• With usual routines gone, parents are finding creative ways to entertain their kids. (Stone RF)Source: Stone RF
A good friend shared, on our WhatsApp chat the other day, a video of her six-year-old son undertaking an obstacle course in her house, that he had made himself.
By
Samantha Selinger-Morris

6 Apr 2020 - 9:44 AM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2020 - 10:42 AM

For some of my friends and I, home schooling our children while scrambling to meet work deadlines  - and in some cases, absorbing the tear-inducing jolt of job loss – has been punctuated by unexpected stabs of sweetness.

Yes, I physically tried to push my husband out of my office chair, the other day, when my rage-o-meter rose like a Texas Oil geyser, after I'd been running back and forth between my computer and my six-year-old son.

I was urging my son to read the book The Little Red Hen, but instead of him reading, “lived on a farm”, he kept saying “a cute mummy head!” Then he’d throw his arms around my neck in a Hulk Hogan-esque neck lock.

My eyes on the prize, I repeatedly stood him up and directed him towards the book, with and increasingly tense voice, until he lept towards me and yelped, “Mummy, would you do it for love?!”

I wrapped him in my arms, nuzzled his tender neck, and lost all sense of time and space, as though I were upside down on a roller coaster. “All I’ve got is this,” I thought, with my eyes tightly closed. Then I held him tighter.

I can feel the teensiest bit more patience for my children creep into my being.

For me – someone who no more “lives in the moment” than “considers moving to Afghanistan”, so crammed is my brain with thoughts about what needs to be done next – these moments are a treasure. With each one – and there have been a growing amount, over the last couple of weeks – I can feel the teensiest bit more patience for my children creep into my being. (I can always work after they’re in bed, but I won’t always have the opportunity for moments like this with them.) The same has gone for my husband.

I would never choose to live with a pandemic, given the serious threat it poses to the elderly in our family, in addition to those in the wider community.

But having our lives stripped of the usual frenzy of schlepping children to school, after-school activities, parties and play dates – and because my husband is now home to help absorb our children’s frustrations, fights, and whining, when before it was overwhelmingly me on the job - our lives have become surprisingly calmer.

I’m not the only one finding that the current climate has facilitated the adoption of better ways of being.

A good friend shared, on our WhatsApp chat the other day, a video of her six-year-old son undertaking an obstacle course in her house, that he had made himself.

Using yoga mats (on which he slid down from his sofa), books laid out on the floor (for him to hop on), and opened cupboard doors (that he had to push closed, in order to progress along his path), he looked like a junior Indiana Jones, if Jones was a soft-cheeked child in gym shorts on a quest for the softest sofa in the wilds of suburban Sydney.

Hopping from challenge to challenge, my friend’s son’s body vibrated with contentment, like a cat being patted by its owners.

Hopping from challenge to challenge, my friend’s son’s body vibrated with contentment, like a cat being patted by its owners.

“Note,” wrote my friend, “I am a neat freak so really doing deep breathing.”

Across the globe, countless others have also responded to the current challenge – how to keep children occupied and feeling safe during a terrifying time that’s triggering all of our neuroses – in remarkably creative ways.

Hand-drawn pictures of rainbows have appeared in windows across the globe. In Italy, many feature the slogan “Tutto andra’ bene” (“Everything will turn out OK”). In New York City, one painted rainbow stretched across a series of windows in an apartment building. And children, wherever they are, can add theirs to the “Rainbow Connection Map”, on Google Maps.

Stuffed bears, too, have been placed in windows, on fences, and on roofs across the world, so that children can walk around their neighborhoods and spot them, as though they are Going On A Bear Hunt for real. (In Melbourne, parents can look at the We're Going on a Bear Hunt Facebook page for more details.)

On Instagram, New York-based illustrator Wendy MacNaughton has been conducting drawing classes for kids. Music icon Dolly Parton has even jumped aboard the trend, launching a weekly video series in which she reads children's books. Parton hopes the 10-part series will help parents keep their kids occupied during coronavirus isolation.

And on Twitter, Frozen actor Josh Gad has been posting videos of himself reading children’s books so that parents – or people who love children’s books – can have a break, and interaction, of a sort, while in isolation.

Perhaps his greatest kindness has been him sharing what homeschooling his children has actually been like.

“Ok, today’s been a bit of a doozy,” Gad said on March 18, about being home with his daughters, aged 6 and 9.

“Homeschooling is really hard, uh, gotten into a couple of close to what I would describe as fist fights with my daughters over math, and uh, just trying to, bring you all a little dose of sanity and find a little sanity for myself, as always.”

 This made me feel just the tiniest better when, today, I barked at my 13-year-old son to hand over his phone, after he refused to retrieve mine from my room.

“Give it!” I said, so that – wait for it - my daughter and I could hear the trippy, transcendental song “The Inner Light”, written by George Harrison.

Harrison’s The Material World Foundation is raising money for COVID-19 aid, donating a dollar for every person who submits an artwork, song, chant, poem, or the like, inspired by the peaceful song, over social media. What a perfect activity, I thought, to keep my daughter and I – temporarily – off screens.

My ham-fisted attempt was – like life now – far from perfect.

No one knows how imperfect the world has become more than one of my friends, dealt one of the cruelest blows during this pandemic.

Her husband died a week ago. And, because of the pandemic, she has neither been able to be surrounded by her community, nor be hugged by her parents or her in-laws.

Her experience hovers on the edge of my brain, when I'm losing my patience with my children, reminding me of how lucky those of us who can still partake in small activities with our children are.

Her experience hovers on the edge of my brain, when I'm losing my patience with my children, reminding me of how lucky those of us who can still partake in small activities with our children are.

And so, whereas once I would’ve sulked, if my son refused to fetch my phone, this time, I breathed in, and looked at my daughter. (After, of course, I grabbed my son's phone and queued up "The Inner Light".)

“Why are you planning?” she said, seeing me hover over my water colour paper, pointing my brush at this side of the paper, and then the other, too afraid to make the first mark.

“You’re supposed to do it without knowing,” she said with a smile. “That’s how I do all my art and you guys love it.”

This daughter of mine who, at 11, I’ve been increasingly at odds with – her frequently feeling that I’m always finding fault with her; me feeling that she hasn’t been listening to me – had a lesson to teach me.

And, for once, I was open to letting go of what I wanted to do, and learn it.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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