kids

'I went into early lockdown with my kids. It showed me what they were missing.'

The coronavirus has struck rapidly and with little warning, leaving us all very little time to prepare for the major restrictions it has placed on our everyday lives.

With the exception of those working in essential services, the stringent social distancing laws, combined with the inevitable closure of child care centres and schools, will mean that most of us are eventually forced into some form of confinement with our families.

With grandparent babysitters also shipped off into isolation, this will mean that for a lot of us, parenting will become the sole responsibility of, well, parents. A daunting prospect at any time, made even more challenging under the current circumstances given that parents are also trying to work from home, supervise school work, stay financially afloat, and shield their children from their own anxieties.

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We all have a choice in how we approach this situation. Ordinarily, the thought of being forced into lockdown with my very young children, for months on end, without reprieve or assistance would have filled me with dread.

Ratty, irritable kids demanding to be entertained, and long days peppered with tantrums and fights and time-outs, tempered only by a constant stream of threats and bribes.

Under normal circumstances, I would have done everything in my power to avoid this situation. I love my children and I enjoy spending time with them, but parenting is hard, and there is definitely a limit to how much both they and I can tolerate.

These unprecedented times, though, have forced me to take a step back and approach the situation differently. I have chosen to see this forced confinement as a positive. Never before, or again (hopefully) will my children or I have this opportunity to spend so much quality time with each other.

To really stop and relish in our bond, without the distractions of the usual day-to-day grind; of alarms, school uniforms, drop-offs and pickups, of nannies and babysitters, of play dates and music classes, or the competing priorities of work and school.

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Spending time being present, and listening and loving and laughing, and getting to know each other all over again.

Time for my children to compete to make me laugh, tell me their secrets, and let me shower them with adoration.

And time for me to relish in watching their faces light up as they descend into hilarious fits of laughter and silliness, drunk with the exhilaration of it all.

My family and I chose to go into lockdown early. We took the kids out of school and childcare, cancelled parties, and bunkered down at home a few weeks ago. Although my children don’t understand why they can’t go to school or see their friends, they seem genuinely happy and relaxed.

Ellie with her kids. Image: Supplied.

Because I am so available to them, they don’t have to vie for my attention; because I am really connecting with them, they are more willing to acquiesce and follow instructions when they don’t really want to; and because I am no longer carting them from activity to activity throughout the day, they are less tired, and are playing more harmoniously.

In only this small amount of time my oldest son has started reading very basic words, and, incredibly, my two-year-old has become toilet trained.

Their baby sister is rolling and gushing in the attention being bestowed upon her from her ever-present brothers. Life is altogether slower and more focused on the things that matter.

Don’t get me wrong, the days are long; the boys still fight, and demand, and push me, and the baby still cries. But it’s easier to look past those things.

I am incredibly lucky to be in the position of being home on maternity leave, and not having to work whilst juggling the needs of my children. I can just be with them, provide reassurance and protect them from what is actually a pretty horrific time.

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Because the reality is, although it’s hard to appreciate now, this won’t last forever. Life will eventually return to normal, and we will no longer be dictated by social distancing laws.

The kids will go back to school and childcare and playgroup and the chaos of our usual lives will return.

Thankfully, my children are still too young to understand the significance of what is going on outside our four walls, and for this I am grateful. As a society I know we will all look back on this time as terrifying and harrowing, but my hope is that our little family will take something positive away from it as well.

Dr Ellie Dean is a Geriatrician, wife, and Mum of three young children aged five, two and four months. She is currently home on maternity leave for the last time, and trying to savour the experience.

Feature image: Supplied.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It's okay to feel this way, but it's also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus - How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

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