I started writing this post in response to a comment on my post about throwing a lockdown birthday party. I wrote a couple of paragraphs and then decided that it was a bit overkill for reply to a simple “the kids have missed out on so much” sympathetic comment.
Here’s the thing, COVID is shit. There’s no getting round that fact. It’s deadly and destructive and can ruin the lives that it doesn’t take. To protect ourselves, we’ve had to stay home and keep away from other households – that’s pretty awful for many people too. For some, it’s more than awful it’s almost too much to cope with and for a few it’s just been the last straw, leaving people so hopeless that they’ve taken their own lives due to isolation.
What I’m about to say doesn’t detract from the fear, loneliness, pain and hardship that we’ve all been living with for the last year and more.
Neither the privileged habits we have, being unfamiliar with hardships, nor the pain that they bring mean that we should take it easy now. We have to keep on being sensible, staying home, keeping away from our loved ones, protecting each other.
I think kids can be a lot more adaptable than adults. Small boy is five and a half and a bit, 68 months old, he’s spent 12 months living in the COVID times. That’s about 18% of his life, so he’s proportionally got less to compare it with. Whereas it’s about 2.5% of my life so feels a bigger contrast. Add to that the fact that kids live’s are constantly changing. Both my boys went to nursery, they changed rooms and carers every 6 months to a year, plus we moved house and nursery twice before large boy was three and a half. Then preschool and school came along. Those are big changes, leaving all your friends behind three times before you’re five? Hell of an upheaval.
So not only are kids less set in their ways, but they are also more familiar with big changes in proportion to their life span. That doesn’t make it easy on them, just may not as enormous a change as we might thing.
Does that kind of make sense?
The grown ups
For the adults, we’re handling the big changes differently. We see the long term more clearly, we’re less adapted to frequent big changes and we have more responsibilities to consider. I think many adults have found lockdown and the other restrictions brought along by COVID more difficult to handle than their children. We’ve not just adapted to where our children are, but also to where we’re working, whether we have any alone time, and not seeing people we’ve known for many years. Small boy has been at school for almost 5 terms, he doesn’t care whether he sees his class mates or not. Grown ups might have known their work colleagues for decades, the same for their friends. Not seeing those people any more is a huge wrench.
The other thing is that I think that our generation and that of our parents just haven’t experienced upheaval before. Historically, a huge shift in the way we live is actually more “normal” than constant stability. We’ve also grown up in vaccine times, where we have no need to fear the diseases that killed our great-grandparents’ siblings.
I’ve written before about my grandma’s sisters who died of diphtheria 105 years ago, before she was born. We don’t need to worry that our children might contract and die from a simple bacterial infection because they and the rest of the population are vaccinated against it and a multitude of other things: polio, rotavirus, meningitis, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, haemophilus influenzae, measles, mumps, rubella, and more recently HPV. Go back a little bit further and small pox was even more deadly.
Imagine a world where we understood germ theory (that certain diseases are caused by the invasion of the body by microorganisms, too small to be seen except through a microscope) and there was that multitude of threats to our children with no prevention, often little treatment and no sure cures. We’d all be petrified. Or, callous as it sounds, would we all not take life for granted and expect the two in twelve mortality rate that my great-grandmother experiences in her children?
Oh wait, we’re living in a world a bit like that right now. Except, we know what we can do to protect ourselves and others. Its not fun, but its better than death right?
Thinking again about my own family and upheaval that neither I nor my parents have had to cope with; all my grandparents came through the second world war. For years, they had rationed food, blackouts, bombings, fathers, sons, brothers going to war and maybe not coming back, separation from family. My grandma went to live and work 20 miles away from home aged 16, my gran was a land girl at a similar age.
Again, I’m not saying that COVID times are easy. Indeed, we don’t have that perspective of being able to compare this experience with something else we’ve been through. I’m just saying that its part of life for the world to change in huge and sudden ways, and that it could be much much worse.
What we tell ourselves
And that brings me onto the last thing I want to say.
What we tell ourselves makes a big difference in how we cope with any experience. I’m naturally optimistic and positive,. Whether I’m dealing with the aftermath of late miscarriage or pushing myself along 10km into a 14km run, I tell myself that it’s OK, that I can do it, and in the latter example that this feels good – even with horizontal hail battering my face.
Despite finding lockdown learning really very hard at times, I’ve done my best to approach lockdowns with a positive attitude. I kind of see it as my duty, my small contribution to just get on with what’s asked of me.
Don’t go out to protect others? Fine
Teach your kids at home? Well, alright.
Forego your foreign holiday? That’s OK.
Wait to see your parents? If I must, and I must.
In the grand scheme of things, those things aren’t a big deal. I’d rather cope with them than have someone I love die or someone that someone else loves die. That’s the critical part right? By playing it safe, it might not have a direct impact on our lives or our loved ones, but it might protect someone else. That’s no less valuable overall than protecting our loved ones.
So before your stretch the rules, before you class a trip to a national trust property as “essential” because you need a change of scenery, consider that while you might be fine, someone else might not be. Going on the same walk again isn’t going to hurt, sure it might be boring but its safer than venturing further afield. Before you “accidentally” meet two friends and their broods of kids, think about whether its worth the risk that one of them is at school with a vulnerable child who could suffer dreadfully if just one of your group is asymptomatic. Is their life worth less than an hour of socialising?
That sounds pretty harsh. Sorry. I’m not saying that we all need to live like hermits from here on in. Just, let’s be kind to each other and consider the risk of our actions on people we don’t even know.
We’ve adapted and coped for the last year. Let’s just keep pushing through for a bit longer until it really is safe.
In other words:
I wrote this post on the morning of Monday 15th March 2021. At almost midnight, our school sent through an email and then another explaining that there were 2 COVID cases in school. Then the message we’d been waiting for since September; one of the cases was in the class of one of our boys. There have been maybe three cases in school since September – this made three in just 10 days, all the exploring and socialising and traveling over half term are paying off. There are more cases, we’re directly impacted and possibly affected for the first time – who knows whether small boy is already infected? This makes what I already wrote even more heartfelt. Please please, please: stay home, still. Just for a bit longer.