It begins like all interrogations do: with a question.
I’ve seen enough movies to know how these things usually take place. There is a chair, usually an uncomfortable one, in the room. Our hero sits in the chair and tries to look nonchalant . But they are very chalant, very! The interrogator sits across from them, sometimes on the other side of a table, maybe behind a glaring light. Light, apparently, makes people confess to all sorts of things.
Other situations involve the questioning taking place in a more relaxed situation, like sitting in the kitchen on a comfy chair. The interrogated doesn’t know they are being interrogated until it is too late.
But it is the question, the first one, that always gives it away.
See in any story, be it a film or book, a person asking another person a question usually is just a way to start a conversation. The questioning usually stops after that. They move on, they have a chat, the story proceeds and everyone wins. But in an interrogation you can tell that the first question has a bunch of baby questions all waiting behind it. Questions that will be asked as well.
The skilled interrogator asks the questions slowly, one after the other. They meander around the conversational topics like a river and then flood the plain of the interrogated with the last, earth shattering, question. It is something some people are just born with an ability to do.
Unskilled ones prefer the machine-gun approach. They ask a question and then rapid fire every question after it, leaving no time for answers to be given.
I’ve seen it all before…I’ve read it all before.
These days I am experiencing it all first-hand.
“What are you doing?”
“Do you want to play outside?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“Are those your friends?”
“Can I have a glass of water?”
“Are you working?”
“Are you talking with your friends?”
“Is mummy working?”
“Is it a work day?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“Can you wipe my bum?”
“Can you play with me?”
“Can I have a glass of milk?”
“ALRIGHT! ALRIGHT! I GIVE UP…here’s your damn milk….” – I say, finally cracking.
Interrogations often can feel like they go on forever, I hear. If only secret service types enlisted children to ask questions for them. It felt like forever, like the questions would never stop…it was a total of twenty-two seconds.
See with both of us working from home during the lockdown, in jobs that require a lot of video calls to be attended, the kids have decided now is the best time to learn how mummy and daddy work. More importantly how close to the edge of madness can they push us with the questioning before one of us runs out the front door, pants on our head, screaming that we need to buy a pack of smokes.
Neither of us has ever smoked.
There is that old adage about how you should ‘never work with animals or children’. I always thought it mainly meant in film or photography. Turns out it means AT ALL. You should never work with children…because you will get flock all work actually done.
A lot of the parenting blogs are going to be full of COVID-19 related posts on tips, tricks and insanity preventing bits given the current state of the world. Which is more than fine, we have a few ourselves here at Parenting Pobal. But I’ve decided to go with a different approach for this week’s article. Instead of writing about COVID-19 tips, I’m going to go with an observation that occurred to me recently because of COVID-19.
See, in order to get some work done during the working hours when both of us have to be on a call we’ve relaxed some of the normal rules around the house. Typically screen time (which in our house is only Netflix on the tellybox and never tablets or phones) is kept until after dinner, just before bed, as chillout time from the day. But lately we’ve had to give a bit of Netflix time earlier than usual to ensure silence while we take the calls.
Which means I’ve seen a sizable amount of Paw Patrol in the last few weeks. A good deal more than I’ve ever seen in my life, if I am being honest. The show itself could have a series of articles written about it. There are numerous plot-holes, questions around how genetic engineering has gone crazy in Adventure Bay and a question on whether or not Ryder is actually the bastard love child of Tony Stark.
But one thing that is obvious is Zuma is a completely pointless, utterly redundant, character.
For those that don’t know the show, a summary of it is this smart ass kid has a bunch of talking dogs with some high tech gadgets and kennels. The kennels transform into vehicles, each one matching a certain requirement for the situations that arise. The dogs then have backpacks that fit the situations as well (there is a lot of similarities between the plots and a Jeffery Archer novel). As the adventures happen Ryder will select two or three of the six dogs to save the day.
Zuma is the dog whose main area of expertise is water based. His kennel turns into a hovercraft with a life-ring. I’m not really sure what his backpack is meant to do, but from time to time he does get scuba gear from it. See the reason I’m not sure is because Zuma is rarely selected for any adventures. They have a dog who does digging, a fire specialty dog, a speed freak (who is a ‘cop’ so that’s why he can go fast – safety first kids), a dog who is big on recycling (because even shows for the kids need to spread the climate change message) and one who has a helicopter. Generally the adventures don’t involve too much stuff happening on the water, so Zuma just gets left behind most of the time.
Then along comes an episode that is water based. I know what you’re think. This is Zuma’s time to shine. Oh boy howdy that’s what everyone above the suggested viewing age thought, since those watching it probably don’t pay as much attention to it as an adult with time to kill. But nope, for some reason Zuma wasn’t selected for the mission at all. Which was very confusing to dear old Dad, I have to admit. They needed a boat to get out and save a whale on a rock or something, this is right up Zuma’s street.
Instead they pick recycling dog and the cop dog. Why? I am confused even more. They have cars, cars don’t go on water. I know that there is an element of suspending belief in a show about talking dogs but cars driving on water would just be pushing things a little.
Except, no no. It isn’t about breaking further laws of physics . Turns out that the other two dogs kennels can turn into boats as well. So Zuma’s kennel, the one ideally suited to be used in this situation, isn’t selected and the other dogs kennels can turn into a second vehicle. A water based vehicle.
Off they go, leaving Zuma behind once again.
Then, a few episodes later, the producers of the show obviously just had a great idea for a new line of toys to sell to the kiddies. They went and made a big boat that served as another base for the dogs. Off they go on a voyage and have to go on another mission. Now, now is Zuma’s time to shine. Taking out the two dogs with multi-converting kennels, the rest don’t have boats. So there are three dogs to pick from for this mission. Except, no no. ALL the kennels can now turn into boats, plus the other dogs all have cool new gadgets that let them scuba and sail and what not.
Basically Zuma has been written out of the show, without being written out of the show. He has somehow become the canine version of High Tide (the boat robot in Transformers). Except instead of begging for a water based mission, he is being completely overlooked for them. I actually heard the character ask Ryder (the human overlord of these talking pups) if there was anything he could do to help on one of their missions.
Those were the last lines I’ve heard the character say. It seems that the voice actor also realized Zuma is completely pointless. All the show does now is animate him.
I should preface this post by saying that Karen took the majority of the hits during our first day of working from home as an entire family unit. Typically Friday is my ‘most meetings’ day and since Ireland is in semi-lockdown because of COVID-19 (which rhymes with ‘Come on, Eileen’ for those wondering about the title of the post) we both had to work from home with the two terrors in tow. Not all heroes wear capes – some wear children around their neck while still getting some work done.
The day was March 12th, 2020 and everyone was watching the news for the same reason: was there going to be some sort of extreme measures announced to help combat COVID-19 in Ireland. A little before lunch our Caretaker Government finally did something to justify all their inflated salaries, they closed the schools and creches to try and stop the virus spreading. Of course this act brought with it a lot of chaos in the lives of parents. For those lucky few, it meant working from home with the kids in the house.
Something akin to trying to balance on the tip of a needle while reciting old poetry in Latin and writing out pi to a thousand places on a grain of sand. Whilst whistling Bohemian Rhapsody.
Actually that is easier than working from home with the kids.
Kids, particularly the young ones that haven’t gone to school, need entertaining. A lot of entertaining. Plonking them down in front of Netflix or Disney or ‘Popular Streaming Service’ is going to only get you so far. They will get grumpy and grouchy and want to be fed fifteen times a minute despite the fact they normally don’t. Kids don’t adjust well to change in routine, because why would they? Being able to roll with the punches would make parenting so much easier, the little shits don’t want that.
They are organised.
But hilariously I found that working from home with the kids has similarities to working in the office without them. Scarily so.
For example, standups.
Any of my reports complain about stand-ups in a paradoxical sort of way. They see the need for them, but also say they take too much time. They are a necessary evil, but one they’d rather shoot instead of attend. Basically they don’t take stand-ups seriously. Turns out our kids view stand-ups the same way. Showing up in the middle of the video call with masks and then just muttering nonsense before running away.
It was like they had worked with me their entire lives.
Lunch is another one. I manage a fairly big team, meaning there are a lot of personalities on said team. Not everyone is going to be in the mood for the same lunch suggestions on any given day, which is fine. If we were all the same the world would be boring. But the dreaded question of ‘So, plans for lunch?’ always ends up with a few suggestions, no agreements, and a splintering of the group as people go forth to forage on their own.
WFH with the kids, same result. Karen asked about lunch and they both screamed out two completely different suggestions. Neither of which could be made easily or at the same time, because why would kids suggest the same thing? Ending up with Karen (because I had to run for another poxy video call) making what she wanted and the kids getting that for lunch.
Which was invariable what they actually would have eaten anyway.
Then there is the whole etiquette around being on a conference call. Most people who work in an office will have experienced at least one con-call in their time. It is always audio chaos at first as people shout to be heard or talk over each other. Eventually somebody, generally the call organizer, will start to run the call. They will suggest people shut up (politely, of course) and then start to funnel questions and comments in an organised manner.
WFH with kids while on a con-call is pretty much the same. Except while the person running the call handles the adults, the adults have to handle the kids. ‘WILL YOU SHUT UP FOR A SECOND SO DADDY CAN ASK HIS QUESTION!’ – ‘Derek, sorry, could you go on mute there before you contribute anything further to the call.’
And, of course, there is the impatience. People in an office situation, particularly on a Friday, will watch the clock like a robotic hawk. Laser focused attention on the hands as they mentally try to make time move faster and bring forth the weekend.
WFH with kids, regardless of the day of the week, has the same stuff going on. Except an adult in the office at least starts this around 3pm. The grumbling typically only starts after they do approximately five hours of work and check the time again, distraught to see that it is only 4pm. Kids will start wondering why you are not doing stuff with them that is ‘fun’ from 7am, getting more vocal about this complaint with each passing minute. By the end of the working day shift you would wonder if there is room for original complaining left in your brain.
Desk drop-ins are another commonality between working in the office and WFH with kids. Desk drop-ins are the bane of any worker’s day, because they cause you to get distracted from the task at hand. They are an evil that needs to be killed from the office, but apparently murdering a colleague is illegal in most parts of the world.
Thanks modern society.
WFH with kids, same problem. You can give them crayons, colouring books, food and water. You may eventually buckle and just fire them in front of the telly, in the hope that those thirty minutes can be used to do some work. Then, like cute ninjas, they appear beside your desk. Looking for something.
Always. Looking. For. Something.
I suppose the reality is that WFH with kids is no different to working in the office without them.
But bugger me this was only day one. We’ve two more weeks of this crap to get through.
As one of the folk on my team said ‘This period will see a load of babies made, with a load of divorces happening.’
He probably ain’t wrong on either part.
But, in a rarity for me, let’s finish with some helpful tips on how to WFH with Kids for a long period
Try, as best you can, do both muck in. It may not be possible if you have a lot of meetings or calls but if you have even thirty minutes between them try and give your other half those thirty minutes.
Grabbing a coffee or tea? Grab two – you can be full sure you other half is burning the candle at three spots.
Craft kits are a godsend – stock up on those bad boys. Same with colouring books, crayons, all that arty junk. Kids love to do two things from a young age. Make a mess and destroy your house – craft kits allow both to be done and kept their attention for a few minutes.
Break the screen rule – screw it. Yes screen time is bad, we should limit it, blah blah blah. You know what else is bad – losing your job because you had to entertain the kids for eight hours. In times of madness the rules can slide a little. An hour in front of telly isn’t going to kill them, but it will give you sixty minutes to get four hundred minutes of work attempted.
Get out there – while socialising is meant to be kept to a minimum you can go for a walk or run or jog. Eat lunch at the desk, get the family all out for some air on your lunch hour. For adults it is good for their mental well-being. For kids it might tire them out just enough that they sit still for a few hours when they get back.
Vent on social media – it will help. Trust me there is a country load of people going through the exact same thing, bottling it up isn’t going to do anyone any good. In fact bottling it up to seem like you are a pillar of strength will only lead to an argument with your partner and nobody wants that. A tweet, a post, a picture – tagged with the wfh-covid-19 tag will have you growing a support network in minutes.