Our family is closer, but lockdown was tough on our toddler

The coronavirus pandemic, and the way it has changed our lives, has been hard for everyone in our family, but hardest for her, at 2-and-a-half.

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My daughter cried when she saw the swings chained up at our local playground.

The coronavirus pandemic, and the way it has changed our lives, has been hard for everyone in our family, but hardest for her, at 2-and-a-half.

Kids tend to roll with the punches pretty well and get on with things, but every now and then she has a toddler breakdown when the whole situation overwhelms her. Or she’ll come out with something that will just shatter our hearts into pieces.

“When Alfie-dog comes back to live with us, can I hug him, or will I make him sick?”

“CRASH”: That’s the sound of my heart splintering into a million shards.

COVID-19 or not, that age between two and four is a tough period for our kids, where they kind of begin to understand the world around them a bit more, but all that does is reveal to them how crazy big and confusing the place is.

My wife and I are experiencing the pandemic in the same way most adults are; we’re anxious about our family or friends getting sick and stressed the overall situation as we consume way too much news about coronavirus, while at the same time becoming gradually more and more antsy about being stuck at home most of the time.

Our 1-year-old, Rafi, is pottering along just fine, blissfully unaware of Chinese wet markets or New York clusters.

But her sister Mae is old enough to know that “lots of people are sick” without fully understanding why she can’t touch her grandparents anymore or visit her friends.

The biggest change to most people’s family lives is that they will have spent a lot more time together, and so it is with us.

Is that a good thing? Definitely.

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I’ve made sure to pause every now and take a moment to appreciate all this time with the kids – time I wouldn’t normally have had due to work and other commitments – at this fundamental period in their lives.

While the world has shut down and we’ve mostly been stuck at home, Rafi has gone from crawling to standing precariously, to toddling a couple of steps and now to walking about pretty easily – and I got to witness all of it. When Mae was starting to walk, I was overseas for work and had to be satisfied with blow-by-blow commentary from my wife and a handful of phone videos.

Is it also hard being locked down at home with two small children?

Absolutely.

There are no quiet moments in our days. There are no pauses, aside from the all-too brief period when their after-lunch naps overlap. From the moment they wake us up in the morning until we finally get them to settle at night, it’s a noisy, messy calamity.

The most common argument I had with my wife before all this was the whole ‘who has it harder?’ thing. Me, who went to work then had to come home and deal with the kids, or her, who had to look after them for the entire day? (There are no winners in that fight, believe me, avoid it where possible).

I’m not CONCEDING that she was right, but boy, an entire day with kids can last an eternity, can’t it? Especially when repeated day-after-day, with no letup.

But I’m not complaining. Much. On the balance of things, it has been wonderful to have so much time together as a family.

Our trickiest challenge as parents has been finding the right balance between entertaining them and allowing them to play independently.

You could spend the entire day doing activities with them, but we can’t just shut down our adult lives entirely. When it reached the point where they were relying on us to facilitate every game they played, we knew we had to push back a bit until they learnt to depend on their own imaginations again.

“I miss the playground!”

Aside from the occasional heartbreaking declaration from Mae (“I miss the playground!”), I’ve been impressed at the way the children have coped with the whole upheaval to their lives. They love the fact both of us are home more and have even, amazingly, respected the home office area when one of us is working from home.

A lack of contact with others and long periods at home has been partially mitigated by video dates with friends, making cards to send to grandparents and utilising every corner of our house and yard for activities in order to get some variety. Mum has really developed her cubby house building skills, and I now know a dozen different activities to do in a sandpit.

And as life slowly goes back to normal we hope that if the kids remember anything of this time, it won’t be negative, it’ll just be that time when everyone got sick, and mum and dad baked a lot.

 

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