It’s party time for most parents across Melbourne today. Wippee.
For most school years (hang on, in years 8-10 it’s not long now) it’s the big day we’ve been waiting for. Parents have been brushing off the dusty school uniforms, digging deep into the memory banks of their past life to try and remember what they need for ‘real school’ (face mask – tick), and checking the school bags to make sure there’s no bits of manky sandwich that have been sitting there since those fleeting weeks they returned to school – when was it? June? I tragically had to Google when that was – I genuinely had no idea.
Harsh stage four restrictions imposed on August 2 limited Melbournians’ movements to 5km around their homes for one hour a day and imposed a night time curfew of 8pm. Non-essential workers have basically been stuck inside with their kids since March.
The weeks, months, days have blurred into one drawn out restless night and one long rollercoaster day of home-school. No tears before lunchtime? It’s been a good day.
Anyhow, they really are finally going back to school, and I’ve realised too late that my children have grown about a foot during iso like mushrooms in the dark. My son will be going to school looking like Steve Irwin with Harry high-pants, and my daughter will be squeezing her feet into shoes like Cinderella’s siblings. When are shoe shops opening up, Dan Andrews? We don’t really mind though. Because the important thing is that they will finally get to play with real life children and be taught by real life teachers – and oh have we missed them! So what have we learnt as a family during these homeschooling days?
I have learnt that I’m still shit at maths – even the second time. I got a double scoop of left brain at birth and was clearly in the loo when the maths gene was handed out. The seven, eight and nine times tables are still just as painful, and as for long division… I’d rather stick pencils up my nose. Let’s just say thank the universe for YouTube that I have been able to up-skill on the sly and bluff my nine-year-old into believing that I am, in fact, a maths genius. And, yes, my maths teacher was right – we will always use our maths skills in life – particularly when homeschooling your kids during a pandemic.
The little things
We have been given time with the kids in helpings larger than we can consume. Being forced to stop still has made it hard not to take notice and appreciate the small things around us. To really see in technicolor for the first time, the orange sunset, the shapes in the clouds, the full moon, the bees on the lavender, the budding blossom (and perhaps how dirty my kids’ socks are)… A true reminder that the natural world is King.
My office mates
At times, with all four of us schooling and working from home together for months, it has felt like being on a very long road trip together with no destination and no wee stops. We have had to navigate around each other’s daily lives which has been full of compromise. I have learnt that I can ironically be scolded by my nine-year old for being too loud: “Mum, shhhsshhh be quiet. Can’t you see, I’m in a meeting!”. My 13-year old son it turns out is actually the best multitasker on the planet – he can listen to music, play X-Box, be on his phone and in a live school lesson all at the same time. As much as I love him, I have not only learnt what my husband actually does after 20 years, but have learnt that he eats apples really noisily, is in really long loud meetings, and a pair of noise cancelling headphones is top on my Christmas list. I have also learnt to never walk around with just undies on – you never know who is on a video call.
Without the frenetic hamster wheel of after-school activities and weekend sport, we have been given family time on a platter. Of course, like most, at times it’s been a total shit show – our family and friends have been directly affected by COVID-19 on so many levels. It’s been heartbreaking at times, but that’s another story. And yet there have been oasis moments, reminiscent of the ‘good old days’ and the best childhood memories. It has brought us back to basics. To sit quietly together and play cards after dinner, cook strange-shaped homemade pizzas, make pastry (I’m sure it will never happen again!) draw angel wings with chalk, watch daggy movies and cook marshmallow shmores (sooo good) around the fire. And to all sit for dinner each night, as a full family of four – a novelty for the children. Now working from home, their dad is no longer making an occasional guest appearance in the week. Making up for lost time, he has become their exercise partner, Weetbix maker, spaghetti chef and champion at UNO.
Family and friends
There’s nothing like a pandemic to realise who you love most in the world and the faces you miss in the school yard. We will never take for granted spending time with family or friends en mass, having Grandma to stay (even though she can be annoying), a house full of noisy playdates, to share big jolly dinners and hugs, and see each other’s smile unmasked.
She may have the smelliest blow offs in the home school environment (our son a close second), but she’s the best teaching assistant (think Peter Pan and Nana), break time mate and has always been on hand to mop up the tears for all. Let’s just have a moment’s silence to recognise the vital work of all the dogs of Melbourne during this time.
Life can sometimes be a bit shit, things can be totally out of our control, and don’t always go our way. And when they do, how do we make the best of the situation and still find gratitude? Never before has what’s really important in life such as health, friends, family, freedom and our environment, been lit up so brightly in fairy lights. Our kids may have missed out on time in the classroom but hopefully they’ve learnt life lessons that will last forever.
Being domestically challenged, and with the chaos of work-life-kids juggle having always halved my guilt, cooking with the kids has never been my speciality. Yet during lockdown, with no excuses to hide behind, our kitchen has been smoking – at times literally. With the kids in charge, we have made what we coined ‘soupplé’, a remarkably ugly apple pie, charcoal macaroni cheese (not intentionally) and not so quick eight-hour dumplings from scratch. Many of our creations have looked like they’ve been crafted by our dog but they were surprisingly delicious. My 13-year-old son can now cook homemade pizza, build scooby-doo sandwiches, bake molten chocolate brownies, and boil two-minute glow in the dark noodles. He could now be released into the wild and survive. My work is done.
Yes. During a pandemic, pyjamas are our friend – and we have learnt that life, work and school can in fact be carried out in them.
Video games are not the devil (oh well they kind of are, but not during a pandemic anyway!). As Zoom has been a life saver for Grown Ups, Fortnight (or whatever in appropriate shooty game they’ve begged you to download) and Roadblocks have become the virtual 2020 Upside Down school yard – a place of chatter, laughter, excitement, frustration and camaraderie where it’s compulsory to squeal at your friends in irritatingly loud voices. At the same time, they have pushed parents across Melbourne to insanity and the streets have echoed: “Will you please get off that (insert expletive of choice) iPad/X-Box, enough is enough.” Then only minutes after prising their mits off the X-Box controls, resisting the urge to smash up said device with a potato masher, and bathing in the conquest of guilt-free parental bliss, have we realized that the kids have already had their one-hour exercise, you have a work deadline and seven hours of the day to fill before bed time. One hour later when the kids are crying because so and so punched me first, you are re-mortgaging the house in exchange for V-bucks to ensure you can scrape through an un-interrupted video client call and hit deadline. Anyhow, kids, Christmas is now over, back to the old rules – digital is the devil!
We loved you before, but now you are ceremoniously classified in the same part of the library as mythical creatures – there are glorious unicorns, ephemeral elven queens and kings, saintly beings that met sticky ends, and the Godly Saints of Patience – teachers. On the dark isolation days when we’ve hidden in our pyjamas under the doona in the foetal position you have showed up each and every day on that bright saviour of a small screen and given it your all to 28 challenging little (shits) I mean personalities. So today is the day that we hand them back. I’m afraid we will be handballing our kids to you faster than any young gun on a finals football field. However, we will not forget who the true champions were during this pandemic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Right….now….drop off done… so which bar is it that’s selling take away cocktails?
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