What we previously knew as normal has well and truly gone, certainly for now, and the vast majority of us will have been at home now for almost two months. Now we all love being at home, spending time at home with our family and getting home after a long/stressful day at work. But when we were first told that we had to almost permanently stay at home; to work from home, that almost all places you used to travel to visit, socialise, exercise, eat, or shop at would be closed, or that you couldn’t go and see your family and friends, your first reaction may well have been a mixture of shock, fear, and uncertainty as to how you would cope (all whilst reaching for the nearest alcoholic beverage…!).
You may have thought you’d just be bored, or go stir crazy – living and working in the same place all day every day, not seeing anyone other your nearest and dearest and getting on each other’s nerves all the time. Sure, we have Netflix, or Prime, or Disney+ to keep us entertained; we have WhatsApp, Zoom, and now HouseParty to stay in touch with people, and fortunately we are still allowed out to exercise and go to the shop for alcohol essentials. But we still worried about how we would cope.
I was no different, but it turns out that being at home is actually ok. Life is ok. The world hasn’t ended. However restrictive life may fill in some ways, there are so many opportunities for you to do or to learn things that you may not have done before or thought of doing but never got around to. What I’m trying to say is don’t focus on the negative of what stay at home means, focus on the positives, and you’ll get more out of this strange time than you realised. For one, I get to see my daughter all day, every day as she grows up. Now that’s pretty special don’t you think? Ok so its hard work. And challenging. And tiring! But I like to think I’ve made good use of this time and I have learnt a lot. Here’s some highlights of what I've learnt about/from my daughter, myself and life in general:
- I know the words to every nursery rhyme. Ever. All of them. Go ahead, test me.
- A toddler’s appetite flips from not wanting to eat anything (even her favourites) to eating as if it’s going out of fashion. I don't need to go out to exercise as I get fit walking to and from the kitchen umpteen times a day.
- She can count to twenty, yet clearly has identified 13 and 15 as troublemakers as she often skips them out yet won't confess why. (Has she already heard the whispers that 13 is an unlucky number??)
- Changing a toddler’s nappy is a repetitive daily battle. I certainly thing I'm losing the war. Honestly, I think trying to catch a massive eel with hands bathed in oil and Vaseline would be easier.
- Instructions/orders just don't work, they get flipped right back at you. I think I've been sent to bed every day this week.
- Technology doesn't faze a toddler. TV remotes have already been figured out and Alexa obeys her every command. Usually the same song on again and again...
- Peppa Pig and Bing are to me what Moriarty is to Sherlock. TV can be both your friend and your enemy.
- Slinky the dog is an underrated and oft forgotten hero of Toy Story, which by the way I have concluded is arguably the most consistently excellent film franchise of them all. Discuss. I also didn't realise until very recently that it has a former James Bond and Batman voicing characters (now that is a good quiz question….)
- I don't know where she's picked them up from but phrases such as "For goodness sake", "no way" and "flippin' heck" are part of her everyday vocabulary.
- Colouring can be therapeutic, until somebody decides that staying within the lines is no longer fun.
- Turkey dinosaurs are addictive.
- My recently decorated walls have been redecorated 3 times in the last week: by a biro wielding toddler, by me to paint over the graffiti, before Crayola joined forces with the toddler to vandalise the bit I had just repainted.
- No matter how happy she is helping or how impressed she is with the tower you build or the train track you lay, a toddler is less than a second away from destroying all your hard work. And she'll do it with a smile on her face.
- Sticks and twigs are incredibly dangerous weapons in the hands of a toddler and I've suffered more than one painful blow/poke already. I suggest the police get armed with these to disperse those who still flout the rules, that'll learn them.
- My daughter appears to be ambidextrous which is hugely impressive but means you can't let you guard down one bit. Watching the right arm intently just means you are open to left striking you with something, and it's all done in the name of 'play '.
- There is no 'goodbye' when mummy goes to work, just a 'bad' bye.
- Watching pigeons fight over birdseed and peanuts in the garden is both utterly compelling and hilarious. And it's now part of my daily routine.
So what's the message from all of this? Well these may be completely unique, uncertain, stressful times for everybody. We're used to having separation from our work and our home but now for so many, that is unavoidable. But being at home need not be, and in fact should not be a negative. We may not be able to go out and see the world at the moment or in the foreseeable future, but every day we can embrace and enjoy what really does mean the world to us. And for me, right now I'm seeing my little girl develop and grow at a rate of knots right before my very eyes. OK, so I might be going through the full range of emojis on a daily basis right now. It may be hard and upsetting to explain to a little girl why she can't go and play with her cousins. But for every hissy fit or tantrum there is a spell of uncontrollable giggling and laughter. For every bruise I receive, there is mastering a new little skill which makes me smile. Circles are becoming rounder, squares squarer and pictures of mummy and daddy now have a proper body rather than just a stick one. I may not be doing much research at the moment, but I am definitely still learning.
I'll return to what I said above. These may be unique and difficult times. But don't fear them, embrace them. You'll find out a lot about those closest to you and yourself. You may never actually get as much time to spend as a family like this again so don't waste it.
Right, I think it's time to take the turkey dinosaurs out of the oven now...
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