A normal reality in extraordinary times
What is normal anymore? This way of living, our new normal is a strange way of living, and a change that came so quickly. New ways of being, new ways of interacting, a new way of life, all arrived overnight, the opportunity of spending A LOT more time together, whether we wanted it or not was suddenly here, suddenly… normal.
Working from home with the two smallies, while not easy, has become our normal. We barter and negotiate and trade time alone for work meetings as though it is a more valuable currency than bitcoin. We burn through craft supplies and have restocked at the Bubble Room three times already, plus there are only so many times in a day you can exclaim delight at a rainbow and a mound of scribbles on a page. I prepare about 1,396 380 snacks before lunchtime alone – for such small people my kids sure eat a lot. Olivia and Thomas are on a first name basis now with most of our colleagues, waving hello and showing off those fabulous drawn rainbows in front of the camera in the middle of video conference calls.
Virtual grandparents, while heartbreaking, has become our normal. We don’t live close to either set of grandparents. This is the longest we have gone without Olivia and Thomas seeing them. Both our parents are in their 50s and 60s but unfortunately Olivia is deemed high risk and so we have been ‘cocooning her’. On the bright side we have Whatsapp and Facetime and we have written letters, painted and drawn pictures and sent them by post. In these tough times it’s been lovely teaching them about a slower way of life. Olivia was truly mesmerized that these envelopes we posted into the box at Skerries Point magically made their way into Granny’s house in Co. Down all the way on the other side of the Mournes.
Showing love with waves, winks and a loud shout, while unusual, has become our normal. One of the most difficult things for us is seeing Olivia miss her friends, especially her Little Rugrats family. She asks daily if she is going to Monti and tells us she misses them and then our days are filled with her plans of baking them berry tarts, picking flowers and marrying her varying suitors. We take our once a day walks and friends on the street, call and wave from the window, she shouts up that she misses them. In short breaks on the street alone, the odd neighbor arrives back from the grocery shop and we all wave, safely, from a distance, looking somewhat awkward and hoping not to appear rude.
Questions, so many questions, are always the normal in life with kids…why do stars shine, why does my poop smell, why does the sun come up, why do you and daddy kiss, why can’t we watch more Paw Patrol, why do I have to wear socks, why are carrots orange, can I marry Luca with these daisies. You get the picture. But suddenly those innocent questions are loaded with insecurity and pressure to get the balance right between informing and not scaring. Why can’t I play with my friends, why are we not going to Monti, can I visit Nanny, when can we have a sleepover with Granny, why is the playground still closed, can we go to the big beach with sand, when are we going for bambi chinos and teddy biccies (they miss Olive as much as they miss creche), is it the bad cough?
We have chosen not to pretend it isn’t happening, but to inform them in as simple a way as possible. It is difficult for Olivia, because from the get go in this crap thing we have had to keep her apart so what most people are experiencing now, she has been experiencing since early March. We talk about the need to wash our hands and keep apart because there is a bad cough and we want to stay well. She and her pals in Rugrats were already learning about how germs spread and we did the pepper test (take some water in a bowl, sprinkle black pepper, have a little one put some antibiotic soap on their finger and touch the water and see the pepper spread away) and we avoid listening to news bulletins but keep ourselves informed.
There are lots of new normals and who really knows what normal is anyway and when we come out the other side of this life will be so different that we will all need to adjust to a new normal once again. One thing I have learned in this temporary normal is that cartoons have much more relevance than I ever thought possible, and so in the words of Anna, from Frozen 2 I leave you with these words of wisdom
“I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing”
Jeez, I miss the days I quoted Seamus Heaney but that dude never endured a pandemic with kids so Elsa and Anna will have to do for now.