“Why don’t we just put a big fat red cross through everything?”, asks my 10 year-old. “Let’s just cancel life for the next 3 months”. In fairness to her, her school is shutting and her friends are disappearing for who knows how long. To add insult to injury, I have just had to postpone her birthday party. Life does feel like it is on hold. In contrast, the global situation is all moving so very fast. Things we didn’t think possible a couple of weeks ago are now a very stark reality.
Time spent on news websites is pretty much guaranteed to send one into a spiral of worry and depression. All of a sudden, we are all experts, because ‘we read an article the other day’. But the trouble is, not even the experts, have the answers to some of the how long, how bad, how awful questions on everyone’s lips. It is a scary place to be.
And then I remembered that not so long ago, we were all watching a different scenario play out. The Brexit scenario. And that was again, mostly out of our control. In that case, it was a discussion about wanting to separate ourselves from others. Now, there's another quiet dynamic at work. Whether it is an orchestra being formed from ten separate balconies or people putting offers of help through the neighbourhood's doors, there is in certain parts, a serious and refreshing sense of community - that we need to stick together. As a customer, I’ve had plenty of emails from retailers, reassuring me that they know this is a horrid situation, they are doing their best to meet demand and they care. Somehow this all feels healing. (as well of course, as being excellent PR).
I was talking to a colleague, also a parent, this week, and sharing my anxiety about having the children at home for an extended Easter holiday. Despite my one-time ambition to be a teacher, I simply don’t think I am cut out for what looks like it might be 3 months of home schooling! Here's what he said: "The kids will remember this extra holiday for the rest of their lives, so we might as well make it count."
He was right. It’s not going to be about doing all the fun, indulgent, special stuff that we sometimes go the extra mile to do. It’s going to be about doing simple, routine stuff well and together. (Disclaimer: I’m 2 days in. I may well need to be reminded of all this very soon!’) I do believe it’s important to teach kids, and indeed ourselves to learn resilience, patience and an ability to survive and find interest in surroundings we haven’t chosen. To learn to make the best of situations that are far from ideal because we want to help keep people safe is a valuable lesson. Kids may not always learn that at school. If the kids remember that as they grow, and I learn it way better than I know it now, this virus won’t have been all bad. Good habits can be contagious too. Now. Wash your hands.