowed certain transgressions in our everyday ‘normal’ lives, at a sudden looming armageddon, we become knights in shining armour to protect our little ones.
That is how I looked at it, stocking everything from toothbrushes to their favourite cereals. I went about with apocalyptic haste to get things right, planning, stressing and ‘perfecting’. After, two days in lockdown and coming up with a constant barrage of activities to keep the curious minds and idle hands busy, I realized how ignorant I had been. Instead of being a control maniac, I could create beautiful memories with my children (not always, the tantrums come like a drum roll every time a statement is made, by anyone.)
We are so used to living in the fast track lane, that slowing down was not considered an option. It was seen as a punishment. Humanity is given a time-out and put in the naughty corner indefinitely. I was trying to get the time to run as fast as I could. The truth is, time ran its own sweet languorous course, I was left exasperated, exhausted.
We are doing better now. I choose the word ‘better’ with confidence, humility, acceptance and the hope that the situation will soon improve. We would soon be hanging down the monkey bars at the playground we so dearly miss, play hide-and-go-seek with our friends, and continue our education with our favourite teachers. Till then, here is what has worked for our family:
Have a schedule and try to stick to it.
When days are hard to tell apart, it is better to have a routine to follow. It gives a sense of control to the parents, and a calming sense of familiarity to the children.
Having a morning ritual.
As parents, our needs take a back seat with kids hankering, after all, our attention. Consistency of a morning ritual has helped me make them understand that I too need time to myself. That one hour in the morning is my time, that is when hubby takes over watching the kids, before he sits at his desk to start his workday. You could have that one hour any time of the day, simply make it a part of the days’ routine.
Three planned activities a day.
I try to keep a structure where there will be three planned activities that I initiate, the rest of the day they come up with ideas. One is some physical exercise, YouTube has great options for kids fitness videos. Second is academics, where they do worksheets or we go over concepts that need more work. The third activity is always a fun one, art, science experiment, a game we can play, bake a cake, make paper planes, puzzles or acting out a play.
Read, Read, Read.
We love reading. We try to read at least three books a day. Sometimes, the number goes up, this does not include storytime with dad at night. Try to ask questions and make the reading process more engaging. Questions such as if they like the ending, how would they change it? Who was their favourite character and why?
Have a healthy discussion around the present situation.
Kids are keen observers, explain to them in age-appropriate language what COVID-19 is and what is happening around the world. Assure them that they are safe and everyone needs to take precautions. I find solution-oriented conversations more productive when talking to kids. Instead of just informing them that hands need to be washed and we cannot go out of the house, ask them what measures they think we all can take besides the above-mentioned ones. You would be surprised at the creativity and the consequent cooperation.
I believe in energy healing and give my children grounding energy at least once a day. They love it, and I know that it calms them down. Whatever your faith, connect your kids to their rich inner life. Ask them to draw what they are feeling, art as therapy works wonders. Paint your inner thoughts too, it’s super relaxing and releases a lot of pent up stress.
One is some physical exercise, YouTube has great options for kids fitness videos. Second is academics, where they do worksheets or we go over concepts that need more work. The third activity is always a fun one, art, science experiment, a game we can play, bake a cake, make paper planes, puzzles or acting out a play.
Taking a chill pill.
Relax, breathe, enjoy the little moments, sometimes scream into the pillow, REPEAT.
Ask kids to help in household chores.
Of course, age-appropriate chores could be keeping their clothes in the cupboards, taking out the toys and books they don’t play or read anymore. Helping themselves to a simple snack, peanut butter and banana when they are hungry in between meals (they make for enthusiastic minions! evil laugh!)
Allow them to get bored.
I remember as a child we had few toys and very little screen time (the much anticipated Chitrahaar), but it never bothered us. We would make our own games, I remember staring at walls with no agenda and making stories up in my head. We grew up fine. In fact, I think getting bored is as important as being engaged in activities. The space, lets us reflect, question and create.
Just be together.
I think that is my favourite part of the day. At night, we all play UNO whilst listening to music. We have played it enough times for the thick cards to turn into a deck of butter paper. It is when all of us unwind and gang up against one person (me) and show where our true loyalties lie (with their dad).
We have taken selfies out of boredom, documented impromptu rock shows. When the parents can’t physically move anymore, the kids are yet to yawn past midnight, and I roar into the night saying this is all rubbish, and we need to be in bed, this cannot go on forever, that I need my space. They snuggle next to me and remind me, that we are in this together and it is ok to be angry sometimes. We know we will get through this. We know we have spoken about feelings and emotions and how we are there for each other. During this distressful time, we all need to be reminded of that every day.
Happy imperfect you, happy imperfect parenting!
The views expressed are the author’s own.