from Steph in London: grandchildren adapting …

 April 30. “Watching” the grandchildren adapt to being at home has been interesting. They seem to be happy to work at home and are enjoying not getting into school uniform every morning although they do have a routine. Joe Wicks is the start of the day, followed by school work until lunch time-ish. The older ones continue to work after lunch, the younger ones do I know not what but they have been cooking, baking, digging up worms and generally learning how to play on their own without outside or electronic distractions. There have definitely been fewer fights than normal and it appears (via Face time or Zoom) that they are calmer, more able to just ‘play’ and even, dare I say, a better cooperation culture is emerging.

They range from 15-6 in 3 families, the most labour intensive being the 9-year-old and her 6-year-old twin brothers. They have a garden, so are some of the lucky ones- playing out has become part of the routine (“We have to play out for an hour at a time”)

However, as an ex-teacher I watch the adults trying to juggle their work and the properties of a quadrilateral and I don’t envy them.  Most of them spend the day in conference calls, which requires a different level of concentration and my eldest son has asked the children to text him and their mum when they need help. Being in the next room seems a bit OTT but it’s working.

Or it was until the 10-year-old had a message from his teacher – he HAD to build a working volcano … he texted his parents – both of whom were knee deep in keeping the economy going. A once very calm mum went mad and threw her toys out of the pram-

‘How can we be expected to do that?’

‘Does the teacher not realise we have to work too?’

‘How the … do we make it froth?’

They compromised and he built a building of interest instead with help from his older brother (The leaning Tower of Pisa)

When the message from the teacher was re-read, there were  about 20 options, including the volcano, but not a building of interest! Am sure going off piste won’t be the difference between a stellar career or failure…

Finally, some friends with autistic children have found that they are calmer at home, without the hustle of uniforms and deadlines to meet every 45 mins and are learning well. They are seriously considering what sort of education will be best for them in the future …

From David Maughan Brown in York: Parental anxieties

April 21st

Who was it who suggested that children’s main reason for existence is to give their parents something to worry about?  Before they are born they provide the opportunity for anxieties about whether they will have the right number of fingers and toes.  When they are small you have to hope it isn’t meningitis every time they have a temperature.  When they go to school the worry is that they might be being bullied and that they might not tell you if they were.  As they grow older there are worries about exams, and whether they will find jobs, and whether they will find suitable partners, and whether they will be able to have children if they want them, and, if so, whether their children will have the right number of fingers and toes, and so it goes. And that is only a minute sampling of the smorgasbord of possible worries, constantly restocked with novel possibilities, as they grow older.   Whether they are four or forty, one always wants to try to do something to help them if they are finding life difficult.

Lockdown allows much more time than usual for sustained worry, and offers a whole new realm of things to worry about where children and grandchildren are concerned.  If one has reached the questionable status of being ‘vulnerable’ simply by virtue of the passing of the years, social distancing entirely precludes any possibility of offering the practical help that would make their lives easier.  Even without lockdown there would be nothing one could do about the really big worries: whether children and grandchildren will be able to keep themselves safe from the virus, and whether, even if they can stay safe, it will be possible for food to be kept on their tables.  Unlike all too many parents, we are fortunate in this last respect in that the employment status of five of our six children and their partners remains unchanged, and the sixth has been furloughed under the government’s 80% of salary scheme.  But all of them, along with our grandchildren, are finding themselves well out of their comfort zones. 

Our children have no option but to try to carry on with their sometimes already more than full-time jobs in noisy households while simultaneously trying to share parental responsibilities. These last now dauntingly include the home schooling of their children.  If teaching had been their forte they might have chosen teaching as a career.  If home schooling had been part of the plan they would might, in one instance, have tried to make sure there were no significant age-gaps between their children.  The grandchildren are having to accommodate themselves to new routines and to missing the company of their school friends.  For the ones whose lives normally revolve to some extent around sport, or other activities like dancing, the abrupt termination of all group activities leaves a large hole in their lives.  Cabin fever affects parents and children alike.  Wishing that one could be of some practical help doesn’t serve as much of a distraction from worrying about how well they are all managing to keep themselves, both physically and mentally, in these very abnormal circumstances.